UNDERCOVER - I ROSE FALLING (*New CD. 2002,Innocent Media/Galaxy Music)
1 Behold 5:04
2 Medicine 5:18
3 Heaven Forbid 4:17
4 Line Of Thinking 6:32
5 Belle-Laide Vocals – Jillian Michael-Lae Taylor 4:35
6 Svper Terram Vocals – Jillian Michael-Lae Taylor 6:53
7 Fall 5:36
8 Hurricane 5:23
9 True (Things I Know) 5:38
10 Remembered (For Gene) 5:25
After an 8 year break from recording, 10 years after the last studio recording with the current lineup (Ojo Taylor on keys/bass, Gym Nicholson on guitar, Sim Wilson on vocals, and Gary Dean Olson on drums/percussion), Undercover went into the studio in 2002 to document their latest musical leanings. Anyone who has followed Undercover through their various stylistic changes knows that this is a band which does not remain the same from album to album, but which has essentially grown up in public.
I Rose Falling is easily Undercover's most mature album yet. Gone entirely are the punk and edgy rock sounds, in favor of a more contemplative sound. By this I don't mean that Undercover doesn't rock, and rock hard. It is just that fans of God Rules, Branded_ or Devotion era Undercover will find this album a little hard to swallow at first. Those who find Forum more to their liking will find here an obvious progression.
Perhaps the most telling song on the disc on how Undercover has changed and grown is the first track, "Behold". It begins with a strange bell-like tone, dissonant guitar, and a groove-heavy bass. It strikes me that this song is basically a self-contained recap of where Undercover has been and where they are going, musically. The bass is reminiscent of "Work It Out" from Devotion, the synth sound in the bridge just screams late 70s and early 80s, and buried in the mix are new-wave guitar sounds from the mid 80s. Add in the dark, lush soundscapes akin to Balance of Power and you have a summary of where Undercover has been, musically, in a song... but with the new elements of the deliberately poetic lyrics (as on Forum--except here Ojo Taylor, formerly principal lyricist has now given song ideas to Valerie Savior, who wrote the actual lyrics to this track and several others) and the different song structure.
The second track, "Medicine," written by Gym Nicholson and Sim Wilson has a very catchy, if dark chorus of "Blinded by sorrow/Pray for tomorrow", and details the fact that life is fleeting, opening with the lyrics "Count your blessings, name them one by one/After all there is no guarantee." The third track, "Heaven Forbid" is a clever look at the phrase "heaven forbid," noting that Heaven does forbid that we should turn from who we are in Christ.
"Line Of Thinking," the second Taylor/Savior cut is a dark musing on the meaning of life and how God fits in. The production quality of this cut is absolutely top-notch, with layered guitars, keyboards, and vocals.
"Belle-Laide" has a laid back, almost funk-like groove to it, foreshadowing much of the second half of the album, and intriguing lyrics. "Svper Terram," the final of the four Taylor/Savior cuts is perhaps the best song on the disc, with its deeply introspective lyrics and powerful rock style.
The album finishes with four Gym Nicholson cuts (Sim Wilson co-writing "Hurricane"). "Fall" is a rock anthem which many Undercover fans have already heard from their live disc released earlier in 2002, "Hurricane" has a definite funk feel to it, "True" is a simple, straightforward declaration of faith, and "Remembered" is this album's equivalent to Devotion's "So Wonderful"-- a bright, yet poignant remembering of a life past, in this case Gene Eugene.
I suppose to the long-time Undercover fan this album cannot be anything but a 5-star release, simply because one of Christian rock's best and most influential bands has come back, strongly. However, there are some flaws with the production on the album which are occasionally annoying. The vocals are a little clipped and tinny in spots, sounding like some sort of artifact from the digital recording method (this album was completely recorded and mixed digitally in the new studio Undercover built). Similarly, the guitars could stand to be a little more prominent in the mix in spots. But for the first album of new material in eight years, it is easy to forgive some flaws. Thoroughly new in style, yet unmistakably Undercover, this album should earn Undercover their spot back in the Christian music world.
Alex Klages 1/20/2002