And so, it is Christmas. As such, it’s that time of year when many bands are getting their festive albums out for the general consumption of the rest of us who are all looking for some new yuletide tunes. Let’s admit it, we all go to the same old classics – some loved, some loathed – but new interpretations of classic carols are always welcome. In terms of the gospel heavyweights, the last few years have offered us some pretty outstanding work – just take a look at Chris Tomlin, Paul Baloche and Phil Wickham, and you’ll immediately be treated to some incredible reworkings of all the old favourites.
And so, it is Adam Layne Fisher and the Downtown Revival Band who now offer us “Our Savior Has Come” – a “Christmas rock experience” – with its bold opening “Rex Veni”, presenting a vast soundscape of power chords and synth soundscapes. From the start, there is a huge sense of expectation, surely the whole point of Christmas? This leads straight into a massive stadium rock version of ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’. The punk guitars are there. The indie chugs are there. The confident vocals backed up with the right harmonies are there. There’s even a hint of that now forgotten Christmas rock anthem from The Darkness, “Don’t Let The Bells End” when the lead guitar kicks in.
It’s a perfect lead in to “Angels We Have Heard On High”, which pulls back the power pop to let a more choral tone break through, with the bells chiming out to crate a massively festive feel.
Once you’ve really settled in to the album, you start to get a real feel for the immense power that resides in its production – where other contemporary worship heavyweights have either played it safe or used the album as a ruse to put out a few of their own new recordings, Adam Layne Fisher has managed to stay true to both the purity of the carols and also to his own sound and style. Admittedly it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste – if you’re looking for traditional Christmas carols, “Away In A Manger” will probably infuriate you. But for many others, it will be a huge breath of fresh air, with its different take on the melody and tempo.
It might come as a surprise to find “O Come All Ye Faithful” at the middle of the album – I certainly tend to prefer it as a big crowd pleasing moment at the end of any carol service, but here it works as a suitable mid point to pause and remember what Christmas is all about. And so, the final closing track ends up being even more ideal, with the glorious “Peace On Earth”. From a sentimental position, its the perfect conclusion for a Christmas album released at the end of a year that so many will chalk up as a bad one. The chords ring out with the chiming bells and offer to lift the spirits of any heavy heart. Merry Christmas, everyone.