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Illuminate - Click to view!Some time ago, I reviewed a compilation CD from Devotion Music entitled Worship Extreme Vol. I where I complained about compilation albums, because they take music out of context. One of the contributors to that project was a group, previously unknown to me, named Daniel's Window. With that in mind, I respectfully submit Illuminate as exhibit A for the prosecution.

In the above review I noted that the contribution made by DW, a remake of the classic "Open the Eyes of My Heart," contained an odd rap that diminished the effectiveness of the song. Coincidentally, that cut is the lead track on Illuminate. Although, the song stood out (in less than a good way) on Worship Extreme Vol. I because of its unique sound and odd delivery, in the full album context the rap seems more palatable. Don't get me wrong, I still think it's a distraction, but apparently this is DW's thing. So it makes sense.

Illuminate largely does by itself what Worship Extreme Vol. I attempted to accomplish: putting a spin on the preconceived concept of what a "worship" song should sound like. The band gives their unique flavor to recognized standards and deftly mixes in a few DW originals to present a comprehensive image of "alternative" worship music. In fact, the transitions are so seamless that I found myself referring to the liner notes just to see which was original and which was remixed.

Musically, DW is pop-rock with a hint of hip-hop thrown in. I see something like a cross between Linkin Park and The Benjamin Gate. Which sounds like a pretty interesting combination until you realize that they're not very good rappers. Too many of the rhymes are over-emphasized and spit out with a forced ferocity that sounds like they're really trying to be tough... but aren't. (Anybody remember New Kids on the Block?) Of course, that attitude is wasted if the diction is so poor that the listener can't understand the rap anyways, which is the case on several tracks here. Adding to my dismay are some rhymes that are of really questionable value to the overall product. For example, the pop-punk version of "Your Everlasting Love" is well done until this:
"No microcosm or society, no pious king, no rioting
Can keep these high-rise rhymes from rising up inside of me
See He loves all races, faces, and colors
Sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers
Check any box-
Asian, Haitian, Malaysian, Caucasian, maybe even Other."
Certainly there are some wonderful sentiments expressed here. However, the base song is a praise of God's love and that love's work in our lives. This rhyme is doesn't really relate to the original sentiment and, instead, rambles onto a parallel path. This kind of thing is too prevalent on the album, and it undermines the promise of the pop-rock side of the group. Lead singer Heather King has a voice very much like Pat Benatar's, with a feminine softness that is a nice contrast with the heavier guitar and electronics. It fits perfectly with the group's sound. The programming and mixing are very smart, with some real insight into how to get the most out of some of the older songs, notably on "Trading My Sorrows" and "Lift Your Name Higher." While the infectious enthusiasm and high-energy of these tracks, as well as originals such as "I'm Gonna Dance" makes it hard to sit still or keep from singing along, they aren't exactly going to usher you into the house of God. Still, the disc is very enjoyable through repeated plays. Problems with the rhymes aside, this disc is a much better choice for those seeking alternative worship music.
- Scott Bush
January 2005
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