In this day and age, it would be fairly easy (and is) for a band to make simple worship music to appeal to the masses and conform to the typical formula and feel of Christian worship music. Indeed, more often than not, people — even within the church –tend to be turned off by Christian music because it seems to be at a lower musical and lyrical caliber than most secular music. Enter Bellarive, an atmospheric worship band that hails from Orlando, Florida. They are relatively young, but are already garnering much attention through their unique blend of styles, deep, heartfelt lyrics, and energetic live show that is more worshipful than showy. They manage to blend elements of worship bands such as Leeland or Ascend the Hill with other artists such as Owl City and Mae (much of their music is very piano-driven) and, naturally, the result is an atmospheric, emotional work of astounding maturity and beauty, especially from a band that has only been around since about 2009.
Their most recent (released in 2012) full-length album, The Heartbeat, captures what it means to be a worship band in the modern age. The opening track, “Heartbeat”, starts things off with a high-energy beat, reminiscent of the rock band Ivoryline. However, Bellarive are masters of dynamics and thus the song itself moves dramatically throughout the verses and choruses. This is just one of many tracks that would be perfect for a corporate worship setting, along with “Love Has Found Us,” “Taste of Eternity” and “The Father’s Heart.”
Early on, perhaps one of the only flaws in the album becomes apparent to any who have much experience playing worship music in the modern church — namely, that because their music is so dynamic and complicated, it may be difficult for the average worship band to learn their songs in any amount of haste. This is particularly noticeable with the previously-mentioned songs, and is especially true for “Love Has Found Us”; however, as it remains unclear how much of their music Bellarive intended to be played by others (unlike other worship bands such as Hillsong United or Ascend the Hill), this may only be a marginal problem.
Lyrically, Bellarive does much to create songs that are relatable and sing-able, yet also manage to avoid the conventional method and lyrical format of most worship bands. They also have many songs that are significantly more personal in nature, such as the confessional-esque “Shine On” or the wonderful “I Know You,” which is told from the perspective of God calling His children to Himself. The final song on the album, “Stories”, is yet another song that could be played in the corporate worship setting, and indeed dynamically is structured perfectly for such a medium.
Perhaps the most stand-out track on the album is entitled “Tendons (The Release)”. The song starts out low and slow, with an emphasis on the simple chords and words, focusing on needing to see God at a new level and being held back by our flesh. This leads up to a spoken word section that is performed over music, driving upward in dynamic until it reaches a blistering and intense rise. This is perhaps the most epic and inspiring piece of the entire album. It comes to a conclusion with a simple refrain: “Light up the sky! Set our hearts on fire! Light up the sky! Let us see our Creator!” It could be said that this singular idea embodies all that Bellarive and “The Heartbeat” attempt to be. They are creations crying out to see their Creator. I rate this album a five out of five, a must-have for any modern Christian who wishes to have new worship music to show them more of their Lord, Jesus Christ.