The Echoing Green:

In Scarlet And Vile


My #9 Album

in 2011


in 2011 on

A Different Drum Records

To previous album on 2011 awardsAnthony_Newman_Plays_JS_Bach.html
To next album
on 2011 awardsParadoxx_Decade.html
Back to 2011 Music Awards2011_Music_Awards.html
Go to 2012
Music Awards

This page was first posted July 1, 2012

     Of all the albums on my 2011 Music Awards list, this one has been by far the most difficult one to write about.  I wrote the entire text for this page, then decided to start over.

     The main reason for this was that the album did not come with a lyric sheet.  This is something that annoys me when any Christian artist does this, because my whole reason for buying Christian music is for the lyrics.  Of course, I want music I love and enjoy, but there is a lot of great music out there; finding good music with at least a Christian worldview, if not outright explicit Christian lyrics, requires great effort and searching.  Then to finally get such an album, and there’s no lyric sheet--this makes me angry!

    In the case of this album, it was even more frustrating because I could tell that this was a concept album with a unified theme, yet without the lyric sheet I had nothing to look at and ponder the meaning of the words.  Had this album included a lyric sheet, it probably would have been higher on my list this year.

    In order to write this review, I wanted to talk about the messages on this album, but to do so, I needed something more concrete than random phrases that I had picked up.  First I tried listening to passages over and over and trying to pick out the words and write them down.  Then it dawned on me that there are websites that have lyrics to songs.  So I tried to find the words on those sites, but many of the sites show up in Google, yet when you go to the page, there are no lyrics there, so I had to check page after page for the lyrics.

    Finally, I acquired all the lyrics through this method, and by having the opportunity to see them, I began to get more understanding and meaning from the album, which then changed how I felt about the album.  Thus, I decided to start my review over.


My wife gave me an Amazon gift certificate for my birthday, so I began looking on Amazon to what music I could buy.  I discovered that The Echoing Green had released a new album!  Cool!  So many times I buy albums much later -- like years later -- than they are released, so here was my chance to get an album that had just been released! 

I'm really late to the show with The Echoing Green. They started in 1991, releasing their first record label album in 1994, which was in the only 5-year period of my whole musical life that I was out of the Christian music scene.  But even after I returned in 1996, it was years later before I even became aware of The Echoing Green, which seems a bit strange since they featured synthpop music, a style I love.  I got their anthology album in 2008 and it was my #7 of that year.  Though I don't normally like greatest hits albums, since I didn't have any albums by The Echoing Green, I thought that would be a good introduction to them.

As much as I liked that album, I hadn't gone back and bought any of the original albums.  So with my gift certificate money, now was the time, but since there was a new album out, I decided to get that!  But when I got it, I was really disappointed.  What happened to the beautiful synthpop music??  Instead, the music was guitar-based with synthesizers just playing a kind of background, fill-in role.  I've had so much trouble scrounging up Christian synthpop music, and here was one long-term group that I thought I could rely on, yet they have abandoned their sound!!  I thought, this is awful!

Well, I bought the thing, so I did my best to get used to the different sound and see if it was something I could like.  And eventually I did get used to the new sound, though I never liked it anywhere as near as their old sound.  What saved the album from its loss of synthpop sound was that the songs are still The Echoing Green -- the songs are solid compositions with memorable melodies.  Those memorable melodies are important in this case -- they would get stuck in my head, making me want to listen to the album again.

I'm not sure how to describe the music.  To me, it has somewhat of an 80s sound, though not so much that it sounds like a retro album.  I've been trying ever since I got the album to figure out what 80s artist or song this sound reminds me of, but I haven't been able to come up with a good example.  All I’ve come up with so far is “Let’s Go All The Way” by Sly Fox, or the sound used by Skillet on their 2000 Invincible album, though this Echoing Green album is not as heavy. It has a kind of wall of sound, mostly from rhythm guitars, but filled in with synthesizers.  There are some good dynamics between loud and soft, which is not so easy to find these days when music is compressed so badly.  And finally, the classic Echoing Green music is still here, despite the different sound -- the melodies, the occasional female vocals shining through as additions to the main melody.

