Thursday, May 20, 2010


For years, I've believed that Steve Deal is one of the most underrated, unappreciated worship leaders in modern music. As prominent writer and ambassador for Christian City Church's C3 Worship, Steve helped to oversee numerous live worship recordings that went sadly unnoticed.

Steve is still serving as a pastor with Christian City Church and has recently moved to a new C3 church plant in Asheville, North Carolina. Out of the tremendous growth and blessing at C3 Asheville comes Lights. The worship ministry at the church goes by the name of "Atmospheres" and the name really says it all.

I've reviewed Steve's work on numerous sites. I've championed his music to my friends. We keep in touch through emails now and again and we even got to meet a few years ago when he came to lead worship for a DiscipleNow weekend. In all of that communication, I'm always surprised by his motivations.

When I first reviewed Steve's work, he told me that he and his band had written the album after being inspired and challenged by David*Crowder Band's "Can You Hear Us" project. I couldn't believe it, because the record in question sounded almost nothing like Crowder's work. But as I listened, I could hear it. Steve has a tremendous gift of taking what inspires him and his team and using that to create something completely original. Lights is no different.

The folks in Atmospheres have taken the qualities and textures of recent ambient talents like Sigur Ros, Angels and Airwaves, etc. and used that inspiration to lead them to new musical undertakings. Sure, there are some trappings of "modern worship" (four-on-the-floor, delayed electric guitars, etc.) but they're kicked up a notch. The delay guitar stuff isn't what you expect. The melodies go to more creative places. And this is where C3 bests modern worship offerings from Passion and Hillsong and Desperation. Plain and simple, Steve and teams write and record and play with more bravery. They take more chances. And with Atmosphere's Lights, the risk pays off big time.

As with any worship record, some tunes score better on the can-we-pull-this-off scale. Any church that's used to attempting some of the more epic Hillsong or Passion-style songs will love playing these tunes. My absolute favorite tune, "Crazy," showcases on of Steve's lesser known skills of converting the ethereal chorus into a straight-ahead rocker. Everything about this song surprises...arrangement, lyrics and his melody on the bridge section is like hearing somebody smile. Strong. The simple, waltzy "I See The Lord" and the multi-layered "Across the Earth" are a close second and third. The record has a few shorter songs. At least three of the tracks have more simple, straight-out-of-scripture lyrical with longer instrumental backings. In fact the record opens with a very cool instrumental composition. To pull off Atmosphere songs, you'll need a strong electric guitarist. There ain't much acoustic-worship leading here. You'll need a drummer who can focus more on groove than flash. You'd also need a pretty deep well of synth patches. The keyboard parts aren't all that complex, but they are diverse. Many standard church keyboards may be hard pressed to nail these textures.

Since the record's just been mastered and is making it's way to Christian bookstores and online sellers as we speak, there's a chance you might not be able to rush out and buy a copy yet. For info, you can follow atmospheresonline. Keep hitting up iTunes for when it shows up. You'll love it.