The Phantom Tollbooth
album cover
King of Fools
Artist: deliriou5?
Label: Furious? Records/Sparrow Records
Time:13 tracks/64.02 min.

The most popular British Christian band ever have finally made it to their first mainstream release and they certainly did it in style. King Of Fools entered the official UK album charts at number 13, an unprecedented achievement for a band coming from the tiny world of British Christian music.

Probably best known for the worship songs written by lead singer Martin Smith, deliriou5? were born out of a worship event called Cutting Edge under the moniker 'The Cutting Edge Band'. After several years and four mini-albums (which among them sold 70,000 copies through private distribution only) the band decided that it was time to move on. With the change of name the band went full time and further developed their distinctive sound. 

That sound could be described as "U2 meets World Party with a touch of brit-pop" but might be better described as vibey guitar-pop. The players are really very versatile and with the combination of keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and sampled loops move quickly from pop singalong to guitar rocker.

The first thing noticeable about this CD is the packaging. Strong, primary colours and a reversable sleeve (with four possible covers) show that the band has put a lot of effort into the preparation of the album and straight away put me into a positive mood as I awaited the start.

First track up is "Sanctify." Lyrically it is a great first track, a confessional song of surrendering to God and asking for his presence. Musically however it is a strange choice to kick off the CD: the strained sound may suit the lyrics but its dense guitar sounds seem very strange at the start of the album. 

The themes throughout the album mean that many of the songs can, will and have been used for corporate worship. "History Maker" with its singalong chorus and industrial-pop opening worked particularly well in my church recently. A song of dedication, this one is also a favourite with the fans.

If you're looking for something with an all out rock sound then the third single to be taken from the album is more like it. "Promise" was described by somebody on the internet the other day as having an Oasis-like sound but I would certainly disagree. Brit-rock is probably the style, not incredibly heavy but featuring a strange guitar distortion. This song is perhaps one of the standouts. Lyrically it is more searching than other songs but is best remembered for the guitar playing of Stuart Garrard.

Other features of this album are the choir brought in on some tracks, most noticeably "White Ribbon Day," a song about the troubles in Northern Ireland. and the big drum sounds that have been captured in the recording (in a big empty house).

Lyrically my favourite track would have to be "King Or Cripple."

King or cripple what have I become? 
Beneath these robes there lies a fragile man
What made me a king can sometimes cripple
All that you give sometimes rubs my innocence

This song could perhaps be interpreted as being about the pressures of fame but could equally be about problems as a Christian. Opening in a tender acoustic mood and then leaping to high octane rock song certainly suits the lyrics. 

A problem I have had with deliriou5? in the past has been that which I have with many evangelical Christian groups, the glossing over of issues and struggles, song titles like "Happy Song" have reinforced this at times but with this album we see the band in their more open, honest mode. 

Otherwise an excellent album, unfortunately this album lacks the sparkle that would really class it as a classic, the sound is sometimes a little tired but this is not always noticeable and the production is otherwise fine. It will be interesting to see where the next year takes deliriou5?

By: James Stewart

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Once in a while an album comes along that defines a generation--once in a very rare while there comes a band that is so full of vision and hope and promise that they change the way we listen to music. They change our ideas of what music can do. Prepare yourself music fans. The British are coming and they're ready to take this country by storm.

Deliriou5? is a Christian band for the next millennium. In fact, many of their ads proclaim that they are "the future of worship music." Though that is uncertain, if there is any justice in the world they'll be the future of Christian Alternative Rock. If the first Delirious? Project didn't convince you, this one will absolutely blow you away.

The Cd opens with "Sanctify" as we eavesdrop on vocalist Martin Smith whispering to his Savior:

It only gets better from there. In fact, I'd be willing to wager that if you don't completely love the song "Deeper" with its U2 meets Radiohead vibe that you probably don't like rock music. Or maybe you've lost a pulse. "Deeper" is a prime candidate for the Alternative Rock Song of the Year Award, and if the ballots were cast today, this song would claim the prize. The swirling, driving bass and drums help showcase an infectious guitar riff and a maddeningly catchy melody line that you'll be humming for days after you first hear it. Of course, with many albums nowadays that's all you get for your $15.99, but with King of Fools the great songs have only just begun. By the time the third song kicks in you're hooked. That song is "Revival Town" and it just plains rocks the planet! The words are hopeful and poignant: To best describe this band you'd have to close your eyes…(go ahead, close 'em)…and picture the guitarist from Radiohead jamming with the bassist from U2 and the rhythm section from the Verve and then pretend that they all get saved and start a worship band that plays bars and fills stadiums and gives altar calls and…oh heck, open your eyes, you might as well just go on out to the nearest record store and experience the majesty yourself.

This band, this album and these songs could well be the trumpet sound that America's CCM has needed for many years now to wake up, smell the coffee and get real. If you miss this Cd, you'll be searching for it in a few years and paying way too much for a classic like this.

By Keith Giles (9/28/98)