Artist: Matthew West
Title: Into the Light
Label: Sparrow Records
Release Date: 9/25/12
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- Into the Light
- Hello My Name Is
- Do Something
- Moved By Mercy
- We are the Broken
- Wonderfully Made
- Waitin’ on a Miracle
- Love Stands Waiting
- The Power in a Prayer
Matthew West is one of my favourite artists of late, releasing such a hard-hitting, emotional, poignant and impacting album The Story of Your Life back in 2010, with singles ‘My Own Little World’, ‘Family Tree’, ‘Strong Enough’ and ‘The Healing Has Begun’. Ever since he allowed fans to write to him about some of their stories (basing his entire 2010 album on the inspirational stories he read from his fans all across the globe), Matthew has decided to allow his fans to be his inspiration again for his new album, Into the Light. Originally going to be an EP released in April 2012, with 6 brand new songs and acoustic versions of ‘Family Tree’ and ‘Strong Enough’, Matthew decided to push back the release date till September, and extend the EP to a full-length album. Definitely worth the wait, the album reminds us all about the power of telling our own story, and realising that even in our moments of hurt and confusion, God is still weaving and threading our experiences together to lead us to a masterpiece of hope, love and acceptance as we understand our identity in Christ. As Matthew pours out his heart for the album- ‘…there is power in a story…and we all have a story to tell…the songs on Into The Light are inspired by these amazing, real-life stories…[these stories] will challenge all who hear to discover the hope, healing and freedom that can only be found when we step out of the darkness and Into The Light…’ With ‘Forgiveness’ climbing the charts and becoming one of the standout Christian songs of the year along with MercyMe’s ‘The Hurt and the Healer’; Into the Light is able to capture the beauty, wonder, even the pain and devastation of a story, all the while acknowledging the Maker calling us to journey along with Him as we live through these moments to lead us into something beautiful, to the point where we can boldly proclaim that we are the ‘…child of the one true king, I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, I’ve been set free, amazing grace is the song I sing…’ (‘Hello My Name Is’).
‘Forgiveness’ is one of the most transparent, heartfelt and encouraging melodies I’ve heard this year. We all know forgiveness in theory, but the story behind this song is just truly remarkable. Already a viral hit on Godtube.com, we are met with a very real scenario where, if I’m suddenly placed within it, I don’t know if I can truly do what this lady did in that circumstance. Speaking to the soul about how we ought to give forgiveness a chance, and how we should ‘…let it go and be amazed by what you see through eyes of grace, the prisoner that it really frees is you…’; Matthew wrote this song based on how a mother forgave her daughter’s killer, and advocated on behalf of him for his release from prison- rallying alongside him as he began to transform during his time served inside the gaol cell. An emotional prayer to ‘…show me how to do the impossible, forgiveness…’, this keyboard driven song speaks about the freeing effects of just leaving our bitterness by the wayside, and surrendering to Christ as He works through the issues we constantly face each day. With such a relevant and universal message of letting go of the things that will eat us up physically, emotionally and spiritually otherwise; this song has given many people healing since it’s release on radio a few months ago, and with the aim to promote awareness of something that ought to be pursued if we should live life to the fullest, ‘Forgiveness’ is one of the highlights in an album destined to bring people over from darkness to light, as they discover the true act of forgiveness- of God loving us and forgiving our wrong doings- sending His Son to die in the place that we deserved to be in! Well done Matthew for one of my favourite songs of the year!
‘Into the Light’ is the title track on the album, and speaks about escaping difficult situations that we may all face, stepping out of the darkness and into the light that Jesus inhabits. A theme across all of these songs is to understand that all of these big decisions that we make is not through our own strength, but with Christ alongside us, certainly true of this song as well. The song begins with a big drum beat as Matthew describes what can be anyone’s plight- ‘…I was stranded in the shadows, it was all I ever knew, I was pushed down in the darkness, lost all hope of breaking through…’, reminding us of the realness of circumstances that may leave us desperate with no way out. Offering a remedy, Matthew sings out from Jesus’ point of view, across the music crescendoing alongside gang vocals and rising guitars; with the invitation to ‘…c’mon, c’mon, out of the darkness…out of the night, no more, no more living in the shadows now, step into the light…’ As we start to make that daunting and sometimes difficult step into freedom, we become fully aware of how Christ sees us, allowing us to proclaim the next song ‘Hello My Name Is’ with great power and authority- a nice segue from a desperate plea, to a cry of exultation as we ignore the whispers of the enemy and introduce ourselves as- ‘…hello my name is child of the one true king…’! This heavy guitar melody and one of the most upbeat on the album, this song about our identity is sure to remind listeners of something that can be quite easy to forget, that ‘…I am no longer defined by all the wreckage behind…’ Well done Matthew for these first two tracks that proceed into an album that is one of the most freeing and identity-building of the year.
