Fair Trade Services
Release Date: May 31st 2019
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- What Home Feels Like
- Fear No More
- Well Done
- Forever and Always
- Waith (feat. MercyMe)
- It All Starts Now
- Welcome to the Future
- Dancing on Top of the World
- I Run to You
‘…when you’re plugged into community, you’re doing life with people. And when you’re doing life with people, you experience all the good and the hardships. You experience the blessings but also the struggles. Seeing some of the struggles people have been walking through and then realizing we have some of those same struggles, we wanted to make a record that was so encouraging that it would lift your spirits when you’re going through life’s hardest struggles, and also give you tools and weapons to use when the enemy is attacking. When anxiety is creeping in, when fear is building, when you’re going through loss…to give you tools in your life to remember that God is with you and you can trust Him…’ The Afters have been a steady and solid music force throughout the years. Borne out of Dallas Texas, and formed by lead singer Josh Havens and guitarist Matt Fuqua, the band have delivered songs that have touched the hearts of listeners all around the world, from songs like ‘Light Up the Sky’, ‘Every Good Thing’ and ‘Battles’, to ‘Live on Forever’, ‘Life is Beautiful’ and ‘Broken Hallelujah’, to name a few. Since signing to Fair Trade Services (then called INO Records) way back in the day, it was (and still is) their heartfelt melodies and inspirational lyrics that continues to give testament to their songwriting ability, as well as having the courage and braveness to make songs that somehow crossover into mainstream TV placements (music in ad campaigns etc.), over the years.
Much of their songs from their career have spoken to myself about my own faith and walk with Christ, as Josh and co. provide moments of reflection and others of rousing declaration as the band continue to assert themselves, in my opinion, as one of Christian music’s most underrated bands there has been in…well, I reckon ever! Now as they venture into 2019, we get another studio album in the form of Fear No More, a collection of songs that deal with the theme of fear and trusting God in the midst of it. While it has been a while since their last album Live on Forever (September 2016), what Josh Havens and co. have delivered is an album full of moments of tranquillity and others full of powerful anthems, as this album continues, after repeated listens, to climb the list of my favourite albums of 2019 thus far!
Prior to the release of this album, The Afters gave us a taste of what Fear No More was like with the release of both ‘Well Done’ and the title track ‘Fear No More’ on their compilation album The Beginning & Everything After, and both songs that were highlights on the compilation album are also highlights- lyrically, stylistically and musically, here on this new album as well. ‘Well Done’, quite possibly one of the band’s most heartfelt songs to date (since ‘Light Up the Sky’, ‘Ocean Wide’ and ‘Life is Beautiful’), is a reminder to us all to keep running the race as we look forward to our goals and where we would want our lives to be as we keep pressing on with Christ beside us, behind us and before us. As lead singer Josh Havens explores himself, ‘…the message behind ‘Well Done’ is something that’s been on my heart for a while. I lost my dad to cancer about fourteen years ago and there’s been a void in our family ever since. I think about it every time my kids have birthdays. I think about every time we have family gatherings. This past year, it especially hit home when two of my sisters got married. I had to walk one of them down the aisle and I actually officiated at the other one’s wedding. I just thought the whole time about how my dad would’ve loved to be there. But as I looked around, I realized that my dad loved Jesus, and because of that he showed his family what it means to live a life in pursuit of Jesus. Because of his impact, me and all my siblings love Jesus. What a legacy! It was a reminder of how important this life is and that the things we do here on earth really do matter. Someday – when this life is over – we’re going to leave behind all the pains of this world, all the suffering and we’re going to go before our creator. I really want to hear those words, ‘well done, my good and faithful servant.’ I hope this song is a comfort for those of you that have lost someone you’ve loved and is a reminder of how important this life is…’ The song itself is worship at its core, longing to be in the presence of the Lord, and living a life where God can look us in the eye come time for us to move from this life into heaven, and say to us ‘well done’. For us to be acknowledged as faithful stewards here on earth, with whatever gifts and talents Christ has given to us; there is no greater gift than to live a life, knowing full well that whatever we have been given has been put to good use here as we live this brief short stay on planet earth. Then there’s ‘Fear No More’, the other new song that was promoted on The Beginning & Everything After. While the melody itself at times sounds similar to that of Sanctus Real’s ‘Confidence’; what the band have brought to us nevertheless is a melody to declare and sing during times where fear seems to be rising deep within us. While there have been many songs that speak about the topic of fear, The Afters have still unveiled a song about fear, or rather, a song that declares for us to fear no more because of Christ.
