Album Review :
Beautiful Eulogy - Worthy
By Casey Gallenberger in Reviews | 16 Comments
2017 has seen the release of some great albums from bands I had previously considered average. ’68 and Kings Kaleidoscope are the first that come to mind. My previous experience with Beautiful Eulogy was similar, but their two pre-release singles, Messiah and Sovereign, gave me high hopes that “Worthy” would be strong enough to change my opinion of the trio. In fact, I enjoyed these singles so much that I pre-ordered a physical copy of the album.
Did the album meet my expectations? Honestly, I can’t say what exactly I was expecting. I’ve largely been ambivalent to Beautiful Eulogy. I enjoy their production and use of organic textures. I appreciate the mellow delivery and lyrical depth. However, their previous releases have all had pockets of weakness and this trait has unfortunately manifested once again on “Worthy”. I did not want to be hasty in writing this review as I know this is a band that gets high praise and the lyrical nuances are easy to miss if it’s simply playing in the background. I spent a couple hours listening to the album on repeat before sitting down to write.
Before I get into the unfavorable elements, I again cannot stress how much I enjoyed the two singles. They’re some of the strongest tracks on the album, they’re incredibly relevant to where I’m at in life, and they honestly have some of the most compelling instrumentals. It is a bit odd to have a feature like Zach Bolen of Citizens do a guest feature, especially after first experiencing them on Christian contemporary radio, but I’m thankfully able to break away from the CCM connotations and accept the track as its own composition. These tracks, along with others on the album, provide great reminders of God’s power and faithfulness in the midst of our brokenness and doubt. Messiah specifically focuses on the difficulty of seeing eternity in the midst of challenges and longsuffering. Braille captures this beautifully:
I just assume the weight I carry is the heaviest
But I’ve never been a heavweight
My legs get heavy when I wait
Hope deferred so I prefer the immediate
And exchange the true God for what seems for expedient
I would be remiss if I suggested the album was anything other than Christ-exalting. However, this does also play into what I consider to be problematic.
This isn’t the first time has included sermon-esque songs, but three of the tracks here are far more akin to speeches than songs (namely, Weight, Immanuel, and the actual mini-sermon of Devotion). Add in the instrumental Overture and only three quarters of the tracks are what I’d consider songs you’d want to listen to regularly. I don’t want to dismiss the topics these tracks cover, but if I want to hear a sermon, I have certain places I’d go.
The album is very front-loaded. Even though the aforementioned Weight does fall into what I consider, to some degree, filler, it’s again filled with great lyrics that set the tone for the album. Other of that group of tracks, Weight is certainly my favorite. Everything through Mosaic is great (excluding Overture, which feels unnecessary). The guest features are great. I particularly enjoy Latifa Alattas on Doxology, another favorite of mine when it comes to instrumentals.
It’s not until the eighth track where the guest appearance, this time by Chad Gardner, really doesn’t click with me. It’s odd as I really enjoyed “The Beauty Between”, but Gardner’s delivery doesn’t seem to meld well into Courtland Urbano’s beats.
Apart from the guest hooks, the other hooks seem to be lacking. Take If…:
It could mean everything, it could mean nothing
One word makes the difference
It could mean everything, it could mean nothing
One word changes everything
It’s not only overly-simple; it’s a bit annoying in context. Though much of If… is delicately poetic, the weak hook does result in a bit of a rough start to the album. Thankfully, the guests come to the rescue, until we get to another Beautiful Eulogy hook on “Slain”, which the dreaded low-pitch-shifted hook consists of the following:
There’s a virus in my iris
Always blinded, close my eyelids
See my Savior laying down his righteous life
And saying “I forgive”
Unfortunately, it reminds me too much of Twenty One Pilots telling me to “Wake up, you need the money” and the number of shared syllables in some of these words really is indistinguishable. And while Slain does have an interesting end musically, it’s a bit confusing why it was thrown in.
Thankfully, there is one strong hook that doesn’t rely on a guest: Worthy. I’m not sure I can say they saved the best for last, but it’s definitely the redeeming factor to the end of a rough final quarter. Insert your own sports analogies here.
There’s certainly a ton to unpack lyrically but unfortunately that doesn’t offset my experience with the record. I will say this much: When it comes to rap, this is definitely the kind of instrumentation and delivery I want. However, the filler tracks, weak hooks, and a few “cheap” rhymes (see: “With so much evil how can we believe you’re good? But I finally understood when I saw that man nailed to wood”) really weaken the album. Braille’s parts tend to be less compelling, whereas Odd Thomas bears most of the weight. Production, however, is wonderful.
Overall, I’m pretty divided on this album. I do enjoy it, but I’m not sure how much replay it’ll get. I don’t regret buying it, and I do think it has piqued my interest more than their previous work. If you’re a previously Beautiful Eulogy fan, you’ll likely enjoy it. If you’ve been disinterested in the past, I suggest you at least check it out. Sovereign, Doxology, Mosaic, and Worthy certainly deserve to be heard.
Check out “Worthy” below and download it for free on the Humble Beast site.
Why have someone who is admittedly not a fan of hip hop review a hip hop album?
