Review: “Jude”

I’ve always been fascinated by the Book of Jude. It’s a letter that employs in frightful language the apostasy of the age on one hand, and on the other, a benediction unmatched in its declaration of resolved assurance. It’s a letter that can frighten readers away; perhaps due to the unfamiliar extra-biblical illustrations contained within, or the odd trailblazing back to Genesis 6, or the author’s assumption of our insight into the sinful obsessions of lesser-known Old Testament characters like Cain and Balaam and Korah. As Cody states in the video below, this letter deals with the question, “What am I to do when those truths [about Christ] are threatened?”

The delightful challenge of a reviewing something like this, is that it really cannot be done in a vacuum. What I mean by that is, much like Scripture itself, connecting each element to the context of the larger idea is necessary to understand the flow of thought, arch of intensity, lyrical and musical construction, etc. The tapestry is clearly seen when the pieces are tethered inseparably to each other. The album opens (and closes) with the “click” of a cassette tape, as if we are listening to an interview with older saints, recounting the harrowing events that have both scarred them and sanctified them. It’s a brilliant way to encapsulate this precious letter.

While each composition certainly stands on its own two feet, what I’ve elected to do is to pull a formative lyric relative to each track and demonstrate both their consistently faithful hermeneutic and point out some of these creatively memorable melodies.

1) “They were not who we thought they were…”
From the start, the intensity is ratcheted to a fever pitch as the stage is set. The way the elements of spoken testimony and multiple melody lines overlap is interesting, making me think of numerous witnesses recalling their angles of the story: “When they first came, their speech was real pretty.” One woman says, “But they were not who we thought they were. They lied to us.” Just as quickly, she also says, “But Jude never lied; he told us about them.” It’s such a stellar way to set up everything we hear everything that comes after.

2) “Let there be love”
If you’ve heard any of the masterful harmonies on the Romans and Hebrews albums, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to hear more of it here. A great spot for it, too, coinciding with Jude’s affectionate greeting.

3) “It’s time to embrace the battle of faith”
Without a firm grasp of the doctrine of divine inspiration, one might trip over Jude’s words in verse 3, where he indicates that he initially intended to write a very different letter, but was instead compelled by the Spirit to instead urge them to fight for the faith given to them. Track three captures this well, with an initial uplift in tune and lyric, before turning on the phrase, “…the time has come for you, For you fight!” Jude’s plea to fight is contrasted with his plea for them to resist the temptation to retreat (“Don’t cash in your soul,” a phrase that will make a reappearance later in the album).

4) “We’d be all right if the wind is in our sails”
My understanding of this line is that there is the assumption of safety with Jude’s line, “certain people have crept in unnoticed…”. The album art comes into view, with its peaceful sunset; and yet underneath us, seemingly unnoticed if we’re not paying attention, are the hidden reefs that are sure to disable our voyage. The ditty quickly moves to count up all the the ways this can happen, with the clever pairing of a pirate shanty-like tune.

5) “Remember, the old”
If you were already a fan of Psallos, then you would have immediately noticed the musical recapitulation to the Hebrews album, “The Angels’ Moment in the Sun” and “Wandered!” “Of course, it’s only a snippet, since the purpose of this track is to illustrate Jude’s examples of three apostasies from the past. On the album, you can hear the murmuring of the courtroom and the judge’s gavel, as he calls each witness.

6) “Waterless clouds”
The comparison is made here between the three “witnesses” of apostasy, and the ones whom threaten the readers. The track is titled to encapsulate the emptiness of these deceivers’ words.

7) “Give me the body of Moses!”
It’s not hard to imagine that Michael has had many contentious encounters with the devil throughout history. Regardless of what his intentions truly were, I can’t help but think of the audacity of the devil to insist that he take the body of Moses. The swing jazz feel matches what you sense in that exchange.

8) “Fruitless trees”
Similar to track six, the deceivers’ lack of substance is in view here, this time accompanied by a haunting ballade.

9) “We cry, ‘Woe!'”
The driving lower register of the piano foreshadows the impending doom that Jude speaks of, again with three more evidences of apostasy, each with severe consequences. The theological and Scriptural understanding demonstrated in the lyrics is impressive and powerful. Nothing held back here musically or lyrically, in much the same way that Jude categorically denounces them in their apostasy.

10) “Lie”
The lyric is simply seven iterations of “lie” in total. Repeating the familiar melodic progression of track eight, it’s helpful to read verses 12-13 while listening, and ponder the grave nature of this threat.

11) “The Lord is gonna get ’em…” 
Enoch’s apocryphal prophesy that Jude records in verse 14 is set to a lighthearted ditty that causes you to listen somewhat reservedly and pensive.

12) “They’ll bid you come in… but only if you help them win”
Another image from verse 13 is the “wild waves of the sea.” The line that stands out to me is the self-serving nature seen in the fifth and sixth lines.

13) Fill your heart, fill your soul”
Jude’s call for the saints to remember what they were told by the very apostles of Christ, comes with the moving line “fill your heart, fill your soul.” For in these last days, they were warned about those that would come. The tune is very engaging throughout.

14) “Fractions of the whole, factions of the soul”
Another powerful image from verse 13. I don’t know that there is a more poignant line than this in the entire album that how division is described. There is real sorrow in the fracturing of Christ’s body.

15) You gotta fight, you gotta contend”
A recapitulation lyrically and musically from track three and verse 3, with a focus more on the positive element of Jude’s insistence that they fight (“contend”, “agonize”) for the faith. The upbeat rhythm infuses the imperatives and charges of Jude with a motivation to press on and “buckle down”; quite captivating.

16) Love, love, love”
A brief meditation is made here on Jude’s plea to seek out those who are weaker, and struggling; doubting, fearing, sinning. The motivation being love in showing mercy (mentioned twice in verses 22-23). If had a complaint about this album, it’s that there’s so much more that could be fleshed out from these verses, as rich as they are in a call for compassionate saints!

17) “The Keeper”
When we get to the last track, we–alongside the readers themselves–find ourselves left with a the question that is painfully and perhaps worryingly obvious: Can God keep us, or will he lose us?”, as we hear the gentleman on the recording present. When “dangers creep beneath you” and“when people promise blessing”“when wild waves surround you” and “when trees in which you trusted bear no fruit and give no gain”, a lurking sense of despair could creep into our minds if we ponder that question without respite. The final two verses of his Jude’s letter gives us a certain answer, with zero hesitation, to any doubts we may have: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling…” I also love the identifiers used in the song for Jude’s precious readers: “sheep, children, chosen people, beloved.” Surely, names of affection he not only felt personally, but the Lord holds for us as well. All the other glorious doctrines of our justification and redemption and sanctification would be diminished to some degree if salvation were not a forever promise from God.

The collection of musicians and artists at Psallos have performed an exceptional service in capturing the urgency of Jude’s heart to unfold the repeated and terrifying imagery of his warnings, and simultaneously the fervency of Jude’s soul to remind us of our steadfast assurance in the God who will keep us from stumbling and falling prey. Do yourself a favor: grab your Bible, open to the book of Jude with newfound interest, and read it through several times. And then do it again, this time with the pages of Scripture laid open on your lap, and the the fresh collection of songs from Jude ministering to your heart as well.

psallosPsallos is a team of Christian artists – songsters and singers, ministers and musicians, thinkers and theologians. Led by composer Cody Curtis (DMA) and in partnership with Union University, Psallos exists to provide the Church with intentional, artistic songs of worship that are consistent with God’s word, rich in sound doctrine, and intelligible for the sake of edification. The proclamation of Scripture, particularly the gospel of Jesus Christ, is at the core of its mission.

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