The change in sound was the first thing that caused me to take awhile to warm up to this album.  The lyrical theme was the second.  First, I wasn’t even sure what the lyrics were (see my frustration about the lyrics in the sidebar directly to the right), but what I could pick up sounded line with the album’s title, In Scarlet & Vile.  Songs like “Revenge,” “Flame,” and “Suffer” to name a few, when put all together give the album a depressing feel, at least lyrically.  The music itself doesn’t sound depressing; it’s typical upbeat Echoing Green.  At times this can even seem strangely incongruous, such as at the end of the song “Suffer,” where Chrissy sings a pretty melody, "we were made to suffer," a melody whose words would be more fitting as something like, "we were blessed with sunshine!"

The first song I was able to understand on this album was the fourth track, “The Huntress.”  It’s about a girl just having the guy’s expense.

(The girl)

You're in my headlights with nowhere to run

And I'm the huntress and I'm getting my gun

You got your eyes wide -- this is so much fun!

And we've just begun…

And when we dance, I bring you hell in a dress

Your eyes are so committal -- this might hurt a little

At every chance I'm putting grace to the test

This is a fantasy -- I'll make you settle for less

(The boy)

You take take the worst of me and just make make make it seem like hell

In the way you break break the best of me and just shake shake the rest

The way we've become may seem like love to some

All the lies you fed to me leave me standing empty with nothing to say

And with this you have a perfect example of what I mean about the depressing lyrical themes of this album. Besides what the girl is doing, the guy succumbs to the seduction, and aside from feeling used, also has “settled for less” by living a free love fantasy, afterward -- if, let’s say, he’s a Christian -- feeling the guilt of “putting grace to the test” and disobeying God, weakening his faith and ruining things for the future (single guy) or destroying the present (married guy). Vile sin, scarlet stain.

The song “Dead Hearts” (track 6) speaks of the after-effects of living life in scarlet and vile....

I've hurt

I've listened to lies

I'm scared

but I've a feeling that

this could be the last time we fall apart

Then finally, here in track 6, we get the first glimpse of something better:

hope still has a name and it sets on fire

hope is still a flame that is burning inside

hope has made a way for

all the dead hearts to arise

Though this hope is not named, if you know The Echoing Green, you know what Source of Hope they are talking about.


Before I saw the lyrics, I had no idea what the song “Crybaby” was about, and maybe I still don’t know what The Echoing Green meant by them, but now I see them as great satire.  I’m sure I’m going off on a tangent from the original meaning, but they remind me of people who scorn the lifestyle of Christians (and in a way scorn God), a lifestyle that they see as too stifling.  There’s been great fear in the past that the Christian Right is going to take over and everyone would have to live by their oppressive morality.  What gets me is that these same people complain about the way boys or girls screw them over (refer back to “The Huntress”), hurt them, and now they hate the opposite sex and can’t trust them, and how cruel people are and you have to get your revenge to keep from being taken advantage of, and on and on in their “crybaby” whining.  So, they scorn Christians for their “oppressive” morals, yet if you and those around you all follow those morals, you don’t have all this hurt and bitterness.  It comes as a package.  They say chastity before marriage is oppressive, but those who are virgins at the wedding don’t have the pile of broken relationships and bitterness behind them.  This is only one example of morality, but is often seen as the most unendurable.

So all of that stuff comes to mind when I come across these lyrics in “Crybaby”:

watch you do - I’ve seen better

but at least you’ve found an easy lover

rock hard and scream louder

but you leave me

with nothing to remember

and so you can’t stop crying

about all this love you’ve lost

at least you have your stories

it’s just too bad they’re boring

But if you’ll listen, if you’ll be open to the life led by Jesus...

well come on, crybaby!

I wanna take you, take you for a ride

It’ll be an entirely new ride, a new outlook that doesn’t glorify wantonness and end up with the painful results.

     The Echoing Green was begun by Joey Belville and Aaron Bowman in 1991.  There have been personnel changes over the years; the prime members have been Joey Belville and Chrissy Jeter.  On this album, additional band members are Wil Foster, John Ball, and Dave Adams.

     This is The Echoing Green’s 11th album, plus they have released many remix singles and EPs.  Their sound has been synthpop throughout most of their career.  They began on DJ Scott Blackwell’s Christian dance label Myx Records.  After Myx Records closed down, eventually The Echoing Green ended up on

A Different Drum, a secular synthpop label.

