From the Pits of Spiritual Apathy (A “Zeal” Review)
Chasing the purpose, out of despair
Kings Kaleidoscope is back with their latest record “Zeal.” If you’re not familiar with this genre-bending band from Seattle, one of the many words I would use to describe them is “versatile.” No two projects sound alike and their ability to take elements from different music genres in order to create engaging and encouraging sounds is always impressive.
To say I was excited about this album would be an understatement. Their previous project “The Beauty Between” was one of my favorite records of 2017. I had no idea what to expect with the follow-up, but I had a feeling it would be great. And after giving it repeated listens throughout the day, I can confidently say this is possibly one of the best works of Christian music I’ve heard in a long time. I’ll even go as far as saying “Zeal” has the potential of being a modern classic in Christian music.
A bold claim I know, but allow me to provide context.
Zeal, Apathy, and the Pursuit of Childlike Faith
For a few years, I’ve noticed a sudden increase in the lack of trust in the Christian Church. The things we were told as children or new converts now conflict with our current reality. Racial tensions, the current political climate, bad church experiences, church scandals, disunity regarding how to address certain cultural taboos, and the list goes on. We made plenty of steps backward while claiming to progress the Kingdom of God. The dissenting voices become louder and easier to believe, as opposed to the one from the pulpits I face every Sunday.
In these moments, it’s easy to look at the narrow path before you and wonder if it’s worth walking. I know my constant bouts with doubt in the Church system has led me to contemplate taking a different road altogether. So with an album like “Zeal,” it seems to be a timely response to the feelings that seasoned Christians like me are experiencing at the moment. Somewhere along the line, the veil was torn and we just lost that love we thought would never fade.
The album’s thesis can be summarized in the interlude “Flat on the Inside (A Word).” Essentially, we exhausted the rush of unhindered faith and have laid dormant in the coma of despair. Whatever little bit of faith we may have at the moment, we have to wake up to fight the fog of apathy that surrounds us and seek hope in the rainbow of the Gospel that gave us the first glimpse of color.
“Zeal” is both nostalgic and modern. Both in tone and message, it seems like it revisits the same topics we come to expect from Christian music. Yet it adds a bit of nuance by sending the listener on a journey, with each song acting as a soundtrack for what’s going on in the mind of the main character.
I assume that the main character has gotten through Sunday School teaching, became a young Christian and was filled with the love of God and the hope of salvation. Then the main character grew up, got more involved in church life, and soon realized that the harsh critiques of the church were actually kinda true in some aspects. Corruption, misuse of power, and broken promises are no longer just baseless complaints of bitter, former believers. Add to it the drudgery of church obedience and obligatory church service, now the childlike zeal you once had is gone. Diving deep into the pits of spiritual apathy and about to break from the impact, the main character struggles to climb out and has to wade through the wilderness of jadedness in order to find true belief once again. Sounds familiar?
Fan fiction aside, what mainly draws me to this album is how relatable it is. My relationship with the church is complicated say the least. It seems like for all the talk about church unity and intentional relationship-building, the moments where I actually experienced them has been few and far between. I teeter between hatred and passive disregard for the church experience. This apathy then reflects my faith and how I see myself in the eyes of God and the rest of His children. Bored and discouraged, maybe I am just better off not breathing the foreign oxygen of Christian community.
Then I hear “Same Blood” and it all starts to make sense. A line as simple as “we all need each other” is extremely convicting. Even though it’s often hard to accept, it’s a message I have to accept and live out in my Christian walk.
For songs like “Hero Over My Head,” “Naked Feet and Holy Fire,” and “Backwards,” the lyrics perfectly reflect the frustration I often have for my faith feeling stifled. “Oxygen” makes me feel like I’m back in Sunday school, especially towards the end.
With each listening session, I’m always inspired and encouraged. Although the album touches on serious topics, it’s also really fun to listen to.
I can’t recommend this album enough. I rarely get excited about Christian music, and this is the one album I will always have on repeat. In the midst of the “post-Christian” deconstruction period that we are currently in, this album is a direct response and remainder to how Christians should react when coming to grips with the harsh realities of the human experience.
The songs are expansive, expressive, and experimental. The instrumentals find the right balance of beauty and simplicity. The lyrics are direct yet poetic. “Aimless Knight” is a masterpiece among other masterpieces. I could do an entire write-up on that one song alone. But then again, each song has a certain distinctiveness and charm that just warrants multiple listens. Chad’s vocals soar throughout the album. I feel the passion, longing, and weary yet childlike hope in something greater than himself.
After some rhythmic head nods and near close calls with tears, I am simply blown away with this record. The intricate instrumentation and organized chaos that weaves through the tracklist reminds me of why I fell in love with this band.
Please stream/buy “Zeal”, and press play as many times as you can.