Release Date: May 10th 2019
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Iron Lung
- Fire’s Gonna Fall
- Everybody is Broken
- Rise Up
- Great and Glorious
- Wonder Hearts
- Always Be My Love
- Give Thanks For a Broken Heart
Martin Smith is by far one of my favourite front-men to any band well, ever. After spending years being the front-man to arguably one of the most impacful and influential founding-fathers of CCM and worship, Delirious?; Martin decided to venture out on his own. Launching a solo career after the band, Martin released albums God’s Great Dance Floor Volume 1 & 2 (alongside singles from these albums in ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’, ‘Back to the Start’, ‘Grace’, ‘Fire Never Sleeps’, ‘Emmanuel’, ‘Awake My Soul’, ‘Only Got Eyes’ and ‘Great is Your Faithfulness’, to name a few) in 2013; a compilation best-of titled Back to the Start in 2014 that incorporated a lot of the songs from both volumes of God’s Great Dance Floor, alongside a live project Love Song for a City in 2018. Then we have 2019, where Martin himself decided to release his long-awaited brand-new studio album in Iron Lung, his first in 6 years (not including Love Song For a City which was a live project). And let us not forget his side-project Army of Bones that also released their debut album in 2017, with Martin himself as the lead singer. Gee, that sounds busy. And it is. Martin’s voice, be it as part of his solo career, his band Army of Bones, or even as Delirious?, has been in our homes, hearts and on the radio from the mid-1990s onward, and thus, Martin’s presence in an industry that seems to throw people out with the drop of a hat, seems to be, and only is, remarkable and a miracle in every sense of the word. Martin’s music, both his solo alongside his Delirious? days, have been inspiring me in my own walk with Jesus over the years. Now here we are in 2020, almost a year after Iron Lung has released, and I’m about to write a review for it…I know that the album review is going to very, very untimely, but regardless, upon hearing the album all the way through not too long ago, I was challenged by a lot of the lyrics on the album, as this Delirious?-sounding heartfelt set of 10 songs remind us all to look back on our own lives to see what good things He has done for us, so that we can be thankful for the specifics whenever we give thanks to our God for navigating us along this journey called life. An album that is in fact one of my favourite standout albums of the 2019 year, Martin’s not going anywhere, as Iron Lung gives us comfort in knowing that ‘…this record is about joy and wonder, and the grace to keep singing through the journey of life. It’s telling the story around my first breath as a child to the last breath of someone close to me. Iron Lung is a celebration of life, love, and faith…’
‘Iron Lung’ is the first song on the album, and by far it is one of them most poignant and heartfelt. The song itself follows the story of how when he was a child, he was diagnosed with a severe case of bronchial pneumonia- and it got to a point where it was so serious, so ‘life-and-death’ serious that Martin himself had to have been placed on an oxygen tank, similar to that of an iron lung (hence, this is where Martin got his album title from). As the oxygen tank kept him alive, Martin’s mother and father prayed- that if God brought their son back to them, if Martin would ‘make a noise’ as his parents said; they would offer Martin back to God, so that he can be dedicated to a life of service towards Him. Soon enough, Martin was recovered, and the rest we know is history- he founded Delirious? and played to sold-out shows around the world, and now with a different platform as a solo artist, Martin’s vision to see the people grapple with and discuss hard issues, is why such an album is titled Iron Lung– as obscure as the title of the album is, Martin’s message throughout these 10 songs of hope and redemption is something that has made this album as a whole a special one for him. Martin continues his heartfelt melodies in both ‘Fire’s Gonna Fall’ and ‘Great and Glorious’; ‘Great and Glorious’ being a melody where we can’t help but realise the fact that God is great and glorious, traits about God which are just true because, and things we all should be reminding ourselves again and again, while ‘Fire’s Gonna Fall’ is another worshipful song as we declare to the Lord ot send fire (metaphoically) and flood our lives with the ever-present knowledge that once we receive the fire from the Lord, our lives will never truly be the same- we’ll break for the things He does, and we’ll long to see things come to fruition that are dear to the Lord’’s heart as well. It is when we understand that through our brokenness, we can depend on the one who isn’t broken for all the things we need; that we can worship God freely and without a sense of worry, primarily because of the current circumstances happening around the world, at the moment.