    Joey & Chrissy are devout Christians who write about life from a Christian worldview, or express their faith through poetic, thought-provoking lyrics rather than easily accessible explicit Christian messages.

    That’s not to say there is no pain or suffering when one becomes a Christian.  First of all, you may be surrounded by people who are not Christian, and you can be the target or hit bystander of their sinful, evil actions.  Even Christians, being gradually changed by their Creator into creatures more and more like him, along the way fail to obey God and thus sin, which results in hurt and pain for themselves and others.  And then there is the kind of suffering that has nothing to do with anyone’s actions, such as illness, accidents, natural disasters, and death.  All of these cause suffering.

    In track 8, the song “Suffer,” the big picture of suffering is considered, interestingly with a sense of wonder...

with a heart half-empty

and a light I've yet to see

and the sadness takes a hold of me

and fire-white burns like



we all fall apart

to the cadence of our bleeding hearts

they fall away

isn't this world something wonderful

that we were made to suffer both its majesty and cruelty?

they fall away...

and is grace not something beautiful

that we were made to suffer the lucid touch of clemency?

and our tears become a sanctuary---

we are made to suffer with tenderness and empathy

we are made to suffer...

I think of Job and the ideas on suffering his friends had...I think of Jesus’s words that if we suffer for his name, it is something to be glad about...I think of the writings of Paul and Peter, who also speak of the suffering of the Christian...ha, am I now contradicting what I said in the “Crybaby” section?  I say no, I’m not.  For this suffering is entirely different.  The way you feel in the after-effects of reckless living is an empty, painful feeling, often with regret, usually with bitterness.  What you feel in the suffering you experience in relationship with Jesus, whether it be because of Kingdom activity (persecution) or because you’re the victim of someone’s sin, or a victim of the general suffering of life (sickness, etc.), it all has a sense of purpose that feels entirely different.  I think this song “Suffer” is looking at that big-picture purpose, and getting a glimpse of a beauty that we do not normally see.

"Beauty would not be beauty without a solid dose of the tragic; to suffer is to tremble in life until we are in the splendor of God's hands."

--Joey Belville in an interview with Brian Nixon

To previous album on 2011 awardsAnthony_Newman_Plays_JS_Bach.html
Back to 2011 Music Awards2011_Music_Awards.html
Go to 2012
Music Awards2012_Music_Awards.html
To next album
on 2011 awardsParadoxx_Decade.html

Click the Play button to hear “The Huntress,” the first song from this album that I captured the meaning of. It is representative of the sound of the whole album (the 10 songs of the concept).

The video for “Flame.”  This song is more synthpop than any of the others of the 10 concept songs; it is not representative of the sound of the album as a whole.

“I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”

--The Apostle Paul in Romans 8:18 (GNT)


Take naivety from me, and leave me isolated,

All at once I feel so free, yet so captivated,

You make the endless waves of time seem so temporary,

You're my missionary, emissary, adversary

You define the line between human and divine,

In this empty place, intrinsic grace so necessary,

See the skies divide when hope and fear collide,

From this cemetery offer me this sanctuary

There is violence when you move, yet I'm stationary,

(Devastate all my design) make it arbitrary,

You break my legs yet leave my knees, my will penetrated,

I'm eviscerated, consecrated, lacerated

You define the line between human and divine,

In this empty place, intrinsic grace so necessary,

See the skies divide when hope and fear collide,

From this cemetery offer me this sanctuary


"I'm so alone"

I hear you say

I give my hand

you push it away

we can't decide on love or suicide

through the great divide

the earth, the moon, the tide

if I had a way we could make it

would you take it?

if we could

pray the words that endear us

awake the vows inside

the heavens sigh

like the groom who sees

the first glimpse of his bride...

and takes her away.

come take us away.

sometimes we lie

to make the truth seem kind

we cast redemption aside

just to make it go away

well I'm done being afraid

I'll kiss the wounds that I've made

and let the scars remain

come take us away.

