Gungor’s One Wild Life trilogy is unified by an abstract conceptual tie, exploring the ideas and meaning behind soul, spirit, and body. However, the albums have played out just like the traditional story form of a trilogy. The first installment (Soul) introduced some interesting themes, but at the end of the second (Spirit) we’re left wondering if our heroes will escape their enemies.
In One Wild Life: Spirit, Gungor’s biggest enemy is itself. In an effort to be progressive – perhaps the only defining quality of Gungor over the years outside of their name – they have assumed a tone that is boring and shuts out conversation. What’s more is that these ideas, which dominate the lyrical space of the album, undercut some interesting instrumentals that actually improve upon Soul’s groundwork.
For those following Gungor in between the albums, we could see this coming, primarily through their involvement with the Liturgists podcast. Over the months between Soul (the episode about this album was when I started listening to the podcast) and Spirit, the Gungor’s have slowly developed a voice just like every other whiny, progressive white person out there. While progressive white people certainly discuss issues that warrant discussion, the general tone – including the tone taken by Gungor – does not adopt language that leads to accomplishing their goals. They point their fingers at anyone and everyone who doesn’t agree with them, but they don’t actually offer any legitimate alternatives.
Moreover, the language in Spirit is embarrassingly direct. While direct writing isn’t always a bad thing, songs like the awkwardly titled “Let Bad Religion Die” are more yawn-inducing than they are powerful. Similarly, “Whale” attempts to bring philosophical depth to the lyrics by discussing the concepts of duality, but it ultimately comes off more like an instructional aide for an introduction to a philosophy course rather than an interesting perspective.
The worst part of the album is that the subpar lyricism totally undercuts that this may be Gungor’s best album to date musically speaking. Spirit finds the balance between the pop-y-er textures of Soul and the lush indie layering of I Am Mountain and Ghosts Upon the Earth.
One Wild Life: Spirit is actually pretty compelling sonically, but Gungor sabotages what could have been a career highlight with a sloppy and almost patronizing approach to writing. While the metaphors in I Am Mountain required discernment, they were discernable and proved to be a satisfying and edifying way to convey some of the same messages Gungor tries to preach here. In the latest album, Gungor abandons rich metaphors for cheaply direct and embarrassing lyrics. I’ll still listen to the final album in this trilogy (Body), but things aren’t looking too good for a band who used to make some of the most compelling music in Christ’s name.