Dustin Kensrue - The Water and the Blood
Record Label: Mars Hill Music / BEC Recordings
Release Date: September 30th, 2013
Change is a difficult thing. Many of our favorite musicians experience change - think about how many bands we've longed to recapture the glory of their debut album. When Thrice decided to go on hiatus last year, frontman Dustin Kensrue's first project afterwards was The Modern Post, whom released an EP full of worship music. At that time, and ever since the revelation that his newest solo work would be a full-length of gospel-centered songs as well, many Thrice fans did not embrace this change. The Water and the Blood is not the follow-up to 2007's Please Come Home that some wanted, but it is not an album to be written off for the circumstances surrounding it.
This is a worship album. It is affliated with Mars Hill Church. These are facts about the album that cannot be changed - and this review isn't aiming to change your opinions of those.
Kensrue has said that one of his goals with this album was to change the sub-par musicianship and theology prevalent in worship music today - there are plentiful examples on this record of him triumphing in this aspect. "Suffering Servant" begins with a haunting piano line that quickly ramps up into a soaring chorus that is reminescent of what we hear in churches today, but also stretches the boundaries sonically of worship music. "Grace Alone", a track that originally appeared on The Modern Post's EP last year, is re-imagined here in a way that listeners can pick up hints of Thrice's Earth EP from The Alchemy Index. "It's Not Enough" and "The Voice of the Lord" standout as examples of Dustin's incredible vocal range and passion in making this record. Particularly in "It's Not Enough" (originally written for Thrice), as he confesses "Though I indulged my every dark desire / Exhausting every avenue of sin / It's not enough".
The Water and the Blood begins with "Rejoice", a song that seems to fall into the trap of frequently repeating melodies many church-goers are used to, but is saved by Kensrue's energy and lyricism. While Dustin was subtle with Thrice in singing about his beliefs, it's evident in "God Is Good" that he is ready to challenge his fans to dig deeper as he sings "Lord we believe, but help our hearts to see / You are good, all of the time". The album closer, "It Is Finished", features a fun moment with cheerful gang vocals and a driving bass line.
Admittedly, although I am a Christian myself, I have a real hard time going out of my way to listen to worship music - mostly because a good portion of it does nothing to challenge me as a listener. The Water and the Blood is not your typical gospel record, however. Fellow Christians will definitely appreciate what's going on here, and even non-Christians whom are Thrice/Dustin fans will find some enjoyable moments. It's not perfect, it probably won't switch your religious stance - all that being said, it is a great record.
Dustin Kensrue has always been one of the most honest people in music today, and with The Water and the Blood we see him follow his heart in a way we haven't seen yet. In lieu of that, we can all at least respect the change he is attempting to bring about.