Release Date: July 17th 2015
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- The Joy
- Dance With God
- Jesus Is
- Our God Wins
- Rise Up
- Rules And Reigns
- Perfect God
- Mighty Men Of God
- Through Christ
If needtobreathe, Newsong and Third Day recorded an album together, the style of music and lyrics you’d probably be listening to is the band that acclaimed songwriter Ian Eskelin just signed on his newly created independent label Radiate Music- The Neverclaim. That’s a pretty impressive and bold statement for me to declare upfront, but let me say that these young men of God, who previously recorded an album on Essential Records, are the real deal, and have immense talent! With Jeremiah Carlson leading the vocals and acoustic guitar, and the rest of the band consisting of Mitchell, Chuck, and Beji (on guitars/keys, bass, and drums respectively); the group of friends from Portland, Oregon signed to Essential Records through Mac Powell from Third Day, introducing the band to the label. And just as how Paul Moak successfully crafted an impressive debut album in 2013 for these guys just as how he did in 2010 for Third Day’s Move; so has Ian carried on that remarkable trend, with this sophomore album standing tall amongst other standout albums this year.
With the band name inspired by how the band do not want to claim God’s glory as their own, and instead want to give Him the praise, honour and recognition in everything; lyrically these 11 tracks are some of the most honest that I’ve heard from a sophomore album, despite the shortness of the record (I think it’s only 30 odd minutes)… Releasing on a day where Jon Foreman and Shine Bright unveil new projects; The Neverclaim are a band to watch out for- they will be around for a very long time to come!
The energetic and celebratory guitar led tunes, the title track “The Joy” and “Dance With God” (which are 1st and 2nd on the tracklist!) are the two singles from the album. “The Joy” is led by explosive guitar, and features Jeremiah passionately declaring across vibrant guitar riffs that Jesus’ sacrifice and love for us has set us free, and now we can live with freedom and emphatically own the notion that we are free, and nothing or no one can take that away from us. An invite of sorts, in which Jeremiah relays that God is welcoming us to ‘…the Joy, the love that never ends, where the grace of God renews again and again…’, the party and celebrations continue with “Dance With God”, an equally powerful guitar rocker that has me of the edge of the seat in active praise to God. Driven by captivating synth and electric guitar, Jeremiah encourages us, reminding us that even on the days where we don’t feel like praising God, we still have a reason, because we have life, and ‘…we’ve been reconciled to the Father, our lives are changed forevermore…’. Our debt has been paid and what more can we do but ‘…dance with God, we rejoice and laugh and sing, forever in His love…’. Well done guys for an impressive and musically catchy start to what is an unique and musically fresh album that has be yearning for more and more!
Though it’s true that with a change of producers and of labels as well (Paul Moak on Essential Records vs Ian Eskelin on the newly formed Radiate Music), comes a change in musical style (as some of the tracks are more CCM in nature than their songs on their debut album!), there’s still no denying that The Neverclaim are on fire for Jesus, and that their hearts are honest and in the right place. But CCM isn’t for everyone, meaning that the next batch of pop tunes (after the 2 opening rockers!) could turn some people off the album, and that’s ok. Though I’m not one to judge based on one listen, so let’s see how the rest of the album progresses. Granted, the sound is slightly different to the overt country and southern gospel presented in their self-titled debut album, but it’s still catchy and worth plenty of listens!
2nd single “Jesus Is” is simple lyrically and thematically, and the musical backdrop is not that complex either, with Jeremiah singing alongside vibrant synth that Jesus Christ is ‘…hope, He is life, He is with me in every moment, He is all I need, everything good in me, some might say that Jesus was, I say Jesus is…’. A guilty pleasure of mine (I find myself still tapping my toes and dancing while objectively questioning the ‘deep’ or not so deep nature of the lyrics!), it’s still a nice reminder that Jesus is with us and will never leave us or forsake us. “Go” “(nope, not the Newsboys song but still thematically similar to that) is a 3 minute inspirational and motivational piano led ballad rooted in the Great Commission, encouraging us to go out and spread the gospel to everyone we meet. In this track Jeremiah’s passion is greater than ever, which makes me want to actively take a stand for my faith and share it with those around me who do not believe yet; so in that respect, the band has crafted a winner here! While the hand clapping piano led pop melody “Everything”, where Jeremiah vocally sounds similar to Mark Schultz, invites us to lay everything at the foot of Jesus, and let Him sort out the messes in our lives, whether it’s big or small, whether we think we can handle our problems on our own or not. Confrontational in the sense that we are reminded that to surrender to God is to surrender every part of ourselves, once we realise that freedom comes with giving everything over to God, every other part of life becomes sunnier, and much more enjoyable.
