The Modern Post, 'Grace Alone'

When the frontman of Thrice releases a worship EP with a new group, how does it stack up?

This review calls for a disclaimer. I am a long-time Thrice fan. Beginning in my teens with The Artist in the Ambulance and culminating in my mid-twenties with the fantastic Beggars and Major/Minor, Thrice has always been very important to me—both musically and personally. Understandably, I was not thrilled by the recent announcement of their hiatus.

And so, try as I might to let objectivity guide my pen, my love for the last two Thrice albums largely influences my thoughts on the latest musical endeavor of Thrice’s frontman, Dustin Kensrue: the Modern Post.

The Modern Post’s Grace Alone EP is a set of worship songs released by Mars Hill Music—an affiliate of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash. The Modern Post leads worship at the Orange County, Calif., branch of the Mars Hill movement (a movement renowned for it’s brazenly controversial leader, Mark Driscoll).

Grace Alone’s explicitly spiritual and theological content is not exactly a surprising move for Kensrue.
Grace Alone’s explicitly spiritual and theological content is not exactly a surprising move for Kensrue. Thrice fans could hardly ignore the overt Christian imagery in the last two albums put out by the band. Yet Grace Alone aims to be evangelical. According to Kensrue, it aims at being a theological commentary on Ephesians. On Grace Alone, Kensrue expresses his role as Mars Hill Deacon.

Nonetheless, the Modern Post does not showcase Kensrue. Compared to his work in Thrice, Kensrue is very subdued on this release. Even compared to Thrice’s softer work, Kensrue’s gruffly soulful voice is suppressed here. He's now surrounded by a whole new set of Mars Hill–associated musicians and soaked in a very different sound. Musically, most of Grace Alone is akin to Diiv, Surfer Blood, or The Drums. It sounds meticulously crafted with its thin bass sound, light guitar hooks heavy on reverb, layered synths, and a tight drum sound that characterizes music in the vein of the aforementioned bands. Hence, this tightly produced EP lends itself to a pretty even-tempered listen.

It was, therefore, a bit surprising to read drummer Lee Neujahr say, “We wanted the songs to be dynamic, and even somewhat urgent and aggressive.” Surely the EP is upbeat and evokes a joyous tone, but it is hardly urgent and aggressive. On the contrary, it sounds premeditated and subdued—even diffident at times. This is mostly evident in Kensrue’s vocals. He proclaims the emotive story of the graceful God who saves sinners in the depths of their sin. Yet partly due to production and partly due to Kensrue accommodating his voice to the Modern Post sound, the joy of the proclamation is not matched in the vocal sound. This is evident in the chorus of the first song, “Just as I Am,” and in the last phrase uttered in “White as Snow.” Of course, this discrepancy is not because Kensrue does not mean what he sings but because the recorded music does not exactly fit the words.

This tightly produced EP lends itself to a pretty even-tempered listen.
Here is where I am most biased. Listening to Grace Alone was a bit like listening to One Day as a Lion (the short-lived project of Rage Against the Machine’s Zach de la Rocha). The passion de la Rocha evoked in RATM was stultified by a different musical output. On Thrice’s last release, Kensrue most evocatively proclaims the joy of God’s grace in the song “Words in the Water,” where at the end he strains his voice to meet the sweeping change in the musical mood. Up until that point, Kensrue painfully sings about overwhelming helplessness. Then he proclaims “the lifting of a curse from [his] heart” and beholding “a brilliant light in the dark.” It is this same shift brought about by God’s grace that Kensrue now construes on Grace Alone—albeit without the same sweeping emotion.

However, this comparatively suppressed emotion is most likely because Thrice wrote rock songs for entertainment, whereas the Modern Post writes worship songs for participation. In the Modern Post, Kensrue is not projecting his emotion onto others. Instead, he is inviting others to worship through word and song. As they are words that draw upon the biblical message, they are words that have provoked deep-felt joy in Christians of many ages. In this way, the Modern Post affords listeners the opportunity to experience the joy of grace Kensrue has been sharing before the Modern Post ever struck a chord.

7 Comments

Nick

23

Nick reviewed…

What's unfortunate is that other releases on Mars Hill Music, I think, are musically and emotionally stronger. Ghost Ship's "A River With No End", The Sing Team's "Oh! Great is Our God", Citizen's "Already Not Yet" are all exceptionally good with some tracks that I think are powerful worship songs with great creativity.

This worship EP sounds more like Kensrue and his team were rushed to put something together, where these other worship bands have been crafting these songs over a larger amount of time so there is a lot more depth and history to them.

It could also just be the product of Kensrue wanting to express himself in a way that is different than Thrice.

85,034

Anonymous reviewed…

true and they probably are pouring out their hearts on a regular basis at Mars Hill when they lead corporate worship. I just feel that in this album, its not as evident as in his pervious works.Which is fine, im not sure thrice songs would make good worship songs in a corporate worship setting :).

85,034

Anonymous reviewed…

I recant my previous comments, I've been listen to it all afternoon and it grew on me. Its super awesome!

Robert Lopez

3

Robert Lopez reviewed…

I have used many of Thrice's songs for ministry teachings without having it being too preachy, but Dustin's artistic venture is now totally worship and fans need to support that move its not news to anyone.

Rebecca Lumbert

1

Rebecca Lumbert reviewed…

It's funny, when I first listened, I could hear similarities to bands like The Cure. I listened to them a ton back in the late 80's early 90's. It didn't sound like the Dustin that I am familiar with, I like it though. The lyrics are amazing!

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