by Sam Robinson
It’s been an absolute delight working through the church calendar this year with the help of a soundtrack provided by Colorado’s Page CXVI. The band spent most of 2013 creating three albums that explore the seasons from Advent through to Easter. Advent to Christmas dropped in December, and was followed by Lent to Maundy Thursday last month. Now, the band have saved the best until last with the absolutely stunning Good Friday to Easter, releasing next week.
Easter is the most important season on the Christian calendar. It’s when we remember Christ’s death on Good Friday, and after three days, Christ’s defeat of sin and death on Resurrection Sunday. As Christians, we should be remembering this wondrous event year-round, but Easter is such a good opportunity to stop and reflect.
Good Friday to Easter is the three days of Easter in eight tracks. As you listen you experience all the emotional lows and highs. The agony of the cross. The joy of the empty tomb. And best of all, this album helps us focus on the heart of Easter: that more than anything it’s a celebration.
The album opens with two songs focussed on Good Friday: O Sacred Head Now Wounded and Go to Dark Gethsemane. The latter is as chilling as it is hauntingly beautiful. Lead singer Latifah Phillips wails ‘He wept. We wept,’ as strings and guitars swell. It’s rightfully stark, and true to the lyrics, Latifah cried as she recorded her vocals.
The third track, coincidentally named Three, is somewhat of a bonus two-minute interlude that transports us in time from Christ’s burial on Good Friday to the discovery of the empty tomb on Sunday morning. Don’t dismiss this as being just a transitionary song though, it’s one of the standouts on the record. Latifah describes this song as both ‘mystical’ and ‘magical’ – read more in my interview here.
Suddenly – boom! It’s Sunday! Page’s original track Roll Away the Stone is my favourite on the album. It’s bright, drenched in a pop groove, interesting timings, and joyous backing vocals singing ‘Alleluia!’ It tells the wonderful story of the women discovering the empty tomb at daybreak, that death has been defeated, and the incredible news that couldn’t be contained:
Risen and victorious / Radiant and glorious / He rose, amen! / He broke the chains of sin!
The party continues on Christ is Risen and Christ the Lord Has Risen Today. Heck, the band even pull out a ukulele and jazzy trumpet on the latter! Musically, the arrangements on this album are so tight, so uplifting, and fit the words of celebration to a tee.
The two final tracks are re-workings of classics, both old and new. How Deep the Father’s Love For Us is faithful to the original, but with a new bridge and chorus that the band added to help inject even more celebration to the song. And as a grand finale – not only to this album but the whole calendar project – Page CXVI choose to close with Hallelujah, from Handel’s Messiah. An ambitious choice to say the least, but It’s filled with layer upon layer of vocals and builds to a point of absolute beauty. The production is astounding.
Although an ambitious feat, Page CXVI have managed to release three magnificent albums across the space of five months, all to the glory of God. As I listened to this album, I felt a real sense of grief that this musical journey had come to an end, but I know that these albums will become helpful reflections for me and many others for years to come.
Good Friday to Easter may be the best release from Page CXVI yet. I’m giving it four-and-a-half out of five stars.