“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”—James 2:14
Remedy Drive’s new album, The North Star, is an uncomfortable listen, so chances are good you haven’t eagerly added it to your playlist. It brings the feelings of the oppressed and suffering into the light in the same way that Old Testament prophets and the teachings of Jesus challenge us. The album calls listeners to pay attention to the discomfort we feel when hearing about injustice and to find the courage to feel, think, and act.
Remedy Drive began performing in Nebraska over 20 years ago and found the national spotlight in 2010 with its number-one radio hit “All Along” and extensive tours beside the hottest Christian bands of the day. The rigorous demands on the band were too much for three of its members and they left, giving their blessing for David Zach to continue Remedy Drive. Zach quickly rebuilt the band, but even with a successful album introducing the new lineup in 2012, music industry support dried up and the spotlight moved on.
Still, Remedy Drive continues with a mission to highlight injustice and raise awareness about the current abolitionist movement. Zach volunteers as an undercover operative in Southeast Asia for The Exodus Project, where he helps find and free underage girls caught in the sex industry by human traffickers.
The sound of The North Star is gritty with distorted drum beats, dissonant soundscapes, and delayed guitars. Yet the vocals are clear and hopeful in the quest to raise awareness for those who are suffering and in slavery. The opening track, “You’ve Got Fire,” speaks directly to people who are oppressed, encouraging them to see that they were made by God with a fire in their veins that shouldn’t be quenched. This track features the vocals of veteran singer Rachael Lampa McCarthy.
The anthem “Brighter than Apathy” shines as David Zach’s personal mission statement. The tune and words are infectious, painting images of an unstoppable movement of people motivated by love. And the memorable chorus declares: “I want to live for something bigger than me, stronger than fear, brighter than apathy.”
“Sunlight on Her Face” brings the album back to a more subdued mood as it tells the story of a young girl caught in prostitution. Links are made to women from around the world and across history, including several women mentioned in the Bible. The listener cannot easily shake the image of a slave craving the freedom to simply experience sunlight.
The album includes the creative work of Bob Marley with a cover of his famous “Redemption Song”; Remedy Drive creates a sonic version that hides its reggae roots within the band’s indie rock sound.
The final stand-out track on this album is called “Sanctuary.” It features the rapper Propaganda and explores the desire for peace and rest from our oppressors. Vivid modern military imagery of drones and firefights are contrasted with the shelter and sanctuary of a city on a hill. Propaganda delivers a compelling verse oozing emotion and boldly preaching our need for Christ to be our shelter.
Yes, this album will cause discomfort to the listener, and it won’t allow easy or mindless listening. However, The North Star is an album Christians can benefit from as it helps us understand injustice, empathize with those who are oppressed, and compels us to action. The actions of David Zach show that he believes every word he sings.