Cody Carnes – The Darker the Night / The Brighter the Morning

Capitol Christian Music Group

Release Date: September 15th 2017

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Cody CarnesThe Darker the Night / The Brighter the Morning (iTunes/Amazon mp3)

Track Listing:

  1. Resurrection Blood
  2. What Freedom Feels Like
  3. Til the End of Time (feat. Kari Jobe)
  4. The Cross Has the Final Word
  5. Full of Faith
  6. Hold it All
  7. Rooms (feat. Kari Jobe)
  8. Through & Through
  9. Wait Here
  10. Banner
  11. Bread & Wine
  12. Nothing More to Say
  13. The Cross Has the Final Word (Live)

‘…I’d say this is a worship record with an indie/pop/rock sound. I’m sure you’ll find some elements that are familiar, and some that are unique and surprising. The heart behind it is similar to other worship records, in that, I wanted to write songs from scripture about the love and power of Jesus that lead people into the presence of God. It’s a bit different than most worship records, in that I pulled inspiration from some of my favourite artists like Mutemath, One Republic, Bon Iver, Coldplay, etc. I feel like there are a lot of people in the world like me that love the creative experience of seeing some of their favourite bands live and also love the spiritual experience of a worship night. I want to merge those two worlds together…’ Cody Carnes has been instrumental in the reinvention of the worship genre of music, if ever worship was a genre to begin with. Just like artists gone before him, from Crowder, UNITED, Meredith Andrews, All Sons and Daughters and Phil Wickham, to Jesus Culture, Third Day, Chris Tomlin, Tim Hughes and Paul Baloche; Cody Carnes, the latest addition to Capitol CMG, has delivered a worship album in The Darker the Night / The Brighter the Morning that is as unique as it is re-inventive, as it is fun, enjoyable and a collective moment of praise and adoration.

Husband to singer-songwriter/worship leader Kari Jobe, Cody has been creating music independently for quite a while, and has now been heavily involved in his wife’s material ever since they married not too long ago. In fact, Cody had a hand in writing and producing a vast majority of the songs on Kari’s latest album The Garden. And while for me as a reviewer, there isn’t really much to write about Cody…since there isn’t really much of a bio anywhere on the internet; what I can say is this- as much as he has been known over the last few years as Kari’s husband, he has become his own artist this year with the release of his debut album, quite possibly one of the most unique and different worship albums I’ve heard since Crowder’s American Prodigal last year. And what I will also say of Cody is this- the music style in The Darker the Night / The Brighter the Morning is vastly different compared to any other worship song or album to be released around such a time as this. You can’t really pin Cody down to a certain music style, because most of his songs are different musically. Think of it this way- ‘The Cross Has the Final Word’- worship, ‘Hold it All’- acoustic ballad, ‘Til the End of Time’- electronic and ‘What Freedom Feels Like’- radio pop. And while the album musically is at odds, much more than the general cohesive radio friendly worshipful album a la Kutless or Jeremy Camp; Cody’s heart and passion seen in all these songs never seems to change.

‘…I started writing the song last year on Good Friday. I was sitting at home reflecting on the cross and asking God to show me hope in the midst of a world full of darkness and fear. I feel like He spoke that statement ‘The Cross Has The Final Word’ to me, and it instantly reminded me that He’s always in control, that He knows the end from the beginning and that darkness and fear lost its power at the cross. I pray that this song plants faith in your heart as you declare it over whatever situation you’re in. I think many times an impossible situation is a setup for God’s miracle…’ Maybe you’ve heard this version of the song (the original version) circling around radio for quite some time. Maybe you’ve heard the Newsboys cover ‘The Cross Has the Final Word’ (with special guest Peter Furler) that dropped in May 2017. Regardless of the version, let me say this- ‘The Cross Has the Final Word’, alongside the other chart-topping worship song this year ‘Death Was Arrested’, will be this year as ‘Good Good Father’ and ‘No Longer Slaves’ were last year. As popular. Maybe even more so! So what is the song’s message for me to boldly state such a claim?

