Demon Hunter | Hillsong United | David PhelpsSkillet | Third Day | Tye Tribbett & G.A. | Paul Wilbur
The Good: Most music DVDs focus on the concert and relegate behind-the-scenes segments to the extras, but Demon Hunter gives equal weight to both in this extensive triple-disc set. In fact, the first installment of this collection is a full-fledged, ninety-minute documentary that showcases the band’s extensive travels onstage, backstage, and hanging out with fans (many of whom share heart-wrenching testimonies). Whether taking a trip to the tattoo parlor, loading the tour bus and trailer with gear, or showcasing landmarks in cities along the way, fans get a personal look into the life of this band through the lens of hipster filmmaker Cale Glendening. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—the second disc is packed with a complete concert filmed from several angles in Nashville in support of their Storm the Gates of Hell album, and the third disc offers a CD of the show. Highlights from the pummeling, career spanning set include the self-assurance anthem “I Am You,” the emotive war hero tribute “Solder’s Song,” and the repentance themed “Infected.”
The Bad: Though the documentary is engaging, it’s unfortunately filmed entirely in black and white. The lack of color becomes dreary to watch over time, though it works during the more emotive moments (like the testimonies).
The Bottom Line: Aside from the visual decisions, 45 Days is one of the most comprehensive road collections available for fans of Christian metal, sure to be devoured by “Hunters” of all ages.
The Good: It took them long enough, but Hillsong United finally made good on its promise to deliver the visual companion to The I Heart Revolution: With Hearts As One. From the looks of things, the delay is understandable: the editing that went into this mega-montage is so staggering, it’s no wonder the Aussies kept pushing back their deadline. In keeping with their global appeal, the group goes beyond the typical one-show concert and presents a visual scrapbook of sorts—a worship collage where every song is pieced together from dozens of performances from all over the world. That may sound chaotic in practice, but all the interspersed cutting-room footage, interviews, and social justice subtext, coupled with some of the biggest modern worship anthems of the moment, adds a cinéma verité dimension to the program that renders it disarmingly magnetic. More than a mere worship concert, this is an experience.
The Bad: None, unless you find the haphazard location changes a distraction rather than an enhancement. The multi-language subtitles, though helpful, may get in the way of other thoughts being shared—either audibly or onscreen.
The Bottom Line: More than a mere worship concert, With Hearts As One is an experience that’s almost as exhilarating as being in the thick of a sweaty, arm-raising praise session with this popular worship ministry.
The Good: Previous DVD releases from inspirational tenor David Phelps featured unbearably schmaltzy performances with cheap production values, but O Holy Night leans in a (slightly) more sophisticated direction. For starters, the venue isn’t some theatre or outdoor amphitheatre, but rather David’s recently restored family farm, which makes for a much more intimate and tastefully framed concert experience that doesn’t require an expensive production. Plus, it’s perfectly suited for a celebration Christ’s birth. An a cappella version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” between Phelps and a quintet of background singers is particularly cozy, while gentle tunes like “White Christmas” and “Silent Night, Holy Night” are also quaint in this setting.
The Bad: Even with the noticeable effort, there are still plenty of cheesy moments where Phelps again tries to compete with Josh Groban. Though he comes up moderately close on occasion, the delivery throughout “The Singer (Let There Be Light)” and “If Everyone Believed” are very corny. The project also falls extremely short in the extras department—aside from the accompanying CD, there’s a personally narrated slideshow (bathed in bland black & white images) that barely lasts six minutes.
The Bottom Line: Phelps’ most fervent fans will enjoy O Holy Night for what it is, but most others will find the shortcomings still outweigh the improvements to production.
The Good:Skillet‘s mainstream explosion became evident with the late 2006 release of Comatose, selling over 400,000 copies thus far, generating three Top 40 singles on secular radio, and launching tours with Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, and Seether. The tireless road time has refined the metallic rockers’ already tight chemistry, rendering performances of the album’s top tracks “The Older I Get,” “Rebirthing,” and “The Last Night” with even more melodic intensity than the original recordings. The group also earns kudos in the production department, not only with the cutting edge angles and split screens, but for the smoke explosions during “Whispers In the Dark” and a flawlessly captured string section during the epic ballad “Yours To Hold.” The extras are also impressive, including glossy music videos for “Rebirthing” and “Whispers In the Dark,” plus a behind-the-scenes montage told through the eyes of “The Older I Get.” A CD mirrors the DVD’s set list with the added bonus of acoustic selections from the Comatose sessions (found on the deluxe edition of that album) and the b-side “Live Free or Let Me Die.”
