Review Rating: Must Listen! [4.7 / 5]
New Mexico-based musician Stephen Christian is no stranger to uncertainty. After a successful career with rock band Anberlin and a promising retirement, he's learned, through comfort and despair, just how good God truly is. The result: three years of searching, asking, and discovering wrapped into an engaging and sincere ten-song record. Wildfires is a fantastic introduction to Stephen Christian's ongoing journey, a beautiful and honest collection that draws in listeners.
The album opens with the upbeat and lively "Trust." Traces of Stephen's rock influence are clear across the song, though the verses are dominated by calm electronics and soft drums. When the choruses enter, however, the drums accelerate and the guitar notes sound all the more clearly. Stephen's vocals build on the blend, singing of God's faithfulness in the good and the bad. It's a song that gets the attention of listeners, building anticipation for the rest of the album.
Farther along on the album is the calmer and reflective "Atmosphere," featuring guest vocalist Sarah Reeves. Smooth electronics and keyboard guide the piece with faint hints of percussion in the background. The sound is large in magnitude yet gentle in volume, a fitting feel for the track. Between Stephen's gentle vocals and Sarah's accenting verses, the lyrics convey the majesty of Christ and His omniscient presence "invading the atmosphere." The song masterfully weaves vocals with its melodies into a beautiful worship piece.
"He Is Anthem" takes a different route with Stephen's worship experience, turning into a song of praise and celebration. "He's running to my rescue, He's bringing life into the anthem my heart is singing" Stephen sings, amplifying the joy with bright guitar notes, energetic drums, and a tone of thankfulness. The song flows from calmer moments of anticipation to energetic and rising choruses that capitalize on themes of healing and overflowing mercy. Of the many tracks Wildfires presents to listeners, "He Is Anthem" is the album at its best in my view.
Closing the album on a good note is "All I Need To Know," a raw and honest moment that leaves listeners with hope after the collection closes. Keyboard notes and gentle electronic beats propel the melody, constantly building in preparation of Stephen's passionate, rising vocals. Building from the themes of "Trust" and "Gloria," Stephen sings of his confidence in Christ's presence and comfort. "You are my only hope, I look to You alone," the chorus expresses, "even though I'm scared, You are always there and that's all I need to know." A beautiful ending to the collection, "All I Need To Know" has quickly become this reviewer's favorite track.
Wildfires is certainly well worth the listen. Stephen Christian's passion and joy clearly shine across the tracks, conveying uncontainable hope and joy. Engaging vocals and gripping lyrics blend beautifully with riveting and energetic melodies, making each song enjoyable and impactful.