‘Wonderfully Made’ is for all those who again struggle with identity issues, similarly with many of the songs on the album. A trademark of what makes the album so honest and real, each of Matthew’s 12 melodies speak to the heart of certain issues, and remind us of different pressing topics we may have dealt with, or are still dealing with. As the drums pound and the electronic guitar sounds start, Matthew shows us that our successes and failures do not define our lives, and that though some of us may feel that ‘…you just don’t measure up…’, we are sons and daughters of the High King. This happy, light song of something deep and pivotal is a technique used throughout Into the Light, utilising musical ingeniousness to create catchy upbeat swaying songs, each with a deep-rooted message of forgiveness, identity and purpose as we discover that ‘…you don’t have to wonder, you are wonderfully made, perfect and beautiful in every way…’ ‘We are the Broken’ encourages us to be real with ourselves and show our scars to others, and just like ‘The Real Me’ (Natalie Grant), ‘Broken’ (Steven Curtis Chapman), and ‘Stained Glass Masquerade’ (Casting Crowns) before it, the song creates a space for us to realise that we are all ‘broken’, yet God still calls us the ‘chosen’, and once we understand this perception-shattering definition of who we are, this song full of driving guitars can still become an anthem as we ‘…step into the light where there’s no more fear, can you hear the freedom songs our souls are singing?…’ Such freedom is given through this melody, and also felt in ‘Unchangeable’ too, with Matthew singing from the persona of God, down to creation declaring the words ‘…my love is unchangeable…’ This phrase can cause great comfort and healing, and though only 4 simple words, is just as powerful as listening to a whole sermon- as we wrap our minds around the fact that God loves us- with this soft ballad (leading to a crescendoing finish!) making the process easier!
Throughout the rest of the album, Matthew delves into topics and themes, each having their relevance to society. ‘Waitin’ on a Miracle’ is a light keyboard-emphasised melody of surrender (when giving control to God seems the last option!), and as I reflect on the words ‘…I don’t know how much longer I can hold out hope tonight, and I wish my will was stronger, but instead I’m just a weary heart, waitin’ on a miracle…’ I am able to rest in the acceptance of God to show my feelings (if these lines above be it!), in the freedom of confessing to God for the miracle only He can bring us. ‘Restored’ is a song of a potentially failed relationship, and a motivational one as we are encouraged to ‘…believe that love can be restored, if we take a little less this time and give a little more…’- a change that only God can orchestrate. As we become aware of our own identity in Christ and move from darkness into a light that exposes all our weaknesses and frailties, God’s love will be the fuel for transformation and restoration to occur. ‘The Power of Prayer’ is a heartfelt prayer of longing, for Christ to intervene in situations that only He can fix ‘…momma’s all I have, she’s alone again tonight…’ Full of honest hopefulness, along with a driving piano to promote its anthem presence; we are encouraged through this album-closer to believe in the power that prayer has, understanding that ‘…only You can bring my heart back home…’ But it is the duet of ‘Moved By Mercy’ (with Caitlin Evanson, backup singer from Taylor Swift’s band) that is one the most poignant of the whole album, depicting a situation of wanting to go back to change certain situations of the past, and struggling with the reality that ‘…where do you go when you can’t go back, can’t save the past…’ As we are faced by situations like this, let our cry be fuelled by the mercy God longs to bring into our lives, and through the second verse (with Matthew singing from Christ’s perspective), we are met with the promise that ‘…I’m the One who began a good work in you and I’m the One who’s gonna see it through…’ What a powerful anthem, and one that is a certain highlight and a potential second single! Well done Matthew for this transparent and motivational melody of mercy.
Overall: This album is one of my favourites of the year (only beaten by Tenth Avenue North’s The Struggle and MercyMe’s The Hurt and the Healer), with Matthew asserting his continual vocal talent and exceptional writing skills, to promote him to the fore, with a hopeful nomination for Into The Light as Pop album of the Year at next year’s Dove Awards. With a strong emphasis on the power of stories to fuel inward change through the continual work of Christ inside each of us; this album is lyrically and musically Matthew’s best, challenging as it collects stories ‘…on everything from drug addiction, the rejection of apathy, abusive relationships and the faith we find in the waiting…’ With ‘Forgiveness’ almost certain to win ‘Song of the Year’ at the 2013 Dove Awards, Matthew’s melodies have become an anthem and an encouragement for many, reminding us all of the beckoning of Christ as we step from normalcy to extraordinary, from mundane to impacting, from usual to unusual. Well done Matthew for creating 12 songs full of lyrical richness, reminding everyone that ‘…there’s a break in the clouds, the sun’s raining down, it’s calling me out, this is my hallelujah…’ (‘Into the Light’)!
RIYL: Steven Curtis Chapman, MercyMe, Casting Crowns, Tenth Avenue North
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3