Earlier this year, Gungor announced that they are releasing a trilogy of albums called One Wild Life (the three parts being Soul, Spirit, and Body). The first installment was released last month, and it is a promising start to this ambitious endeavor.
Gungor has been through quite a bit in the years since they released their album I Am Mountain. They moved to Los Angeles from Denver. They got smashed by the Christian community in a theological controversy. Their daughter was born with Down syndrome. They really didn’t get a rest, and saying that “they went through quite a bit” is a major understatement. But it was from these grounds that One Wild Life: Soul was born, and something rather beautiful has emerged from what I can only imagine to be some immense pain.
Soul is most definitely Gungor’s poppiest album; the musical textures here almost seem tame in comparison to some of the obtuse and grandiose arrangements found in their past two albums. While there still are some endearingly near-overblown moments (the ending of “Land of the Living,” for example), the record on a whole feels more intimate. The layering seems more stripped down and meticulous; each level of sound clearly belongs in the mix. Synths do a larger portion of the lifting here than in previous work, but they don’t drown out the organic elements that have served as the only area of real definition in Gungor’s style.
Perhaps the most intimate facet of this release is its lyricism. Each song is packed with feeling, and the message of almost every song is very clearly expressed. Songs directly address some of their recent life struggles and revelations with crisp language. There is some vagueness towards the last quarter of the album, but there seems to be purpose even in that obscurity.
While it’s not quite as musically engaging or experientially satisfying as I Am Mountain, the lyrics here are more on point than in any of their other works. Even though Gungor isn’t as compelling here as they have been before, their latest album drips with excellence. Soul evokes that Michael and Lisa spent a lot of time mulling over their work and painstakingly pieced it all together. With this level of quality at the foundation, the One Wild Life album trilogy is looking to be a masterwork.