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Sorrow & Promise
Artist: Divine-in-Sight
Label: Ark
Length: 11/74:21

Anyone else remember progressive rock? Soaring guitar solos, bombastic lyrics from a charismatic front man, the show of it all?  Keyboards?  Concept albums that told a running story through several songs?  I'm talking about groups like Kansas, Yes, Styx, Journey, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer-­a time when rock wasn't just about the music, but rock done as musical rock opera,-- rock as a theatrical event.

If this was your style of music, if you wore out Styx's Paradise Theater on vinyl, then I have a CD for you.  Bartholomew Bage and Jonathan Dexter have conceived an album that is part musical, part rock opera, part story.  Bage writes a commentary that strings each song together, as well as providing original artwork to illustrate his story.

"Black River" opens the album, and is a four part song that shows its subject fighting the waves, struggling to make the water confine to his will, until he realizes that he cannot control his environment.  He comes to the conclusion that he should go "Into the Flow," and let the waves carry him to his destination.  The song serves as a powerful metaphor for the work of God's will in our lives.

Track 2 is an instrumental called "By Leaps and Bounds," done in the style of Kansas, complete with keyboard solos.

The last nine songs comprise Sorrow and Promise: A Christian Progressive Rock Opera.  Without giving away too much, I will tell you that the story is part Charles Dickens (the narrator is in a dream, visited by a spirit), part C.S. Lewis, and part Dante's Inferno.  The lyrics cover the state of the church, and the state of the narrator's life in relation to God. 

"March of the Damned" is a Faith No More style song that shows the fate of those who refuse to acknowledge their need for God:

   The way is straight, the road is wide
   and crowded with a motley mass
   of aimless souls in a crimson tide
   of every race and creed and class
   Men and women young and old
   Trod along a common path
   Following the piper's tune
   Stumbling toward a day of wrath
"Waltz of the Plastic People" is about those who are in denial, trying to put the best mask on the misery they feel, and is done in the vein of Styx or Queen.

"Viper's Blood" has a Faith No More style intro, followed by a Queen bridge, with Boge's vocals reaching into Dennis DeYoung territory.  It speaks of those who have chosen knowledge over love:

  Loveless minds and empty souls
  Faith and truth their lofty goals
  Search the word with lifeless cold precision
  Analyze the wondrous stories
  Test the simplest allegories
  Revel in their glorious division.
Sorrow & Promise is an ambitious project, something that is not done much in this era.  It may be best suited to adaptation for the stage, with a full script.  But, like Rich Mullins' Canticle of the Plains, it works well on its own.  Dexter's keyboards and bass lines are outstanding, while Boge's vocals gain strength later in the album.  He reaches for Freddie Mercury or the aforementioned DeYoung (Styx), and almost gets there.  At still other times, the sound reminds me of Stryper in their better moments.  This album is very well conceived and extremely challenging to those who have become lazy in their faith.  A good listen and a good read.

Brian A. Smith 10/28/01



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