Review Rating: Must Listen! [4.8 / 5]
Nevada-based quintet I AM THEY became an instant CCM favorite with their self-titled release in 2015, creating encouraging and uplifting songs with engaging sounds and impactful themes. Now, Jon McConnell, Abbie Parker, Matthew Hein, Justin Shinn, and Sara Palmer lead the charge with another impressive arsenal of sounds and impactful lyrics. It's no surprise that the pre-releases from their newest album have captivated and excited listeners. Trial & Triumph tackles themes of suffering and victory seamlessly, developing a near breath-taking album well worth repeated listening.
Without reservation, the album kicks off with an upbeat note. "My Feet Are On The Rock" was pre-released by the band and instantly became a fan favorite - and with good reason. The opening chords and clapping are the bare minimum of the song; the chorus picks up with energetic drums, piano, and guitar. Vocalists Abbie Parker, Jon McConnell, and Matt Hein lead the song, with a choir of voices joining across the choruses as the music reaches its peak. The lyrics joyfully describe God's faithfulness and constancy, singing "when I feel the whole world about to break … my feet are on the Rock."
If the opening track is about looking forward, "How Far We Come" is about looking to the past. The atmosphere is nearly the opposite of the aforementioned track, with emphasis on keyboard notes, soft guitar chords, and steady drums. Despite the seemingly calm introduction, the song ascends with a triumphant and victorious sound, fitting for the themes of the album. Abbie's gentle and reassuring vocals encourage listeners to look back and see God's work in their lives, resolving our trials with Christ's triumph. "Look at the mountains we've climbed, Oh God, how faithful you've been to deliver us!" she sings in the chorus. "Look at how far we've come!"
"Scars" shortly follows, looking at trials and tribulations with a different lens. The song prepares listeners for a moment of contemplation, accented by piano notes and light cymbals that slowly fades across song transitions. What starts as a solemn introduction gives way to an unexpectedly joyful resolution, marked by snare drums that slowly introduce electric guitar chords. The word is thankfulness - for the scars in our lives that remind us of the Savior's own scars. Having joy in trouble is a hard concept to grasp, but "Scars" excels at expressing that joy in a song that could easily have become a moment of melancholy.
Towards the close of the collection is "Crown Him." Taking on more of a worshipful tone, the song turns the focus from trouble to victory. Acoustic guitar and keyboard build the melody as drum beats accent the track, slowly building to a triumphant note. The lyrics turn the focus to Christ's ultimate victory, the day where all will acknowledge Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. "Crown Him, crown Him King of glory … Lord of all," Jon sings across the chorus, a simple declaration in expectation of the day where Jesus will finally be crowned.
There are countless times where a certain song meets a certain listener at the right place and time. Trial & Triumph is full of such moments, beautifully surrounding listeners with encouraging and inspiring tracks. Cries of joy meet cries of sorrow, all wrapped in an anthem of worship and praise that clearly describes the One who works through both the good and bad. Building on their momentum, I AM THEY continues to uplift listeners and proclaim the Savior - that's the true triumph of this collection.