The Bad: Those who shelled out money for the deluxe edition of Comatose in 2007 may feel like they’re re-buying some of the same bonus material.
The Bottom Line:Comatose Comes Alive is a flawless concert experience captured on DVD, absolutely essential for “Panheads” as well as new fans that recently discovered this enormously popular band in concert.
The Good:Third Day‘s Offerings worship series continues with this holiday-themed concert culling together tracks from the band’s 2006 seasonal album Christmas Offerings, a few worship favorites, and a handful of similarly themed originals. Those who caught the tour firsthand now have an uninterrupted recollection of the experience, and anyone that missed it can now experience rootsy renditions of Yuletide favorites like “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” The group also provides inspiring renditions of familiar worship fair like “God of Wonders” (from City on a Hill) and Rich Mullins‘ “Creed.”
The Bad: Though the concert is clearly billed as a Christmas collection, it still feels incomplete without some of Third Day’s signature charging rock selections. That also makes the show feel generally subdued as a whole, with tepid and uninspired arrangements of familiar Christmas songs. Even the group’s own hit “Show Me Your Glory” is an acoustic bore that’s more in step with this concert than the band’s comparatively exciting previous concert releases. And those looking for additional insight are also out of luck: the DVD includes no bonus features whatsoever beyond the somewhat brief 75-minute show—not even a CD of the concert.
The Bottom Line: It might be a nice souvenir for those who caught this particular show, but the disappointing Christmas Offerings just doesn’t have as much to offer to fans—any of Third Day’s other DVDs and albums would make a better stocking stuffer.
The Good: Far from your mother’s gospel music, Tye Tribbett & G.A. is the most exciting supergroup in the entire genre, bar none. With Stand Out Live, their second concert recording, the ensemble proves why there’s simply no match for them. More than just a choir, they’re equal parts performers, worshippers, thespians, dancers, and all-around entertainers, dressed in geeky matching outfits and following their leader’s every cue, all in hopes of getting across the project’s central message: that one is not to be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to stand out and take a stance for Christ. The youth in attendance get it, and by the time they’re led into worship through powerful anthems such as “Bless the Lord” and “I Need You,” no one in the house can help but become caught up in the spirit of adoration. Add to the 140-minute feature more than two hours of bonus materials, and you’ve got a DVD with one of the highest bang-for-buck ratios to come out of gospel.
The Bad: The night of the recording was of such grand proportions that some cracks are too noticeable to pass up, like the fact that a lot of the vocals were cut in the studio as opposed to live—the rampant lip-synching is all too clear at times. But then, some studio polish is understandable considering how animated Tribbett and his crew are on stage.
The Bottom Line: The outstanding Stand Out DVD proves why Tye Tribbett & G.A. is a forerunner when it comes to youth-friendly, biblically challenging gospel music.
The Good: A champion of messianic expressions of worship, Paul Wilbur was given carte blanche to make of A Night of Extravagant Worship a pageantry of song, dance, and praise like there are very few of these days. Reminiscent of Brian Doerksen’s Today DVD, Wilbur presents a parade of some of his most popular choruses to date, including “Praise Adonai” and “Days of Elijah.” All of which is complemented by an impressive array of guest worship leaders, dancers, actors, and a no-nonsense backing band, each commissioned with bringing to life the Judeo-Christian truths that shine forth in Wilbur’s music.
The Bad: The album/video is certainly not for all tastes; if you think you’re even remotely averse to what’s essentially a messianic take on a polka two-step, then you might want to think twice. Also, for all the celebration and merriment, you’d wish Wilbur was a bit more engaging with the congregation—in certain songs, there’s marked disconnect between cantor and worshipper. Case in point, “Praise Adonai,” arguably Wilbur’s biggest hit, feels like a bit of a drag, which is unfortunate considering the melody, drive, and lyric of the song simply demand listeners to join in and worship.
The Bottom Line: For an audiovisual idea of what a Jews for Jesus worship gathering might look like, A Night of Extravagant Worship fits the bill.
For previous editions of The DVD Experience, please visitour archives.