The song is about the cross, and speaks to the heart of what we believe to be the basis and foundation of our faith. The cross is where the transaction happened. Where Jesus took it upon Himself to take all the sin from every man that has lived and will ever live. To take the sin and to rid the world of an eternity without Him. So that we can live in communion with the Father, Son and Spirit in heaven once our life here on Earth is over. And a song as theological and biblical as that, I can’t help it but to be impressed as to how Cody was able to fit in such a lyrically poetic and powerful melody within the confines of this quasi-hymn style arrangement. But he did. The song doesn’t really have any choruses or verses, and maybe that’s the beauty of it. ‘The Cross Has the Final Word’ is a song that will travel far, even if people only hear Newsboys’ version of the track (which is getting much more radio airplay compared to this original track!). Still, Cody ought to be commended for such an effort, for a song that’ll hopefully remind us all that our debt is paid, and all we have to do is to willingly come as we are into the presence of God, without any agendas or acts, any fixing up or ‘getting right’. Kudos to Cody for such a song, one of my favourite on The Darker the Night / The Brighter the Morning (the executives seem to think so as well…on the album there’s also a live version of the track as the album closer!).

‘What Freedom Feels Like’, ‘Til the End of Time’, ‘Full of Faith’, ‘Resurrection Blood’ and ‘Hold it All’ are the other songs that released as singles, all before Cody’s debut album released in September 2017. And all of them have different styles, which actually gives credit to Cody and his wide range of music ability above everything else! ‘Hold it All’ presents to us an acoustic setting as Cody reminds us all that God holds everything, and thus, we don’t have to worry or fear. As the song is littered with electronic effects and Cody’s passionate vocals, we are reminded that a song doesn’t necessarily have to be anthemic and bold for it to be touching and impactful- in fact ‘Hold it All’ fuses the genres of acoustic ballad and EDM, and it works quite nicely. ‘Til The End of Time’ is a song that is going to revolutionise the worship industry, maybe even to the point where ‘History Maker’ by Delirious? did all those years ago. Fusing together worship with EDM (as with a lot of his music, aside from ‘The Cross Has the Final Word’), Cody presents to us a theme of how we are God’s and He is ours to the end of time. It is not like we can pick and choose when we want to believe God and all His promises, it’s either we believe it or we don’t. And if we do, we ought to consider the question- do we believe Him just during the good times or during the bad as well? Cody and guest vocalist Kari Jobe (his wife) present a track where everything is on point- the vocals, singing, the collaboration together as well as the music.

‘Resurrection Blood’ is the first track on the album, and speaks about how if we are in Christ, we have His ‘resurrection blood’ in our veins, meaning that with Christ as our source of power, we can do the same things, maybe even greater, than Jesus ever did. Pretty cool, right? And while at times during the song the vocal distortion tends to take away from the message just a little bit, it doesn’t deter from the message, which is enhanced by the vocal similarities that Cody has with Crowder in the verses and with Phil Wickham in the choruses. In fact, ‘Resurrection Blood’ is what I would expect on American Prodigal or even in Children of God. You never know, maybe Crowder and Phil Wickham are some of Cody’s influences. Whatever the case, ‘Resurrection Blood’ is different and unique, and is a good track #1 for the album. ‘Full of Faith’ on the other hand present dance electronics along the undertones of acoustic guitars as the song brings to the fore the varying promises spoken by God that we can be relying on if we believe into His Word and trust that His plan is higher than ours. God always comes through, even if we can’t see it, and ‘Full of Faith’ is an encouragement for us all, that ‘…You never failed to be faithful, You never failed to be faithful, I’m full of faith, You’ll make a way…’ ‘What Freedom Feels Like’ is the remaining single to release before September-time, and while this song is probably the most generic sounding of the four, the message still is paramount to the world today- that freedom is more than just a word, it is an experience. We can’t just say we are free, we must believe it and live it out. While the song sadly traps itself into the cycle of repetition (and thus could be great on radio), ‘What Freedom Feels Like’ will capture the K-Love (and/or Air1) crowd as Cody invites us to participate on a pop-radio song that is as catchy (and equally lyrically uninventive) as it is very much needed (message-wise) in the industry of entertainment today!