Throughout the rest of the album, Martin continues to impart to us all, important and necessary music to encourage us all, especially right now throughout a difficult time for many around the world. ‘Everybody is Broken’ fuses together the realms of worship and a chorus refrain, alongside spoken word, as the theme of being broken and coming back to life through the power of Jesus is brought to the fore. The song uses unique metaphors and imagery in the telling of the story of dry bones, originally found in the book Ezekiel in the bible, as Martin reminds us all that no matter how broken we are at the moment, God will put is back together, and that the renewal, revival and the restoration by God of our hearts, spirits, and our mind; allows us to become more and more in sync with Him as we do great works and even greater than He. ‘Exalt’, redone into more of a worshipful tune from his EP earlier this year, is present here with the rousing nature of guitars and a prominent rock-anthem atmosphere, as ‘Exalt’ encourages us all to understand fully that God Himself and Himself only is to be exalted above all else, in light of everything that we know of who we are, what He’s done, and who He is as God; while ‘Rise Up’ calls upon us all to hold fast and hold strong to the promises of God throughout the past, and that even if things look bleak right now, God is still on the throne, we will get through difficulties, and we will become better for it; as the lyrics challenge us in how ‘…when life has left us broken, when sorrow is our song, when hope feels like a mem’ry, still, I am holding on, when promises lie shattered, when struggle rages on, when time is not the healer, that we’d relied upon, still, I am holding on…’ ‘Runaway’ feels exactly like a Delirious? song from the King of Fools/Mezzamorphis era, as the song is sung from the persona who’s very similar to that of the prodigal son (or even one of the lost sheep)- as we see the hauntingly compelling words of how ‘…only You can speak my name and call me from the darkest place, You will never give me up even when I show my back, I know You’ll never lay Your head until You find me once again…cause I’m lost without You, please don’t ever stop looking for me, show me You’re running out for the runaway, tell me You wanna dance with me anyway…’; as the song ‘Wonder Hearts’ encourages us to look at the world in a childlike-wonder sense as we understand that we ought to never lose the awe and the genuine look of excitement that often happens when we discover something new or see something enjoyable or worthwhile when we were younger as children. Often when we grow up, so too does our wonder for things disappear, and become replaced by a cynacistic jadism that allows us to look at the world through realistic and pessimistic glasses- we become unimpressed with the little things, and often, become unimpressed with the joyous things around us, just because. This song hopefully encourages us to swing the pendulum back a bit that has gone too far in one direction.
‘Always Be My Love’ reminds us of the unconditional love that God gives to us, even if we may not reciprocate at times, for whatever reason. The song itself depicts a persona who professes their love for God, but then almost straight away decides to do their own thing, neglecting the One who gave them breath in the first place- it is a reminder that we as followers of Christ often stray and fail on a continual, often daily, basis- we promise to be steadfast and true, yet we drift away and find ourselves in holes we’ve dug for ourselves very easily. God never gives up on us, and always comes to find us, and even though we may stray again, and again, God still reaches out to us, wanting to lead us in a direction that is more susceptible to His promptings and longings for us as we journey along this life with Him. Ending the album is the lengthy song ‘Give Thanks For a Broken Heart’, a track that highlights the fact that often it is the times where we are suffering the most that we can press into God and rely more and more on the very thing that often we are only clinging to, that God, though He never causes suffering, often uses it a lot to teach us about Himself and ourselves in the process- what we will learn from suffering may not have been learnt by us, if the suffering had not occurred in our lives.
Martin Smith and his music, both with Delirious? and Army of Bones, alongside his solo material, is here to stay, and Iron Lung is testament to how passionate and enthusiastic Martin is in singing and delivering these songs of worship. Delirious? I reckon is in fact one of CCM’s most impactful and influential worship bands ever, and Martin Smith is carrying on from where Delirious? left off. This is a must have if you are a fan of Delirious? or if you have loved Martin’s music previously. Or a must-have if you enjoy worship music period. Kudos to Martin for this compelling and challenging set of 10 songs, and an album that has surprised me in a good way out of every album to have been released in 2019. One of the albums that’s certain to bring a lot of healing to people, especially now during times of physical distancing and lockdowns; Martin’s newest album is quite possibly his best, as songs like ‘Runaway’, ‘Exalt’, ‘Wonder Hearts’ and ‘Give Thanks For A Broken Heart’ become standouts of mine on the album. Well done Martin for such a prolific and powerful album, looking forward to listening to the album on repeat, for the upcoming weeks and months ahead!
3 songs to listen to: Exalt, Runaway, Give Thanks For a Broken Heart
RIYL: Delirious?, U2, for KING AND COUNTRY, Coldplay, Lifehouse