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Daniel Amos

Fearful Symmetery

Harvest Rock Syndicate 1986
4 1/2 points out of 5
by ?

It is usually not possible for the listening public to know in advance what the next DA product is going to be like. Not two albums have been the same. The fact that DA's latest effort on Frontline Records, Fearful Symmetry, the fourth volume in the Alarma! Chronicles, continues this tradition is no surprise.

On the surface, Fearful Symmetry, appears to be a fairly simple album. Each song comes across musically straightforward, yet just beneath this calm surface runs a current of amazing intricacy. These ten tunes which seem so simple are alive and teeming with complexity.

Terry Taylor, who is vocalist in addition to his work on guitars and synths, composed or co-composed all ten tunes and wrote all the lyrics. Taylor's penchant for sarcasm and obscurity is near legendary. On Fearful Symmetry his pen and wit are as sharp as ever. The puzzle for you and me to figure outis just what is the Fearful Symmetry which binds all these songs together. The most likely possibility which presents itself is that of darkness and light. That is to say that for every truth there is a lie. For every strong point there is a weak point.

As one example, there is "Neverland Ballroom". Musically it is a dance tune. Very upbeat. Very quirky. A song you might like to hear when you are out at a party. Lyrically, however, the song is a strong warning against temptation. The things that often look so appealing yet are full of death and destruction lead straight to the "Neverland Ballroom." "Won't see the sun again," the prophet sings, "once they dance the Neverland Ballroom."

Another example of the Fearful Symmetry of our lives is the tragically beautiful "Sleep Silent Child." Here DA tells us of the death of a child. Not the usual pop tune fare. Yet even in the death of the child there is a solemn, sober, sad kind of joy as the child steals away "to starry fields . . . another bright heart in God's embrace." The song begins in a cacophony of drums and voices. From the chaos emerges the parent's voice with his words of sorrow and joy. DA faces honestly the pain of death, yet not without hope.

Nearly every tune on Fearful Symmetry in some way deals with the darkness of our lives. Be it sin ("A Sigh for You"), pain of death ("Sleep Silent Child"), doubt ("Strong Points, Weak Points"), or perverting and misrepresenting the gospel ("Instruction Thru Film"). Every theme is dealt with openly. At the same time there is never any doubt about the fact that the members of DA are Christian believers. Their faith infuses even the darkest fears and doubts with assurance and hope. The end result is that both sides of the coin are affirmed as realities in the lives of believers. It is no empty chatter for DA to tell us that God is present even in the worst moments. They give us a sense that they have been through the fire and they know what they are saying.

Most DA albums in the past basically have been Terry Taylor products. He often wrote lyrics and composed music for most if not all the songs on an album. With Fearful Symmetry, DA breaks into a new direction. All the players play more than one instrument. Ed McTaggart plays drums, as wonderfully and solidly as always, but also contributes on percussion and synthesizers.