Music Monday: God That Saves by Iron Bell Music
Release Date: May 19, 2017
If you go back 15-20 years, how many sizable worship movements can you think of? My mind goes to a couple, each tied to a church or home base…Hillsong (Australia) and Passion (Atlanta). To be certain, there were a few others and by mentioning just these two, I know I’m doing a slight disservice to other worship movements out there at the time (sorry guys!). In the present day, you still have Hillsong (in it’s many forms) and Passion around. But in addition, you also have relative new comers like Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Elevation Worship, Vertical Church Band, and on and on. And beyond the scope of this list, it seems there are churches sprouting up all over the United States and across the globe which are burgeoning their own worship sounds and sharing them with the rest of us.
Enter Iron Bell Music. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Iron Bell Music is a movement that didn’t just spring up over night. Starting as a home-based worship group in 2009, it eventually outgrew its space and moved into a barn…of all places! Iron Bell Barn is home to worship nights that regularly draw hundreds. God That Saves is the debut full-length album of songs that have been birthed and developed from the barn and are now being shared on a larger platform.
God That Saves starts out with the title track which has an easy-feeling tempo and places Stephen McWhirter’s raspy, commanding vocals alongside a live room choir. Upbeat and anthemic in its declaration, this is a great starting point for a project that doesn’t hold back in its passion and energy:
You are the God that saves
You’re the One that rescues me
You rescue me
You are the God that saves
You call me from the grave
You rescue me
“Your Love Is A Fortress” comes up next and starts with a strong open chorus leading into a driving verse. After just singing about God’s salvation and rescue, this song leads well into a theme of God’s protection which emboldens us to step out in faith: “Oh Your love is a fortress, in You I’m fearless.” Jacob Sooter lends co-writing duties on this one with McWhirter.
“Belong To You (Enemy Can’t)” slows things down a bit and features such a singable chorus. And that’s out of a batch of songs that are all singable! But this one gets stuck in my head and I think it’s truth we need people to sing over themselves in our churches. The chorus lyric came out of a time of spontaneous worship; a part McWhirter held onto until finding the right co-writers in Dustin Smith and Jaye Thomas for finishing the song.
You know the enemy can’t
Take what I have
Change who I am
I belong to You
Overall a theme of trust and dependence in the Lord begins to emerge as the listener moves through God That Saves. “My Confidence” places trust in Jesus “In every circumstance” and is Psalm-like in its boast and hope in the Lord. “Fall Away” begins with a piano-ballad feel and with Josh Glauber taking lead vocals, asks for God to remove anything that is apart from Him; to “let it fall away.” As the name would imply, “Faithfulness” declares Who the Lord is to those who trust Him and that “There are victories yet to come…certain as the rising of the sun.”
What makes this album so accessible to the local church, is the abundance of very memorable and singable songs (both lyrically and musically). A perfect example is “Burn For You” with its simple but direct chorus. Led by Joel Gerdis with flourishes of violin by Steffany Greco and mandolin by Adam Clark, there is a drive to the song and a heart-felt honesty…”Let this be a pleasing sacrifice, the offering I choose is my life.”
There is so much meat still left as the album closes out its last few tracks. It’s hard to even highlight one or two songs without mentioning them all! However for me, it’s “Sons and Daughters” that resonates most deeply and I must draw attention to. Written from the perspective of the Father to His children, the song sings truth over us and declares who we are in Christ and Who we belong to. Written and led by Joel Gerdis, the chorus cries out:
Sons and daughters feel my pleasure
For you are my treasure
Daughters and sons you’ve been ransomed
New life has begun
Iron Bell Music offers a stripped-down feel to many of its tracks and honestly, that’s refreshing with all of the synth-influenced and loop-driven tunes that are out there. Not knocking any of that, but this is a fresh sound that is needed in worship music. And there’s lots of familiarity here: if you are fan of the stylings of All Sons & Daughters, there is something here for you. If you like neo-bluegrass type music (think Alison Krauss and Union Station), there is something here for you. And if you’ve been a fan of "Chainbreaker" by Zach Williams, I think he and Stephen McWhirter could be distant cousins in terms of vocal range and grit.
I’m always impressed with each #musicmonday that there is so much diversity now available within Christian worship music that didn’t exist even a decade or two ago. Iron Bell Music is an example of one group taking worship to a different place but still keeping it very congregational (you can lead these songs in your church) and Christ-focused. I’m very excited about this release and can’t wait to hear what comes next from this group out of good ‘ol Kentucky!