Rend Collective, previously “Rend Collective Experiment,” hail from Northern Ireland and are known for their unique instrumentation and singular energy that characterize their live show. Both the interesting instruments and abundant energy are well-represented on their albums. They have released 8 albums in as many years, proving to be fruitful songwriters. A key feature of their recordings, from the perspective of congregational song, is the inclusion of gang vocals or chorus vocals throughout their albums. Not only does the whole band sing along, they also desire for their listeners, and the Church, to sing.
Sonically, comparisons to early Mumford and Sons are not unfair—in fact, Rend Collective musically resembles a smash-up of Mumford and Needtobreathe. Gruff baritone lead vocals, many stringed instruments, stomps and claps, and intermittent choruses of “hey!” are woven through the songs. Rend Collective stands apart from other artists in the “worship” music genre by focusing on acoustic instruments with sparing use of arena-rock, ambient guitars (and only 1 notable appearance of synth samples). Many of the melodies are catchy, yet in a few cases the rhythmic complexity may be difficult for an intergenerational congregation that may be used to sight reading. Especially memorable melodies include “Nailed to the Cross,” “Life is Beautiful,” and “Rescuer (Good News).” The song “No Outsiders,” penned by this Northern Irish group, is a timely anthem to remind the American church of the power of the gospel message to the “other” or outsider.
Listening to this record replicates the energetic, live experience, and the presence of many vocalists on the songs encourages the listener to participate. A discerning music leader may find much to use, in various contexts, from this album. Songs tend to focus on a melody that requires prime unison for the congregation, so the key of a given song may need to be adjusted for congregations who sing split octave. The banjo, ukulele, dulcimers, and other folk instruments may be difficult for some smaller congregations to incorporate, but the melodies are strong enough to withstand rearrangement with fewer instruments. The deluxe edition of the record, used for this review and linked below, contains “acoustic” arrangements of “Nailed to the Cross” and “Rescuer (Good News)” that illustrate this.
Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.