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Duane W. H. Arnold
The past is prologue...
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The Project - Mystic Chapel
The Project - Mystic Chapel
STYLE: Ambient/Meditational
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 160151-23691
LABEL: Independent
This product is currently not available from Cross Rhythms Direct

Reviewed by Stella Redburn

What a contrast to the usual contemporary Christian worship album! This is like a softly pulsing jewel, easy to admire and gloriously constructed. It is a concept project put together by Singer/songwriters Michael Glen Bell and Duane W H Arnold with a collective of artists and which poses the question "What if we still believed?" and then takes us on a faith journey through poetry, music and lyrics. I found the musical style very accessible, as it is steeped in the West Coast sound of the late '60s and '70s. If you liked Crosby, Still & Nash or The Eagles, you'll love this. The lyrics are simple yet profound, with a theological sophistication lacking in many of today's worship songs. They are inspired by the Easter Liturgies of St John Chrysostom and reference ancient hymns and liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church, yet are relevant, simple and speak directly to us. The journey begins with an instrumental track of searching. The heartbeat backing keeps the stress level high. Our character enters the mystic chapel and we have "Come Let Us Worship", where strummed guitar and happy vocal harmonies form a complete contrast. The album is not long, at 30 minutes, but each track, though short, is perfectly formed. My favourites include "Death Is Destroyed", featuring the renowned Phil Keaggy on guitars. The simple antiphonal chorus sticks in your memory. Then I loved "We Sing With Angels", a sensitively sung hymn to Mary, again with such a catchy vocal riff. In "Holy Father", our journey protagonist stumbles to respond to new faith using the Lord's Prayer, which develops into a stately chant, and "Postlude" rounds off the album symmetrically with a more reposeful instrumental, as he travels out into the world.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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The Project – Mystic Chapel
Written by Derek Walker
Created: 23 May 2016
Easter liturgies, Phil Keaggy and a hint of Floyd all mash up in this brief, highly listenable collection.

Time: 33 mins

While I cannot promise that The Project (Michael Glen Bell and Duane Arnold) listened to Wish You Were Here while writing this, I would be surprised if it were not an influence.

Not that this sounds like Pink Floyd, but during the feature track, there are several parts that sound like the younger sibling of “Welcome to the Machine” – a faint pulsing, a slight wind-like ambience and particularly, that single acoustic guitar chord, strummed with intent and left to hang in the air.

The track in question occurs three times in only 33 minutes of music, so it is a good thing that it sounds so great. It bookends the collection as an instrumental and also appears with words as “Hypachoi.”

This is a follow-up to an album about Christian Martyrs and the website is still largely about that release, but it still gives an idea of the sound and vision.

Mystic Chapel is inspired by the Easter Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom, which is both a help and a hindrance. It is a help, because it gives the disc an identity, purpose and focus; a hindrance, because sometimes it feels as if the words are adjusted prose, fitted into the tunes with an editor’s crowbar.

But the tunes are strong, the music beautifully clear, and the packaging (glossy, with lyrics and a background story for reflection) is created artistically and with care.

Phil Keaggy (unmistakeably) played some of the guitars, Thom Daugherty of The Elms engineered it and added guitars, and the project had help and encouragement from Jennifer Knapp, Glen Kaiser and John Michael Talbot.

Names like this show that this is a highly professional production with spiritual integrity, and an appeal to the wider Church.

It may be short, but it easily plays on repeat without outstaying its welcome.

Derek Walker

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