By Alex Payne
Nathan Warnes is back with a brief four track foray into the world of Christmas music, reimagining some of the nation’s most treasured hymns in an alternative rock context. Titled “With Us”, this latest EP is very clearly influenced by other Christian pop-rock acts, such as davidcrowderband and Aaron Shust, although it isn’t immediately apparent what differentiates Nathan from them.
Sonically, Nathan evokes some strong Coldplay vibes, especially on his cover of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!”, where a guitar and synth driven melody compliments his Chris Martin esque vocals. Muddy mixing is a continued theme throughout all four covers however, and it’s a real shame that Nathan’s voice gets lost behind the instrumentation in most songs climaxes, because it is certainly worthy of being the main attraction. “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is a firm contender for the project’s highlight, starring Nathan’s mournful crooning and some powerful instrumentation, and is perhaps the most natural sounding cover on the album, while remaining faithful to the original. It also features one of the widest sonic pallets on the album, giving prominence to a range of strings and piano which isn’t heard as much on the other tracks. Lyrically there is nothing to comment on, but it is worth noting that, for the most part, Nathan has chosen to cover hymns that seem to play to his vocal strengths.
Despite Nathan Warnes’ undeniable talent, this EP is held back by a distinct lack of imagination. Simply, reimagined hymns have been overdone to death at this point! Artists such as Sufjan Stevens, who have taken the concept and put their own trademark twists on it, are far more alluring, whereas Nathan has played it safe, sticking to a traditional guitar and vocals combination. Nathan Warnes may be putting Christ back into Christmas with his rock ballads, but as it stands, “With Us” seems destined to remain a slightly watered-down amalgamation of its contemporaries, and as such, will disguise the talent put into its creation.