This month, the Denver-based Christian-collective, Gungor released a new album entitled A Creation Liturgy. This past Spring, I wrote a review on an EP released by the band The Brilliance, also based in Denver, after a concert I attended here in Austin featuring both bands. I’ve wanted to write a review of their music for a year now, and this release provided the perfect opportunity to bring them back into conversation.
It might seem odd that a Catholic blogger would continue to do reviews covering Protestant-written music, but I think we have a lot to learn from these talented musicians. I’ve also been pointing out a growing trend of other Christian musicians that seem to be discovering more of the treasures the Catholic Church has to offer.
In all fairness, this is more than just a review of A Creation Liturgy [Live], I will also be covering parts of their two previously released albums: Ghost Upon the Earth (2011) and Beautiful Things (2010) because this album includes a few live versions of songs previously released on these albums.
The Album Cover
As soon as I saw the cover of the new album, I almost choked on the water I was drinking. Not only did the title contain the word Liturgy (work of the people), but it also had pictures of saints. I have been unable to find any references as to why Gungor used the image of what looks like an alcove in a Catholic church, but I would consider it a good thing.
The cover features two musicians singing in front of a very large statue of Our Lady of Fatima, surrounded by images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Anthony. The two look like Michael and Lisa Gungor in a Instagram style, retro image, but there is no confirmation on their identification either.
If I had never heard of Gungor before, I would have automatically assumed this band was Catholic based on the image. Most Non-Catholic Christians will never go near sacred art of saints. The fact that they took that risk brought a lot of joy to my heart. Currently, their site also has a very large version of this image as their background.
Like the rest of the album, it seems very intentional.
There are a few overtly Luther and Calvin (Protestant) inspired lyrics that focus on Christ’s covering our sins rather than the Catholic teaching of fully revealing our goodness through forgiveness of sins. Thankfully, those are in the minority, and the majority of the lyrics bring to life beautiful and sometimes brutally honest prayers of brokenness, hope, and longing.
Michael Gungor, the leader and main writer, was greatly inspired in writing the album Ghost Upon the Earth after a week long silent retreat in Assisi. His time there was greatly influenced by writings and work of St Francis. Although he took creative license with it, many of the lyrics based on creation can’t hide his inspiration. Read this blog post that he wrote when the album was released.
The inspiration is obvious in the happiness and optimism of St Francis’ Brother Sun and Sisster Moon, but the lyrics also draw from the depths like the story of Ezekiel and the valley of the bones.
In between the songs, there are two poems from the tour that were recorded and included in the album. Like the songs, the poems are covered in scriptural references. They are poignant, powerful, and beautiful.
“For their third major release, Gungor has composed a concept album that celebrates the beauty of life even in the midst of darkness and pain. Starting with a startling musical imagining of the creation of the universe and traversing subjects like the “fall of man” and the imperfection of our religious systems, this album leads the listener through a roller coaster of emotion that eventually leads us back to wonder and thankfulness to this beautiful gift of life.”
– From the bio on the Gungor website
Honesty is a characteristic that makes this musical art so beautiful.
Gungor’s music is beautiful. So much could be said to describe their genre and style, but it’s difficult to categorize them because they cover the gamut of classifications. This could also be because Michael Gungor makes it a point to try to not be categorized.
A Creation Liturgy was recorded live from the tour that I attended when it passed through Austin in early 2012. Some people may not be into the background noises that come from live performances, but this really allows the listener to hear the music live and raw.
However they may be labeled, there is one thing that is certainly clear – Gungor is gifted. From the recordings to the live concert, all the these singers and musicians have true musical and artistic talent. I wish more musicians in contemporary secular and Christian music possessed a fraction of the talent this collective showcases in their work.
Guitars are beautiful, but including the wide variety of instruments adds a dynamic depth to the musicality of the art.
The collective Gungor has been bountifully blessed with talent, and I thank God that they have shared it with the world. Catholics could learn a lot from the direction they are taking contemporary Christian music.
Michael Gungor himself posses many problematic ideas about Christianity and religion, but his affinity for Catholic tradition and inspiration gives me hope. His theology may be flawed, but it fortunately does not penetrate through the majority of their music, with the exception of a few songs on their previous albums.
I highly recommend their music as a piece of art, and I hope that their creativity may inspire many more Catholics to create more faithful art and music. Join me in prayer with the intercession of St Francis that more Non-Catholic Christians may have their eyes opened to the beauty of the fullness of Truth within the Church. We could use such talent to share the beauty of Truth with the world.
This is one of my favorite songs from Ghost Upon the Earth that didn’t get played at the concert or make it to the album.