Speaking of Theology through the arts…
Recently I came across another great example of a band that is not just producing good songs of faith but songs that are filled with well-thought-out theology. While Gungor has released great albums in the past their most recent offering shows both musical and theological growth. One of my biggest challenges when writing songs of faith is how to catch some of the more epic themes from the Bible in a song that is only 3-4 minutes long as well as how to communicate these ideas not simply in words but musically as well. Gungor’s Ghosts Upon the Earth deals with this challenges by arranging a collection of songs into the narrative flow of scriptures. The resulting album is built around the themes of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. This approach has worked as well as anything that I’ve heard before.
As for the music these songs are really creative in their instrumentation, arrangements and styles. Gungor’s layering of diverse instruments from banjoes, acoustic guitars, cellos, and xylophones is reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens yet this is no Sufjan rip-off project. In fact, Gungor actually succeeds where Stevens, in my opinion fails sometimes, by creating more depth and dynamics in their arrangements. There are also moments on this album that seem heavily influenced by Nickel Creek, but again without coming off as a band with an identity crisis. For all of their stylistic meanderings, Ghosts on the Earth is a much more cohesive set of songs than their last album—Beautiful Things.
What I find fascinating is the compelling way that Gungor presents narrative theology (the understanding of the Bible as one cohesive story that finds it fulfillment in Jesus) throughout this album. Since Ghosts Upon the Earth was more of a concept album there was no rush to get to the more hopeful and upbeat songs too early, rather Gungor takes their time in exploring all aspects of the narrative from creation to fall to redemption and beyond. The resulting work rings with authenticity throughout and brings the listener gradually into a hopeful place of worship as restored people in a new creation. While there are great moments throughout, this album is best appreciated as a complete work rather than as individual songs. I would recommend setting aside a little time to get quiet, put some headphones on, and just listen. You won’t regret it!