As I struggled with what this album’s theme was in my early days of listening to it, “Suffer” was the first song that gave me a glimpse of it, beyond the album’s title, of course.  The song that follows “Suffer,” entitled “Sanctuary,” on the other hand, was the most confusing.  Joey sings this in a low, almost evil-sounding voice, different from his usual more cheerful and higher register.  With words about violence, laceration, and cemetery, and the sound of his voice, at first I thought it was about something evil, perhaps even Satan.  But then there’s the line, “You define the live between human and divine,” and of course there’s the title, “Sanctuary,” which would not refer to Satan.  Was this song about a human that was a mixture of good and bad, and causing confusion to the songwriter, just as the lyrics were causing confusion to me?


Fortunately, I ran across an interview with Joey done by Brian Nixon, in which Joey explains the song.  When asked about the meaning of the song, Joey did not come right out with it.  Nixon writes,

    Before replying, Joey becomes contemplative. “It is a worship song in disguise,” he states. “In a weird sense it is creepy-cool, kind of electronic Goth.”

    He continued, “What I tried to communicate in the song is the process of dying to oneself, of dying to the flesh.  The chorus goes: ‘You define the line between human and divine’,” Joey explained.

“So, in a sense, it is the idea of one trembling in God’s holiness. This can be a very ugly and violent process, as we recognize His holiness and majesty and how truly human we are. In an odd sense, God is in the process of destroying our human nature, rescuing us from ourselves and sin.” he concludes.

I have trouble with using the word “violence” to describe the work of God (Skillet does this also in a song on their Invincible album) -- to me the word “violence” is necessarily connected to ill-intent.  But apparently others don’t feel that way, using it like this.  So I’ll try to go along with their usage, though it grates against me.


Anyway, this explanation from Joey greatly helps me understand this song.

The closing song of the concept part of the album is “Away.”  Like most songs on this album, I struggled a bit with the meaning of it at first, since it seemed to be a mix of topics.  But once I captured these words, I “got” the song:

like the groom who sees

the first glimpse of his bride...

and takes her away.

From just those lines, I felt this was a grand finale of sorts to the album, looking back on all the suffering we endure in life, too much of it due to our own foolish sinfulness, and yet, at the end of this long struggle, our bridegroom will come to get his bride, the church, all those he loves, and take us away to a new world where there is no suffering.  Ah, what a perfect ending to this album!

In the aforementioned interview, Joey speaks of this song:

“The last song on the album, Away, is unique for The Echoing Green. It’s the closest thing we get to a praise song. It’s about being taken up and away in God’s consuming love. It’s like asking God to rescue humanity from the mess we’re in.”

Since re-writing this web page, as a result of studying the lyrics and finding this wonderful interview that brings some insight into the songs, at last I don’t feel so frustrated from knowing the album has a deep meaning but not being able to get it all.  I still don’t understand the first three songs on the album, but that’s okay, maybe the meaning will come to me someday.  I’m just glad that I have a new appreciation for this album after digging into it. 

And now about the BONUS TRACKS:

Battered And Bruised -- This one has an almost industrial feel to it, with a heavy, slow beat, distorted guitars and vocals (all vocals by Chrissy, which is unusual because usually Joey leads and she does the embellishments).  This song is a cover, done originally by Statemachine.

Matter --  THIS is the classic Echoing Green sound -- beautiful synthpop.  Lovely, lovely....

King Planet -- This is a cover of a song by Fold Zandura, a Christian group from the 90s that I liked, but I’ve never heard this song before.  Like Battered And Bruised, this one sounds almost industrial, with distorted vocals, guitars, and a slow, heavy, mechanical beat.

Here Is The House -- I didn’t know two of the above songs were covers until I read about them in an interview with Joey in Modern Synthpop magazine.  And I wasn’t expecting this to be a cover, but one day, after having listened to this song a number of times before, it suddenly dawned on me that I have this song!  I recognized it as a song from long ago, and finally I figured it out: it’s from Depeche Mode, from their 1986 album Black Celebration, one of my favorite albums of theirs.  This version keeps the general sound and feel of the original, but with The Echoing Green doing it, it has given new meaning of the song to me.

I’ve complained on this page about the lack of lyrics included, which I find unacceptable.  Another complaint I have is that the CD does not come in a jewel box, but rather a paper cover.  I like the plastic CD cases because if they get beat up, I can replace the case and have the cover looking like new again, but with these paper covers, once they get beat up, that's it.  Okay, that's the way it was with LPs, but we stepped up in the world of CD; let's not step back down.

This photo and the subway photo near the top were taken from The Echoing Green’s Facebook page