The Brilliance bring a vulnerable passion to the Christian music genre with their first official studio album Brother and their recently released EP See the Love. The duo of David Gungor and John Arndt create a fresh sound that is different than mainstream Christian music-- rather it is liturgical and extends the worship of God beyond the church walls to social lament and action.
Brother opens with a track of the same name-- it’s lyrics a poignant statement that love and forgiveness stem from recognizing a shared humanity in others, especially our enemies: “Open up our eyes to see the wounds that bind all of humankind." Similarly themed lines are littered throughout the record, inviting the listener to see the divine image in all. The album artistically flows like a High-Church liturgical service with familiar Lenten themes. “Now and at the Hour” is a prayer of confession: “Oh, merciful God, forgive us, forgive us for all the things we have done and left undone.” The song “Dust We Are and Shall Return” is reminiscent of Ash Wednesday, Lent’s inauguration. Brother concludes with an encouraging go-forth commission to help one on their faith journey: “May you find a light to guide you home.”
The musical elements of the album are wonderfully dynamic. There are shades of indie-rock guitar patterns that quickly fade to something wholly different. Violins, cellos, and other symphonic elements bring a unique flavor while creative snare and block percussion add an extra dimension to the sound. In an email exchange, Gungor said artists Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, and Marvin Gaye have influenced their work. But the music’s far-reaching highlight is the lyrics. They are echoes of the oppressed, prophetic lamentations about the state of the world, the church, and the soul. The desperation of racial inequality surfaces in “Does Your Heart Break,” a heartfelt song containing a reference to Eric Garner, the black man choked and killed by the NYPD. Themes of despair permeate many tracks while hints of hope are sprinkled throughout others.
See the Love only increases the lyrical cry for justice. The band calls it a “hopeful protest album based on love, forgiveness, and nonviolence.” “Run” is a lament, touching on the issues of police brutality, gun violence, and the refugee crisis. “Love Shall Overcome” is a beautiful upbeat response about love’s power to heal in the midst of a broken world. The Brilliance say it is a “chorus that we use for prayers of the people, as an invitation to courage, to stand in the love that wins over violence.” The track “Brother” makes a return-- this time remixed with Christian rapper Propaganda.
The music of The Brilliance weighs on the soul. Their records Brother and See the Love find a home with the minor chord of Christian musicians singing about justice and equality. The music will tug at your heart as Gungor and Arndt invite you along for the journey, to see the world through the lens of love and solidarity.
- Matt Walker
Matt Walker will graduate this summer from Fuller Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry. When he's not dreaming of how music and film make the world a better place, Matt works for Young Life, enjoys coffee and likes to run, especially in thunderstorms. Matt and his wife Susanna live in Warrenton, Virginia where they hope to one day have a garden that doesn't die.