My most anticipated album of the year because their lyrics. Love their style, appreciate their skills, had high expectations for the music but couldn’t wait to hear what they had to say. Nothing better in my opinion. There are so few stellar lyricists in Christian music and so many horrible examples. I long for this type of lyricism. Few exalt God in such a way. Thus far, I’d say the album is fantastic. I saw no flaws in Instruments of Mercy. Not exactly sure where this will land. Sounded a little weaker overall. My initial reaction is too much singing,… Read more »
I would give this album easily a 5/5! I wouldn’t be sjrprised if it ends up being my album of the year. I agree with all the positives you wrote: production is ace, the two singles are banging but I think some of your criticisms are a little unfair. Every album has had an Art Azurdia sermon jam (who I really dig – excellent pastor!). And both previous albums have had tracks with sermon-esque delivery / lyrics. While you write “if I wanted a sermon, there are other places I’d go”, given BE’s previous two albums I’m surprised that you… Read more »
Hi Chris, I figured this would be a divisive review. None of the criticisms I laid out are surprising – I did mention they included these elements on previous releases. I think that was one of the first things I brought up, actually. As I mentioned in my close, previous fans will probably love it – but I don’t think they have bridged the gap to bring in new diehard fans. I like it more than their previous releases but not as much as I’ve liked many other releases this year. I’ve appreciated bands who have been able to “convert”… Read more »
Understand where you’re coming from – thanks for the response Casey.
For what it’s worth, I appreciated the points on the prophetic lyricism, especially in context of new fans. I love BE for their sound, and while Braille’s delivery can sometimes wear on me, my only real complaint about them is the lyrics. I know there’s been a calling out from Christian listeners who want Christ-centred music, so kudos to them for delivering such theologically based lyricism to their genre. Their lyrics are specifically relatable to Christians, and I think Casey said it well with “if I want to hear a sermon, I have certain places I’d go.” I’d have a… Read more »
Does it need to be evangelistic? Their music is more worship which isnt designed for unbelievers.
Nope, you’re totally right, and if that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. That was just an example and my reasoning for why I don’t like it as much as many others here. Worship music tires on me quickly.
The thing I’d say is that ‘worship music’ is often generic – so for me in this case it’s nice to hear worship music with a different flavour (here, it’s hiphop). That seriously beats the Hillsong/Chris Tomlin/Bethel etc vibe that we are bombarded with every day in churches. Honestly, we don’t get lyrics that can be described as ‘worship’ that use different styles like this. This album is clearly for believers and I’m ok with that. That’s their target audience, that’s what they’re going for. I’ll go and listen to Propaganda when I want hiphop that addresses important issues in… Read more »
This album could be my favourite Beautiful Eulogy release. The featured artists found here are a welcome bonus and really make the music more accessible. I don’t listen to much hiphop but Beautiful Eulogy are a group that always stick out – even though I don’t subscribe to their reformed theological perspective. In my opinion that shows how good they are. Unique and well produced sound, great lyrics with good flow, worshipful. Very impressed.
Had posted a comment here about a week ago. Either it didn’t post or it was taken down. The main gist of what I was saying is Beautiful Eulogy is something of an acquired taste. I think you either “get it” or you don’t. I also said that I disagree on Zach Bolen’s guest spot being odd. BE and Citizens are very close and Citizens earlier this year became the first non hip-hop act to sign with Humble Beast. I also wouldn’t lump Citizens in with “CCM.” Lastly, I feel like you shouldn’t let yourself get hung up on the… Read more »
If your comment didn’t post it’s probably stuck in spam for some reason. I’ll check the spam box (I hardly check it but maybe I should). No censoring here unless someone’s goes over the top with vulgarity
I appreciate your honesty, Casey, but as others have mentioned, I find some of your criticisms to be what one could consider “low hanging fruit.” What I mean is that essentially, it seems to me that your dislike of them are the exact reasons that so many others like them. Take, for instance, the deeply rich theological lyrics and concepts they address. For you, you’d rather just listen to a sermon, but, I love the fact that they take this approach to their lyrics because I don’t think such topics should be only addressed in sermons (I doubt you do,… Read more »
I really liked this album, the production was stellar, and lyrically is probably my favorite from the BE releases. Two things that really stood out to me: 1. Odd Thomas – In the past, OT always felt like the weak link in Beautiful Eulogy to me. His robotic delivery and theology textbook lyrics always brought down the experience for me and I couldn’t help but wish that his verses were replaced by more Braille verses. On this album, I was blown away with how much better he’d gotten since Instruments. His lyrics were more personal, emotional and relatable, and he’s… Read more »
Interesting to hear your comment on Art’s teaching. I understand that. I was actually a lot more bothered by Devotion initially whereas I LOVED Blessed are the Merciful on Instruments and played it for others. There are times when I don’t care for his delivery (hate the way he says Gaaawwwddd) but as I’ve listened to Devotion and set aside his delivery, I love the teaching. Hugely necessary from a pastoral point of view.
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
Don’t judge a movie by it’s trailer.
Don’t judge a pastor by a sermon jam / segments cut into a hip-hop track.
I’m an Art Azurdia fanboy so that comment of yours cut deep. haha When my brother first heard an Art Azurdia sermon, he said to me “this is like John Malkovich preaching!” His presentation is unique but he’s gospel-centred, Christ-driven and he exposits clearly. There are many popular pastors who can’t do that who deserve your ire more than AA.