Release Date: June 19th 2012
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Hailing from Orlando, Florida, alternative worship collective Bellarive have garnered a lot of views within a short time for their music video for their debut label single ‘Taste of Eternity’. With musical inspirations somewhat likened to David Crowder*Band and Rend Collective Experiment, and with lead singer Sean Curran having a passionate heart for Jesus like Leeland Mooring; I could not wait to hear the full length album The Heartbeat. When I had a chance to listen to their Sparrow Records debut, it was clear that from the opening beat of “Heartbeat” to the last breath of “Stories”, I was entirely captivated. I had more than enough reasons to listen again and again!! Bellarive means ‘beautiful river’, and listening to the lush arrangements and experimentation of songs that the band has dished out on a project originally backed through Kickstarter; I was transfixed many times throughout! This young group has an extremely bright future ahead of them that I will gladly be interested in.
The title track is the opener; an honest admission of the frailties of human life and our constant need for Jesus. Sporting an explosive start with a guitar solo, Sean and his friends dive right into the deep end, with their unique sound matching their unbridled faith in Christ. What really impacted me in the song the most, aside from the eclectic and diverse instruments; were the lyrics, shown mostly in the chorus ‘… I just want to stay here, here where I belong…’ reflecting the passion we should have as Christians to be where Jesus is; that He is enough for us. The repeated refrain at the end of the song ‘… Stand tall, we are daughters, we are sons, step straight into this love, we bear the mark of our Creator…’ is a nice finish to a brilliant first up track, expertly declaring the love of our Father and our kinship in Him.
“Love Has Found Us” is the 2nd track, redone from their 2009 EP. I first heard this song through the music video, and while some alterations were made, Bellarive’s unwavering and steadfast faith still remain. Vertical worship seems to be their strength and forte with these first two openings, and I could not have asked much more of a debut album so far! With stirring guitar solos and a effortless imagery through their thoughtful lyrics, it’s hard not to toe tap to this eternal truth that ‘…only You can satisfy this heart…You will always be the life I need…’. One of my highlights on the album, the icing on the proverbial cake is when Sean belts out the end refrain ‘…we sing it out for Love has found us…’, which is truly magical. I still get literal goose-bumps whenever I listen to this God-breathed track!
The next track, “Hope Is Calling”, is a potential single, and a fun filled track to dance to, and to jump up and boldly proclaim. A authoritative anthem, Sean puts on his ‘Leeland’ hat, and boldly cries out about God’s relentless love for us, so much so that He will chase after us no matter what we have done. Possessing a catching melody driven by the piano, and later by the guitar, complete with hand clapping; it’s a matter of time before this jovial tune is heard by listeners on the radio airwaves. And with lyrics such as ‘… I belong to the Maker, and Heaven is in my reach; Your love is strong and I can feel it coming on, it’s coming after me…’ Bellarive is to be commended after turning a typical contemporary Christian tune into something refreshing!
From the opening seconds of the synth and haunting electric guitar strums on the first single “Taste of Eternity”, I instantly fell in love with this song, putting my media player on replay on this track numerous times. Telling a story of Bellarive’s true heart for worship, this simple song is the band at its’ most vulnerable. Some songs can only be described as being orchestrated by God, and this is most certainly one of them. Bellarive have certainly got my vote for at least a nomination for a future Dove Award for this song, and they sure tick all the right boxes for a successful single. What does strike me most is that this humble newly established band go above and beyond their job; with Sean impressing me as a vocalist and a performer. With their unrestrained fervour and zeal a plus; their approach about how they give everything to God ‘…for every breath we sing is Yours…’ is very respectful.
Bellarive do have some standout tracks, however their album is not without criticism. One of these lacking tracks is “Measures of Rest”. Lyrically their song is sound, and there’s no mistaking the emotion in Sean’s voice, as he digs into the heart of one with ultimate adoration and desperation, as he sings ‘…my heart needs to settle down, You’re all I need in me…’. However the music seems to be a mixed bag, at times trying to be a slow piano based ballad, and at others a upbeat rock tune. While I commend the band’s intentions, “Measures of Rest” is definitely the low point in an otherwise gem of an album. Thankfully the only way is up from here!
While I’m certainly no stranger to instrumental tracks, I was not a fan of them until I heard Michael W. Smith’s ‘Freedom’ about a year ago. Ever since then I have seen their merit, and I’ve grown to love them. “Sing” is a simple song, with an ethereal layer of synth underneath a inspired guitar pluck of a tune from ‘Doxology’. The refrain of ‘Praise God with whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures down below’ is clearly evident, and the sounds of the glockenspiel and the other ingenious instruments make this one of the best tracks on the album. Well done guys!
