Pete Geiger - Hallowed Ground
Record Label: True North
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2013
Let's face it: Christian music has a pretty bad rap. Far too often the music is cast aside because the praise-and-worship aspect of many of the song's narratives alienate non-believers. And yet, strip away the lyrics and the music structure is something truly worth cherishing. Additionally many of the bands adored on this very site (Copeland, Anberlin, Underoath, The Devil Wears Prada to name a few) have members who are ardent believers. So why does Christian music continue to get hammered?
In listening to Hallowed Ground, the debut disc from Orlando singer-songwriter Pete Geiger one senses the exact paradox illustrated above. Geiger is a praise-and-worship lyricist and never once can that be swayed. But stepping away from the lyrics, the sonic landscape he creates is something that should find many a favor from fans of this site. Whether its the Mute Math-esque "Come & Wonder," in which guitars zig and zag in a celestial haze, or the piano-infused opener "Back to You," which echoes shades of Jack's Mannequin and Peter Gabriel, Geiger strikes a chord with every passing second.
As one might expect, Geiger is a master balladeer and nowhere is that more apparent than on the slow-building "There is Peace," a falsetto-and-string laden foray that is equal parts pensive, solacing and uplifting. The song is also one of the first that possesses a slight chance at breaking beyond the Christian pigeonhole. Other first-rate ballads include the circular "Not Afraid," which has a haunting organ and a terrain that is equal parts supple, even-tempered and earnest.
The Mute Math angle slides back in on the worship-ready "Teach This Heart," which finds its strength from rousing strings, Geiger's inimitable vocals and a soaring chorus that is nothing short of enveloping, entrancing and awe-inspiring. Geiger is an admitted fan of The Beatles and on the towering "You're the Joy," he wears their influence heartily. While it vacillates between an empowering chorus and verses that are saccharine and trite, there's still a power at work that makes the song transcendent.
Arguably the album's best song is the six-minute ballad "Sing For Him," a string-laden ballad that is as much cinematic as it is hymnal. Chill-inducing in both its sweep and grandeur, "Sing For Him" is arguably Geiger's best vocal effort and the exact reason why he is easily one of CCM's most under-the-radar talents. Other top-notch efforts include a string-heavy cover of Keith Green's "When I Hear the Praises Start," and a hyper-caffeinated version of the worship standard "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing."
Hallowed Ground is not without its bumps though. The placid title track has a slight veer towards the theatrical and seems more appropriate for a playhouse stage than a concert venue. More than that, it also has trappings of adult contemporary (read: Michael W. Smith) and steers the album in a place that seems a bit askew in the landscape of contemporary CCM. That gripe aside, there's little to dislike here and Hallowed Ground is nothing, if not, empowering.
Those who won't be able to get past the worship-inspired lyrics may struggle with Hallowed Ground, but that remains their loss. Those who can bypass the lyrics and dive into the music will find a lot to like here. As a worship CD, Hallowed Ground is first-rate, but moving beyond the niche audience, it is an album that needs to be heard to be realized. Polished, appreciate first-rate music (and can concentrate on the music) can find plenty to like here.
I don't have a problem with singers who can disguise their meanings in songs to be something non-believers can identify with. It's hard to pretend lyrics that I don't connect with at all are not in a song. Just something to think about. I'm enjoying all the reviews though.