Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free Thyself From the Fetters Of This World - The Hidden Words

Free Thyself From the Fetters Of This World

The Hidden Words

SCQ Rating: 78%

Religious music exists within a bubble so stubborn, its genre has literally become known as “religious music”. That's vexing, and just about rivals the non-descript “world music” for the title of broadest classification ever. It may seem pleasingly transparent – helpful, even – to label bands that boast, say, a Christian message as “Christian rock” but doing so usually polarizes non-Christians from listening in. Okay, so maybe the bubble isn’t as stubborn as the atmosphere surrounding it, but The Hidden Words have certainly pierced through a barrier or two in delivering Free Thyself From the Fetters Of this World.

The Montreal-based band doesn’t only take inspiration from a sacred text of the Baha’i Faith, they transcribe straight from the author’s pen, using the tablets of Baha’u’llah – the independent religion’s chief prophet – to craft verses and melodies loaded with mysticism. Those unfamiliar with the Baha’i cause might consider such clear religious content marginalizing but these songs speak of love, of connection, and of aspiring to better oneself. Preaching the Faith’s principles is strictly forbidden in the eyes of Baha’is and, fittingly, The Hidden Words aren’t looking to convert listeners over the course of thirty-some minutes. Instead, the collective (fronted by ex-Unicorns songwriter Alden Penner) compels listeners with arrangements that temper yearningly over violin and quiet percussion (‘Dis’) or burst forward in full-band glory (as with opener ‘Paradise Of the Placeless’).

Their folk-y blend (which alongside tasteful guitar often employs mandolin, tuba, vibraphone and keys) skips over musical boundaries, incorporating a varied mix of international styles while Penner’s crooning hops a disparate selection of languages. On the merits of its compositions alone, Free Thyself From the Fetters Of This World deserves ample recognition for welcoming listeners of all tastes and backgrounds to share in the same sweet celebration. Had the Hidden Words not named their band after Baha’u’llah’s text or incorporated its words for lyrics, this full-length would still be a Baha’i-worthy piece of work. Handcuffed to neither "religious" nor "world music", The Hidden Words should attract spiritual and secular ears alike.

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