Since the 2003 release of the band’s self-titled debut, Mark Hall and Casting Crowns have made no qualms about the fact that their songs are aimed at the Church. It’s an approach that has both drawn and alienated some but that the band has carried with humble pride through six studio records, garnering GRAMMY and Dove awards along the way. With the release of their eighth studio project, Thrive, little has changed for the band as they continue to challenge their fellow believers to stand tall and fight for what’s right.
The title track opens things up and sets the stage for what’s to come, the band recounting their heartfelt purpose over an organic arrangement featuring banjo, handclaps, and more as they sing, “Just to know You and to make You known/We lift Your name on high/Shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide/We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives/It’s time for us to more than just survive/We were made to thrive.” It’s a rousing track that is warm and inviting and carries enough of a congregational feel to it that should garner it some rounds in many a church worldwide.
Building off of that mission, Casting Crowns sets forth to both challenge and encourage the members of the Body. Encouragement comes by way of the piano driven “Just Be Held,” offering hope to those in times of turmoil while “Heroes” draws in some crunchy rock guitars and pounding kick drum to hammer home that those who “dare to do the hard things,” wrestling upstream against the challenges of life and stepping out in faith are not forgotten.
The band also offers words of understanding, reminding listeners that we all fall and are in need of forgiveness on “All You’ve Ever Wanted,” a radio-friendly pop rock sound laying the groundwork. “This Is Now” walks similar territory, Hall singing a tale of eager following that has fallen by the wayside, the tides of time stealing away the wonder of many miracles. Yet, Hall’s protagonist finds hope, ultimately singing, “Just when I thought my sin has closed the door/I see my Savior standing on the shore/With arms wide open/Just like the first time You called my name/You said that was then/And this is now.”
Of course, Hall and company come armed with some warnings and challenges for the Church as well. “Love You With the Truth” musically soars with some stirring strings and heavy percussion that get things rolling while lyrically challenging believers to step out and share the message of Christ with others, loving others with the truth. Marriage is another area that gets the light shone upon it this time out with both “House of Their Dreams” and “Broken Together” warning of the dangers of losing focus. The latter is one of the best tracks on the album, largely due to its simplicity and stark honesty.
Yet, perhaps it’s “Follow Me” that captures the heart of this band at its best. Megan Garrett steps to the fore on vocals, singing over a warm and embracing acoustic arrangement that envelops her vocals as she sings lyrics of love and acceptance by the Father. The artist’s delivery is clear and confident, echoing the confidence that Casting Crowns longs for their listeners to come to a place of in the Savior.
And while Thrive doesn’t break any molds or recreate the wheel, it’s ultimately an album that accomplishes what it sets out to do, ministering to the Church, encouraging, uplifting, and challenging along the way.