Music Review: Bifrost Arts - Salvation is Created

Biofrost-arts-Salvation-Is-Created-300x300  Bifrost Arts is "a sacred music non-profit that exists to enrich the church and engage the world with beauty and truth." A variety of musicians are involved including like Sufjan Stevens, Isaac Wardell, Derek Webb, The Welcome Wagon, Denison Witmer, and J. Tillman among many others.

Salvation is Created is the new Christmas album from Bifrost Arts. It's their second album, following the release of Come O Spirit! Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs Volume 1

I love this Christmas album. The overwhelming feel of this CD for me is haunt. It's dark. Bing Crosby is about to get a beat-down. Don't let that scare you away! It's unique and beautiful. Song list...

  • O Come O Come Emmanuel - Instrumental lead-in to the album. Anticipatory. Eager.
  • Joy Joy!!! - Best song on the album. A spooky, Advent lullaby written by Isaac Wardell based loosely on a 17th century French tune. Wow. Just gorgeous. Download/listen here.
  • Bring the Torch Jeanette, Isabella - Originally published in 1553 in France. Two milkmaids stumble across Jesus as they go to milk their cows. They run to town to gather people to come, quietly, and see the Christ child sleeping (more at Wikipedia). Sufjan does a lo-fi version of this on Volume II of his Songs for Christmas. Many other versions are out there. This is the best I've heard. Simple and lovely. 
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem - Traditional lyrics with a curious arrangement. Not a favorite for me, but should raise an eyebrow. Still fits the style of the album.
  • Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence - 4th century. The haunting continues with this wonderful old song. Rich text...
  • Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand
    Ponder nothing earthly minded, For with blessing in His hand
    Christ our God to earth descendeth, Our full homage to demand.

  • O Come, Messiah, Come - Isaac Wardell song. Simple, acoustic strums and harmonies. A piano humbly joins in. The last 45 seconds seems to be a musical interlude prior to Silent Night. 
  • Silent Night - So familiar. Yet so different. It's Silent Night at the prom during the slowest of the slow dances. Some Motown in there somewhere. Played just after "Earth Angel" at the Enchantment Under the Mistletoe dance.
  • Out of Heaven - Derek Webb and Evan Gregory sing a combination of lyrics from a 1678 song and Isaac Wardell. In the middle there's a gathering of sounds, a mingling, much like the unfathomable coming together of God and man in Christ, which is the theme of the song.
  • Veiled in Darkness Judah Lay - As mysterious as it sounds, there's a haunted house sound in the background. Have to hear it. I think the musicians may have been listening to a slowed down version of The Munsters theme song just before recording. Anyone else hear that? It's way cooler than I make it sound. Trust me.
  • Salvation is Created - A chilling falsetto building into "Hallelujahs," strings, jingle bells, drums, and voices. A great capstone.

This album is about letting the imagination run to the manger scene, and contemplating the theological and practical realities of God made flesh. Sometimes these realities are captured by marionettes in muted colors on a dimly lit stage. Sometimes they are found in the march of wooden soldiers who never show their faces. Sometimes they are expressed in a solemn dance. This is music more inspired by Tim Burton than Frank Capra. It's the subversion of Christmas as we know it, and it's wonderfully dark.

All of these songs are quite singable in their own way, though at times (Silent Night, for example) not as much as in the traditional versions. With candles lit and friends gathered 'round, I think these songs will make your Christmas more thoughtful, meaningful, and lovely. I'm sincerely thankful for folks like Bifrost Arts who are making winning efforts to restoring beauty and truth to songs we can sing together. And through this album in particular, they help restore the melody of Christmas to sounds of mystery and awe. A sound found in our Scripture but too often missing from our Season. 

May your Advent season be haunted by this beauty. Spread it around.

Salvation Is Created: A Christ...