Throughout the rest of the album, we see the band impart to us various different music styles as the overarching theme of fearing no longer is presented throughout the 10 songs on the album. Coming off the heels of the success of ‘Well Done’ and ‘Fear No More’ on radio, the band unveil various other melodies that can be sung from the tip of our tongues as the months progress into the future. ‘What Home Feels Like’, track #1, starts off the album with a pop ready-for-radio song that speaks of the theme of how we need to capture the feeling of what home feels like- which is different from person to person, and be reminded to always go back to that feeling whenever we feel like life is just drowning us with overwhelming moments of uncertainty and disillusion. At the centre of every home should be Christ- but everything else outside of that, is I’m sure personal to each person, and thus, though this first song suffers tremendously from repetition, the theme and concept of the track alone is enough to warrant a listen, even if it is only once. ‘Lightning’, the first official single from the album, is co-written with MercyMe frontman Bart Millard, is a happy and jovial song about how the joy of the Lord came into a person’s life like lightning. While the song’s repetition needs a little work, the infectious melody doesn’t stop being joyous and infectious even though there’s a little repetition issue with the semantics of the lyrics. Nevertheless, The Afters continue to bring forth music of different styles, with ‘Wait’ being a piano ballad that features Bart on backing vocals and speaks of how we can hardly wait in anticipation of Christ’s return. Though the song doesn’t really build up musically (save for the last 30 seconds or so), the song nevertheless is an important one to bring across the theme of patience, something we all as Christians should practice.
‘It All Starts Now’ sounds like radio single #2, as Josh and co. remind us all that our decisions and what we long to occur in the future should start being planned through right now- hence the song title ‘It All Starts Now’- knowing full well that pressing on right now will save a lot of lost chances and missed opportunities in the future. ‘Welcome to the Future’ is a nice EDM track that is different (and welcomed) by the band, and though it doesn’t really fit on the album, kudos to the band for delivering such a track, that states that the future is coming whether we like it or not. Hopefully such a track like this is a reminder for us to spring into action all the things we’ve wanted to accomplish by years end, never letting time slip away. The album ends with ‘Dancing on Top of the World’ and ‘I Run to You’, the former a song with a looping percussion that speaks of the joy we feel in Christ coming out in the form of dancing, while the latter is a reflective sombre melody featuring string instruments that showcase the theme of running to our Father in times of need, but also in times when we don’t need Him as well. It is in the moments of us not knowing much about life that we can finally come to Jesus with no pretenses or agendas, and rest knowing that He knows far greater than we can ever fathom…and that is a good thing!
Then there’s ‘Forever and Always’, a song, alongside ‘Well Done’, that anchors the album, both musically and thematically. A song that incorporates, line for line (but not music-wise) the lyrics from ‘With You Always’ from Life Is Beautiful (and thus, the song on this new album feels like a sequel to ‘With You Always’!); the song was written with some of Josh’s close friends in mind. As Josh imparts to us the impact of the song and his thoughts about it, ‘…there’s a song on the album called “Forever and Always”. It was written after our dear friend and long-time sound guy and his wife lost their daughter at birth. It was such a devasting and painful time. After the funeral, I saw he and his wife, and didn’t know what to say. There are no words for that moment. I just hugged him and we cried. I remember thinking, what words would I want to share with him that would be a comfort to him right now, so I started writing the words to “Forever and Always”. I remember thinking, “I don’t know why this happened!” There are no words that can explain why he lost his daughter. But I do know that God is close to the brokenhearted. He tells us that in Scripture. God is with us when we’re hurting and broken, and that’s a comfort and hope that we can cling to. So that’s where that lyric, “I just know He is close to the brokenhearted” came from. What I wanted him to walk away with was God is with you forever. Always. Through everything. There’s nothing we will go through where we will ever be alone, even the hardest and darkest and most painful moments of our lives…’
There you have it…Fear No More. While for me it felt like the album as a whole was a little short (10 songs for around a 3 year wait…maybe 15 songs at least for that amount of time taken between albums?); what was indeed given in the 10 songs was deep and meaningful, and with the exception of one mishap (‘Wait’, featuring MercyMe); the album as a whole has some of the band’s most poignant and relatable songs I’ve heard. An album that’s certain to be enjoyed if you have loved previous albums by the band, this projects marks a renewed sense of purpose in speaking about issues that have been deemed unspeakable, as the band travel along the lines of being relevant and radio friendly, alongside giving us songs that showcase their heart as well. Well done Josh and co. for Fear No More, a standout album in May, alongside Newsboys’ UNITED and Chris Rice’s Untitled Hymn.
3 songs to listen to: Well Done, Forever and Always, I Run to You
RIYL: Matthew West, Kutless, Sidewalk Prophets, Big Daddy Weave