And then there’s the 6 other tracks, that ones that did release in September rather than throughout the year. How do they compare? ‘Through and Through’, ‘Rooms’, ‘Wait Here’, ‘Banner’, ‘Nothing More To Say’ and ‘Bread & Wine’ are the remaining songs, and while each of them aren’t necessarily as flash or are musically engaging as the aforementioned 6 already discussed in this review; Cody still manages to present accessible themes and moments of revelation and realisation for anyone who hears it. While the music in pretty much most of this music catalogue (aside from ‘The Cross Has the Final Word’) is very much bordering on EDM and music, and by the time you’ve heard all the songs straight through, you start to wonder if that is his style, or if he has another (because frankly, the music on this album can be a little alternative for the person who just wants to hear worship music, or the worship focus can be a little too vertical if the person only wants to hear good alternative music); Cody nevertheless has used his platform at Capitol CMG to deliver an album that is good, not great or perfect, but at least it is a decent offering for a debut album. Also featuring Kari Jobe (his wife) on the track ‘Rooms’, we are reminded, through powerful keyboard undertones, that God has many aspects, some which we may not know or even understand yet. The powerful line that Cody sings, where he is ‘…after the rooms of Your heart…’, we are given a moment to understand, that God is indeed God, and we will always be in more of a search and discovery into who He is and what He longs for us to become and for what to be seen by Him that’ll encourage us all to come back to Him in the upcoming years ahead! ‘Through and Through’ again borders on electronics and Cody channels Phil Wickham a lot in this track, as we are given the conviction to declare the anthem, for God to move in us through and through, to do with us what He wants, because ‘…just a moment here in Your love, I wouldn’t trade it for the world…’

‘Wait Here’ is much more subdued musically, and has a bit of a lullaby feel to it, as the song presents a message of waiting at the feet of Jesus, for us to be content in just being in His presence and not worrying about life’s circumstances, because all we need is with Jesus. While sadly the song made be a little drowsy (maybe because the music doesn’t really pick up throughout the entire track), the song itself and its message is very much needed in society. Maybe I can enjoy the song more in the future? ‘Banner’ is taken straight from the Bible passage (Psalm 23:6) that states that God’ banner over us is love, and that God’s goodness and mercy follows us everywhere we go (doesn’t that sound like a song that we know from before…‘Surely Goodness and Mercy’ by Israel Houghton), while ‘Bread and Wine’ and ‘Nothing More To Say’ end the album, the former being what I reckon is one of the strongest songs on the album and speaks about how Jesus uses physical sustenance as a way of saying that He is all we need (and even features Kari Jobe as an uncredited backing vocal); while ‘Nothing More To Say’ again brings out the music towards acoustics as Cody uses this song as a list of what Jesus offers to us when He wants to come into our lives and rearrange us to become more complete and whole because of Him, as shown in the first verse, that He is ‘…strength for all the weak, love for all the least, hope that’s never failing, grace for everyone, there’s power in the blood, freedom for the captives…’

There you have it- The Darker the Night The Brighter the Morning from Cody Carnes, that released September 15th 2017. While some of the music on some of the songs can seem a little too EDM for my own liking, and others not as musically engaging compared to the publicised few, this debut label offering from Kari’s husband is still bound to be enjoyed by anyone who loves worship music, period. Spending his time leading worship with Gateway Worship as well as being on the road touring with wife Kari Jobe, Cody is starting to become an artist himself, with this new album being a collection of some of the most musically unique and out-of-the-box songs I’ve heard in a while, Cody’s career is certain to be as long as it will be impacting and inspiring for those who hear his music. Speaking about joining the Capitol CMG family, Cody has been very excited, as with any other person who signs to a major label- after getting to know them through working on Kari’s projects, I’ve seen them steward albums and songs with humility, integrity and passion. I love that about them, and I believe we’ll make some great records together. Watch out world- Cody Carnes is coming, and he’ll have a long career ahead of him. Well done Cody for such powerful songs, can’t wait to have this album on repeat in my iTunes playlist for months to come!

3 songs to listen to: Til the End of Time, The Cross Has the Final Word, Full of Faith

Score: 4/5

RIYL: Kari Jobe, Chris Tomlin, Kim Walker-Smith, Chris Quilala

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