Album Review :
Zane Vickery - Where is Your Faith?: Volume One
Zane Vickery broke onto the scene last year with his debut album, Breezewood, an album of mythic proportions where the real and fantastical coalesce in parable fashion. It’s an album of love, loss, and lessons that assumes the posture of piano-driven indie pop.
Now, he’s following the album up with a collection of decidedly-different songs – both musically and lyrically. Where is Your Faith?: Volume One is, per the title, part of some larger body of songs yet to come. Self-contained, it’s fairly concise. It sits at four songs of which two (“Is There Room Enough for Me” and “I Never Left”) were released as singles. But even so, Vickery’s latest release is gnomic and dynamic. The heart of these songs rests on the questions of Jesus, but they are recontextualized a bit to our day and age. Thankfully, these are not questions simply for the sake of questioning. The fruit of this wrestling is the understanding that there is no resurrection without death and that the things of God are no good without the PERSON of God.
That said, these are four powerful songs that all have potential to be chosen as favorite. There’s a range of styles at play, from folkish sing-songwriter arrangements to riff-driven post-hardcore, that call to mind comparisons to My Epic’s Behold in terms of overall diversity. And lyrically, the songs hold the kind of depth you’d expect from Andy Squyres, Benjamin Daniel, Wolves at the Gates, and so on.
The problem of pain is at the heart of these songs, though not in some casual sense. Vickery instead asserts that there are spiritual realities that can only be understood in the midst of suffering in the way Christ suffered. Each track approaches the subject from a different angle – “Is There Room Enough for Me” ruminates over if there is grace for ordinary and forgettable people, “I Never Left” looks at how our hearts assess God’s faithfulness in light of visible circumstance, “Caffeine & Disregard” speaks to our tendency to use weariness as an excuse, and “Where Is Your Faith” tackles the topic of celebrity worship on both the spiritual and social ends of society.
While Breezewood is far from a weak effort, these songs pack quick a bit more punch. The rhythm section shines on “Is There Room Enough for Me”, especially when guitar cuts out on the second verse for piano, drums, and bass to take center stage. It’s a particularly powerful track that, apart from the main riff, never seems to repeat the same musical phrase. “I Never Left” is the heaviest track by far, similar to DENS in some respects. It’s a surprise to be sure, but it’s a welcome one. “Caffeine & Disregard” opts for a more singer-songwriter approach, appropriately-lethargic given its focus on the disciples’ sleep at Gethsemane (and also features some great guest vocals from Becca Jordan). And the title track is laced with trumpet-filled fanfare. That’s a lot of ground covered in a short amount of time, but the songs never feel at odds with one another.
The lyrics are arguably the strongest part of this collection, though. And while entire verses are often quote-worthy, it’s the small quips like the following off “Is There Room Enough for Me” that tend to prove most memorable:
I’m weary of the funeral
I’m ready for the feast
This is a similar sentiment to “7X70”, and it’s something Sandra McCracken highlights in “We Will Feast in the House of Zion”. But it’s yet another thing entirely to refer to this side of eternity as a funeral – indeed, as highlighted on “Coronary”, “for resurrection, something needs to die.” So, to call this life a funeral is a bit of tragic poetry. And that’s just unpacking two lines.
One particularly compelling sentiment is off the title track:
So I paid that TV preacher to tell me I was blessed
Said no to sex and drugs while the president said yes
Suffice to say, it’s absurd how we become the enablers of abusers, all while seeing them as moral authorities.
Vickery leverages equal amounts of logos and pathos to present his ruminations of faith in a captivating way. The arrangements help sell the emotional impact with ease, but these are songs worth unpacking with care. They’re best approached with lyrics in view.
Underlying all of this, there’s hope and a clear redemption arc. There’s pain, doubt, failure, frustration, and uncertainty on full display. But rather than run away from this, Vickery invites us into the mystery of suffering. Where is your faith? Where do you go when you lose a job that defined you, when your leaders and role models lie and cheat you, when you realize you weren’t as strong as you had thought and find yourself relapsing or cutting people out? Are you willing to sit with the lights off alone?
Front-to-back, there’s a lot to digest and admire on these songs. The bar has already been set high for whatever follows, and the sonic development from the first album is impressive. They are spiritual statements encapsulated in melodic and harmonic structure; they can easily be taken by word or sound alone, but the confluence of the two is truly beautiful.