“The Father’s Heart” starts the 2nd half of the album- a track along the lines of Leeland’s ‘Count Me In’. With a rousing electric guitar to start, and gang vocals singing ‘…whoa…’, the distinct vocals of Sean jump in, and the listener hears the proclamation that we are loved by our Heavenly Father, highlighted through the fact that we can ‘…[dance] to the rhythm of my Father’s heartbeat beating, it’s beating just for me…’ If we were the only person on this entire planet, Jesus would still die for us. That is sheer commitment, and Bellarive manage to capture a glimpse of God’s heart for the listener, an aspect that is no mean feat to pull off!
When you marry a single with a full on worship song, you get the next track “Here We Are”, a song of surrender and total admission of being needed. With Sean singing to God ‘…here’s my heart for the taking…for You are where I want to be…’, it is clear that this band is well beyond its’ years in maturity, a sign that they are indeed ready to be one of the bands to fill the ‘shoes’ of the recently defunct David Crowder*Band. With a fervent heart for Jesus, as evident in these offerings, Sean’s calibre as a song writer and leader increases, with Switchfoot like lyrics, and an assortment of instruments that would make any band envious. Bellarive have definitely made their mark by song 8!
Slowing the pace of the album down in “Tendons (The Release)”, Sean bares his soul as the most emotional work is showcased. With the gorgeous piano melodies being the centrepiece of this serene melody, Sean displays a prayer, and surrenders all to God in a cry that says ‘…rip these tendons, they hinder my reach towards You…’. With such imagery which is compared to allowing God to get rid of sin in our lives; the song really comes alive in the second half of this art piece, with Sean speaking out to God in prose, a cry of surrender running for 3 minutes across the tranquil piano. Then a crescendo builds, ending with a fiery guitar solo. As one of the most unusual songs from this progressive band, it’s enough to captivate my attention all the more!
“Shine On” is next, a worship electronic powerful anthem, with much of experimentation and poetic imagery all throughout. As Sean declares across the Owl City like synth and the purposeful drum beats that Jesus demands our entire attention, and that He is to be worshipped no matter the circumstances ‘…Your rays demand our attention, yes, You have restored our direction, Your light provokes adoration, so here it is…’, I cannot help but sing along and praise Jesus too! One of the most poignant and vulnerable tracks on the album, Bellarive have crafted a personal worship moment most likely will be sung in churches for many years to come.
The 2nd last track is the song “I Know You”, a piano only heartfelt song written from the viewpoint of God, our Heavenly Father. A song about Jesus knowing all of our faults, and every part of us, yet still loving us ‘…Life nor death will keep you, you don’t have to fear; nothing comes between us, in the end you’re Mine…’, this confronting track has made me reflect upon the eternal truths of God, which blow my mind every time I try to fathom His love for us. Sean’s vocals are once again top notch, and I’m constantly amazed by this God dedicated-heart of the band.
The album closer, “Stories” interweaves all of the themes on the album together, and is Bellarive at their pinnacle. If there was one album closer ever by any artist I’d pick as my absolute favourite, this song would be it. With Sean challenging the listener asking us whether we believe the stories in the Bible as fact or dismissing it as fiction, he also sings ‘…I believe it for my eyes have seen the King…’. When we have an experience with Jesus Christ, our perspective changes and nothing is ever the same. If we were sceptics before, we aren’t now. Sean is saying through this song full of praise, passion and assurances that there’s no talking logic to one who has experienced Jesus! He will be the centre of our lives, and what a fitting song to praise this fact! With all instruments, inclusive of reverbing piano and other electronic effects, culminating together in a cohesive musical experience like no other; I can’t help but feel blessed after I have listened to this treasure of an album!
Lastly, the album finishes and rounds up with the exclusive itunes bonus radio edit of “Taste of Eternity”. Quite similar to the original, it’s nice to see this possible number one hit in a different light, with Sean’s eager worshipful nature evident on this track also. As an album though; musically and lyrically I have not heard this kind of experimentation and been this impressed by it, since David Crowder*Band’s ‘A Collision’. And for Bellarive to accomplish a lot within their debut album is just remarkable. Mark June 19th everyone, because Bellarive are going to make headway, and will definitely be going places in the near future. The fact that vertical worship is their focus is also commendable. It’s no question that a sophomore album will match this fine effort. The question is how much will Sean, Melissa, Mike, Zach, Josh, and Kenny try to better it? My hope is far and beyond, and them some!
- Love Has Found Us
- Hope Is Calling
- Taste Of Eternity
- Measures Of Rest
- The Father’s Heart
- Here We Are
- Tendons (The Release)
- Shine On
- I Know You
- Taste of Eternity (Radio Edit)
Favourite Tracks: Love Has Found Us, Hope Is Calling, Taste of Eternity, The Father’s Heart, Here We Are, Stories