“Our God Wins” and “Rise Up” are next and both of these are inspirational, encouraging, and filled with hope. As Jeremiah eloquently reminds us in “Our God Wins”, a piano prominent life giving and view changing melody, that ‘…I may be pulled back like a bow and arrow, within the tension that’s where hope begins, He is the victory, even the enemy knows how the story ends, our God wins…’, we are provided with the knowledge that Jesus has already won, so we can live in that freedom, knowledge and security as well. While the more upbeat, energetic and raucous “Rise Up”, led by a pulsating drum beat, chilling gang vocals and resounding electric guitar, is an epic anthem deserving of multiple listens, as Jeremiah encourages us to rise up above our circumstances and adversaries and live for Jesus, in the belief that He has defeated all of our adversaries and in that respect, we have beaten them too! The only downside to this gem of a track is that it’s too short- once I’ve settled into the groove, hoping for more of this song, it ends. But “Rules And Reigns” is a great song too, however after the epic “Rise Up”, the following track is more subdued. Driven by an acoustic guitar, “Rules And Reigns” is more intimate, reserved and reflective, and is a straight up worship song, where Jeremiah and co. proclaim that God rules and he reigns over all, vividly describing instances where His sovereignty is displayed and evident. Though not as musically catchy as the predecessors before it; The Neverclaim have created a solid track that beautifully encapsulates God’s sovereignty and that He reigns above all.
Slightly more musically aggressive than most songs on this album, the guitar led rocker “Perfect God” reiterates that God is holy and perfect as Jeremiah ardently sings out ‘…holy, holy, holy perfect God…come fill the desires of my heart, with all You are, perfect God…’ (though the lyrics can be slightly repetitive at times!), while the penultimate song on the album “Mighty Men Of God”, written for Father’s Day, is an acoustic guitar led ballad and statement of intent and active faith where Jeremiah reminds us, and especially Christian men and fathers, to be ‘mighty men of God’ and live for Christ, being a positive role model to their children, especially in this day and age where divorce, addition to pornography and abuse are more and more prevalent. While I am not married nor am I a father, this song does strike a chord in me in the sense that I want to live a godly life and ensure that in the future, my children know that I am living the best life and I can and the life Jesus wants me to live. The album ender “Through Christ” wraps up The Neverclaim’s message quite nicely, expressing and highlighting that we live in freedom in Christ and that ‘…through Christ our King, the victory is sure, against all things His Kingdom will endure, no dark, no depth is deeper than His love, we will overcome…’. Though the theme of living in Christ and being free is littered amongst almost every track on this album, it’s nice, and fitting as well be reminded again, as that in fact 9is the take home message of the album. That Jesus is with us and that we are free in Him because of His love and sacrifice for us!
It is true that The Neverclaim seem to be a conglomerate or mishmash of Third Day, Newsong and needtobreathe (though it’s more subdue here because of the CCM/pop musical expansion!), yet they also have forged their own identity with their country southern musical roots mixed in with their worshipful heart, present on many acoustic worship ballads, catchy pop offerings, and emphatic rousing and epic anthems. Jeremiah, Mitchell, Chuck, and Beji have played out of their skins on these 10 tracks, and though these mighty men of God haven’t received any Dove Award Nominations this year, they thoroughly deserve to next year! It’s going to be interesting seeing these young men live for Jesus and evolve musically by the time the next album comes around, and hopefully they can successfully help Ian launch a respected and popular new label. I definitely am anticipating their next effort, and will watch closely at how God works in their lives. Yes, this year is possibly one of the best in terms of combinations of albums releasing, but The Joy from The Neverclaim is one that you won’t want to miss!
4 songs to listen to: Dance With God, Jesus Is, Rise Up, Mighty Men Of God
RIYL: needtobreathe, Third Day, MercyMe, Newsong