Review: Batteries / River

Former Delirious? frontman Martin Smith rocks the house in his brand-new outfit Army of Bones with the debut split single Batteries / River.



The first track of the release finds Martin Smith rushing headlong into new sonic territory.  This isn’t “I Can Sing of Your Love Forever” or a Jesus Culture collaboration.  In fact, the instrumentation on its own would not earn a “Christian music” label, and it’s even more aggressive than the final studio album from Smith’s previous band — 2008’s progressive and less worshipful Kingdom of Comfort.  The track opens with a fade-in of glitchy reversed sounds and the dark refrain “Take my batteries out,” tacking on “Leave me here to die” when the song kicks into full gear with snare-heavy drum fills and a distorted guitar hook.  It’s heavy stuff, but not without reprieve as the chorus pleads for a resurrection.  The second verse acknowledges human frailty (“I’ll never get to where you are … I’ll never get to fight this war”); and in the bridges, the message comes clear that what Smith desires is to be “plugged into the wall,” not relying on his own power but rather on something (or someone) greater.


With the listeners’ ears primed to Smith’s new sound, the release moves to the swaggering “River” which covers similar thematic ground (albeit less cryptically).  Water is a common symbol attached to the theme of rebirth, and it’s one that’s been employed multiple times in Smith’s early discography.  While I would have preferred to hear another unique perspective such as in “Batteries,” the metaphor is forgivable because the song is just so texturally interesting.  The crunchy rhythm guitars provide an engaging hook, and synths shimmer out of the haze.  Smith’s vocals are punchy and soulful, bringing the song to great heights.  The delayed howling closing out the choruses is a subtle highlight of the track, emphasizing its smoky atmosphere.

All in all, Army of Bones is a very exciting project from one of CCM’s longstanding outliers.  Martin Smith has never been afraid to push the sonic envelope, but he’s officially burst into a new space and into a place where mainstream traction wouldn’t be out of the question.  Smith hasn’t abandoned spiritual themes in his lyrics, and these singles convey his ideas in smart and edgy ways.  Batteries / River is an explosion of fresh sound and fresh thought, informed by the old and welcoming of the new.  I’m excited to see where this project takes Martin Smith and his very talented crew.

Stream the singles below, and check out Army of Bones around the web.

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