Release Date: September 8th 2017
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Hope Survives
- Via Dolorosa
- More Than Conquerors
- Come To The River
- Great Is Thy Faithfulness
- Bring Him Home
- Let Us Be Light
- Amazing Grace
- To Make You Feel My Love
Powerhouse vocal gospel/acapella group Veritas, comprising of Jeff Anderson, James Berrian, Andrew Goodwin, Jordan Johnson, and Lucas Scott Lawrence, are probably going to make me a fan of opera/theatre music eventually. Just kidding, but all jokes aside, the 5 piece group have made a splash throughout the years, culminating in their debut album 3 years ago, the self-titled release unveiled through Fair Trade Services. Vocally each and all of the five members shine on their self-titled label debut, and on their sophomore album Hope Survives, which released to all digital outlets just last week. Though I wouldn’t normally listen to, let alone review acapella/vocal groups similar to gospel or opera-style (that was a statement I said in the review of the band’s first album, and a statement I still agree with today!), it was my enjoyment of the first album that led me to check out the second. So what is my assessment of these 10 songs sung in a genre I do not normally listen to? Well it’s still decidedly different that’s for sure, but it’s in a good way, as I broaden my musical horizons, and appreciate several genres that I probably need to explore a whole lot more in the future for the sake of my ‘musical education’ and being more knowledge in general. Well done Veritas for delivering heartfelt and inspirational songs that will be on rotation for a while on iTunes!
“…Even though we are on stage looking as if we have it all together, stuff is going on in our lives, too. The biggest thing for us is we want people to know there is hope. Whatever you are struggling with, we want to tell you why there is a hope that will survive through that particular struggle. We wanted to find songs that really ministered to us first, because we knew if they spoke to us–if they really ministered to us first–we knew it would be something we would be able to truly share from the heart…” With the theme of the album being that there is a hope beyond we could ever think of or dream of, and it is that hope that survives beyond all adversity and hardship, the hope of Jesus Christ that lifts us up when we feel weak; it’s absolutely fitting that the album starts off with the emphatic radio friendly CCM-esque title track. With the band co-writing the song with Ross King and Benjamin Backus, we are drawn into an encouraging melody led by stirring guitars and vibrant synth, reiterating to us the fact that ‘…hope survives, when it seems that life is over in the darkest night, but it comes back even stronger, in the wounds and scars we find out who we are, through the fight, we will find hope survives…’, that during the times when there seems to be no solution, God is here with us, and no matter what, we can hold onto that hope, and stand firm in the truth even in the midst of chaos. Similar in theme of Tenth Avenue North’s “I Have This Hope”, “Hope Survives” is a brilliant opener by Veritas.
Other than the title track, probably the only other melody that the band has written in the genre of CCM is “Unforgettable”, co-written with The City Harmonic’s Elias Dummer. Providing us hope against a compelling musical backdrop of strings and orchestral instruments, we are presented with the heartfelt declaration that ‘…even if the sky is falling all around, Heaven knows that you’ll survive the fall, you’re one in a million stars that light up the night, you’re unforgettable…’, that we are each indeed significant in God’s eyes, enough for Him to die for each of us, even when we are just one person in the sea of 7 billion people living in the world.
The rousing guitar led mid-tempo anthem “Let Us Be Light”, co-written with Todd Smith of Selah, Tyrus Morgan and Jay Speight, is probably my favourite track on the album, with Jeff, James, Andrew, Jordan and Lucas each explosively and emphatically encouraging us to shine our light for Jesus especially in the darkest of places, but at all times, as they remind us to ‘…let us be light, let our love shine, break through the shadows, piercing the night, let us be light, don’t hold it inside, let the world know hope is coming alive…’. While the remaining originally penned and recorded melodies are “More Than Conquerors” and “Come To The River”, with the former being a ‘scripture-in-song’ no verses and no chorus type of song, based on Romans 8, about how we are sons and daughters of God and therefore more than conquerors in His sight; and the latter a piano only soft ballad written by Ronnie Freeman, inviting us to partake in the living water that is Jesus Christ, and bask in His peace, knowing that He will wash away all of life’s troubles and our worries.
As with the previous debut album, Veritas once again take a few well-known melodies, and make it their own. On Hope Survives, they’ve done so with five tracks. “Via Dolorosa”, the popular iconic melody from Sandi Patty, is near flawless and in my opinion, much more impacting and inspiring than the original version (that’s just my opinion!), while the album closer “To Make You Feel My Love”, made popular by Adele and originally written by Bob Dylan, is a piano only ballad, with Veritas perfectly painting a picture of the immense love of Jesus for each one of us, especially in the refrain that ‘…I could make you happy, make your dreams come true, There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do, go to the ends of the Earth for you, to make you feel My love…’.
Hymns “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “Amazing Grace” are also present, with the former a stellar acapella recording of one of my favourite hymns and probably one of the most underrated hymns ever; and the latter an orchestral/soundtrack recording of probably the most famous hymn ever. “Amazing Grace” is a song that mostly everyone should know, no matter their world view, values or belief system, and Veritas have recorded this song to perfection, as they display to us a simple yet effective depiction of the gospel, although I probably would have wanted the chorus of Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” to be included here as well, but that’s just an insignificant nit-pick. “Bring Him Home”, from the hit musical Les Misérables, unequivocally reiterates to us that even in suffering, we can trust that God has everything in his hands, and holds our world together; and in this rendition, Veritas have recorded an absolute gem that needs to be heard and again and again so as to dwell upon the awesomeness of this group, these men of God.
“…once you show people who you are and you are transparent with them, all of the sudden they come out of the woodwork saying, ‘That is my story, too’. The truth is, the five of us on stage represent everybody who we’re singing to, every night. The first record was our sound. This one is our heart…” Though not knowing much about Veritas prior to August in 2014 when they signed to Fair Trade Services, now I can’t wait to hear what they have to offer this year and the year after, especially when Hope Survives surpasses the brilliance of their debut in every way! While you still won’t catch me voluntarily listening to opera and orchestral pieces, what Veritas have shown me through both album, but especially through Hope Survives is that liking certain artists in ‘different’ genres isn’t a bad thing. And so Veritas and Hope Survives has me singing along with passion and gusto, although it’s not my favourite genre. So, what are you waiting for? Check out Veritas’ new album; you will definitely be surprised in a good way!
4 songs to listen to: Hope Survives, Unforgettable, Let Us Be Light, To Make You Feel My Love
RIYL: Jason Crabb, Avalon, Anthem Lights, Selah, Newsong, Phillips Craig & Dean