New Zealand worship band Form were significant for my generation; making church worship music that sounded less like Michael W. Smith and more like Pearl Jam was an exciting innovation. But twenty years later, they’re largely disappeared from the inter-webs – only one of their albums is on Spotify, and I had to photograph their album covers to get them online.
Such is the ephemeral nature of popular music – contemporary Christian music is often a niche market, and most popular music isn’t passed down to the next generation. So Form are effectively also-rans, but I enjoyed their straightforward, uncluttered tunes.
Form leader Dean Rush started his career as the drummer for three piece Drinkwater, whose other members went on to join The Newsboys and local band Elephant. He also played drums on the band’s first album, but transitioned to guitar for their second record. Scotty Pearson, who later found secular NZ success with Elemeno P, took over behind the kit and is the group’s other best known member.
Form Album Reviews
At the point of this debut Form were known as CCC Auckland, and the album’s name is Form; on subsequent albums they adopted Form as their band name. While their next record would adopt a harder sound, for a pure worship album it’s surprisingly rough edged in places and is completely guitar based. Even the gentlest songs are still underpinned by surprisingly aggressive guitars.
As much as this debut is likeable, half of these songs are tangibly stronger than the other half. Some of the lyrics aren’t substantial enough to bear close scrutiny; “God is good/You are real/You are everything to me” is the refrain of the worst offender. The best songs include the opening ‘Creator Of All’, which gets a lot of mileage out of a simple chord structure and about thirty words of lyrics, and the surprisingly aggressive ‘Endures Forever’, which would be close to punk territory if it was sped up a little. Of the more reflective material, the gorgeous ‘Lift You Up’ expresses reverence of the presence of God, and ‘Rain’ is a perfect closer, simple yet emotional.
Form would get stronger with subsequent releases, but their debut’s a good start.
Journey Closer loses the intimacy and freshness of their debut, for a more muscular sophomore effort. The triple guitar lineup fills the record with creative riffs and unpredictable rhythmic emphasis, while drummer Scotty Pierson anchors proceedings with solid playing. Deputy songwriter Bruce Conlon, now fronting his own worship band Eight, almost steals the show with his two contributions, ‘Let Everything’ and ‘Come Before’, and Julian Currin anchors the title track with his prominent bass line.
If none of these songs really stand out, it’s because they’re all strong. Conlon’s two contributions are maybe the two most immediate – the anthemic ‘Let Everything’ and the gentle ‘Come Before’ – but Rush still contributes the opening ‘Glorify’, the pretty ‘Redemption Day’ and the excellent closer ‘Wait On You’. These songs are pretty simple, but they’re designed for congregations to sing to (after all, these guys are the worship team at their local Church), and the fact that it manages to achieve this aim at rock respectably at the same time is fairly impressive.
Journey Closer is the best of Form’s first three albums, and the highlight of what’s surely one of the most overlooked catalogues in worship music.
Dean Rush joined Sonicflood as a temporary lead singer on a US tour, before this album, and the overproduced update of ‘Creator of All’ had alarm bells ringing among my friends. If anything though, this record sounds like the debut, but with more professional production and more consistent songs. It’s less of a rock album than Journey Closer – if there are still heavy guitars in ‘Holding On’ and ‘No One Like You’, there are also piano led songs like ‘Surrounded’. It’s more subtle than the previous two, and it takes a little longer for the songs to surface, and it’s also more generic, tending towards something that Delirious might do at times, but it’s still song for song stronger than their previous work.
My favourite moment of the record is the guitar jam that closes ‘Holding On’ – it’s catchy and aggressive, and sounds like something that Pearl Jam would be proud of, reminding listeners how much of their muscle that Form are under-utilising elsewhere on this album. ‘I Bow My Knee’, a simple four chord rotation, is powerful in its plainness. Most of these songs are strong; ‘No One Like You’ is a memorable riff based rocker, while ‘Freedom Song’ kicks in with some guitar punch. The quieter highlights include ‘Lift You Higher’ and the closing ‘Glorify Your Name’.
Follow is a very good record, even if it’s slightly below the standard of Journey Closer; if some of Form’s distinguishing traits are becoming lost here, and they’re tending towards more generic CCM worship, they still have better songs than most of their Christian contemporaries.
I remember seeing a fourth Form album, titled Construct, in stores, but I can’t find anything about it online.
Ten Best Form Songs
I Bow My Knee
Lift You Higher
Lift You Up
Creator Of All