Timothy Brindle, Lamp Mode Recordings’ debut artist, is back. Sounds like the most clichéd introduction to a review ever, but actually it’s crucial to put it that way. Having put out The Great Awakening and Killing Sin in the first half of the noughties Timothy stepped back from his “hip-hop ministry in late 2005 to deal with his personal and marital struggles” (read more of Tim’s biography here). The Restoration: The All-Sufficiency of Christ in the Gospel of Grace to Restore Ruined Sinners to Himself for their Joy and His Glory (to give it its full title) is his comeback song–the soundtrack to his journey to restoration.
The theme of restoration runs right through the Bible, indeed, it is one of its major themes. Essentially, God the Father longs to restore His creation to its original perfection–His one and only son died in order to restore sinners into a right relationship with Him and we are told of a restored new earth (which bears some resemblance to the world in its created infancy–read Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22). Throughout the Old Testament there are instances of Israel being restored back into a right relationship with God (sometimes symbolized by the restoration of an altar, or the temple) and prophetic witness to the fact that God intends to restore His people to Himself. Jesus’s earthly ministry exemplifies restoration–He restores people physically and spiritually in His healing of the sick and demon possessed. As Christians, we have been restored–made new. The album’s final track sums up the bible’s theme of Restoration excellently.
The album has a classic boom bap Hip Hop sound overall, with a welcome lack of pop-orientated beats, making for an authentic aesthetic which could not be faulted by rap purists, whether secular or not. Tim is well known for his excellent lyricism and on this album, as represented by the quotes included in this review, he doesn’t disappoint–he often leaves the listener marveling at the way he plays with words and constructs complex rhymes whilst still conveying truckloads of meaning.
Despite the album Killing Sin having a very gospel-centered approach to dealing with sin, it would seem that, like many of us, Timothy had a very self-centered approach in actuality. On ‘The All Sufficiency of Christ’ (the first full track on this new LP) Timothy explains
Our help is not in 12 steps…’cause with self-help, guess what? You’re helpless… Only Jesus Christ himself can save us from ourselves and hell’s depths. So what’s the remedy for your sinning? Is it in performance-driven moralism? It’s only falling on the Lord who’s risen, whose infinite grace is of course sufficient…
Things have clearly changed in Timothy’s life and it is this message which is of utmost importance to us all, regardless of what our sins are. All too often we as Christians can rely on ourselves to conquer sin, when actually it is only Christ for whom this is possible.
The album sticks closely to its theme and if not listened to carefully, the individual point of each track could be lost on the listener, instead making the album sound repetitive. On ‘The Darkness of My Heart’ Timothy discusses the root of his failures concluding that it’s nature, not nurture whilst outlining more of his condition prior to restoration. This theme is repeated on “I’m The Problem’ where he expands and admits that “often we wanna be God… my favorite God is self.” ‘The Compassion of Christ’ explains simply, but in great detail, how Jesus redeems–its focus brings to mind the words of Jesus “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” ‘The Great Exchange Pt. 1’ continues explaining the finished work of God the Son and ‘Means of Grace’ tells of how Jesus’s life, death and resurrection was made possible--because God is gracious.
The standout track is ‘The Daily Gospel’ as it puts in a nutshell the album’s message and it celebrates all that God has done for us. With its feel-good vibes it conveys the joy which we should have in our restoration. ‘Christ Restores… (My Identity, Affections & Image)’ continues with the celebration as Zae Da Blacksmith and Stephen the Levite join in to outline more of the outcome of restoration. ‘What Great Love Is This?!? (Adoption)’ is another sunshiny production on which Timothy rejoices in the love of God and his adoption, whilst still dropping theological truths. ‘The Heart of Christ’ is part sermon, part Hip Hop worship track–a perfect combination. If the album lacks anything, then it is more of this joyful response to Christ’s word–the album very much focuses on documenting life before restoration (which means much of the album is quite dark) and the event of restoration.
Although this is a very personal album, Timothy brings guests on board reflecting the fact that he is not alone in being in need of restoration. In doing this he ensures that this album isn’t just seen as relevant to people going through the exact same problems that he had, but that it is applicable to all (the track ‘Mercy Music’ achieves this too as it directly challenges the listener to assess his own soul). Christian Hip Hop patriarch Phanatik (of The Cross Movement) and Timothy’s label-mate Json play different roles on ‘The Pharisee and the Tax Collector’ the three MCs put to rhyme Jesus’s parable (as told in Luke 18)–the lyrics “Lord I'm a sinner, no I’m not worthy, so I tell you that this man will be seen as just, instead of his deeds he looked to Yahweh to place his trust” show how this track fits so clearly with the album’s theme. All of Lamp Mode’s MCs appear on closing track ‘The Completeness Cypher’–another uplifting and celebratory song which rounds the album off nicely, directing the listener’s thoughts to the fact that through Christ we have completeness, and that in ourselves we will always be incomplete. Elsewhere Shai Linne, Tony of Hazakim and Beautiful Eulogy [editor: read Aiden’s review of their debut album here] contribute.
In conclusion, The Restoration is somewhat of a landmark in CHH, as it openly and honestly addresses difficult and uncomfortable issues that are so easily skirted around by rappers in order to maintain a reputation and an audience. Timothy Brindle selflessly proclaims the grace of God, the all-sufficiency of Christ and the powerful works of the Holy Spirit appealingly in plain terms and I believe that in its clear presentation of the real Gospel this album could be soul refreshing for many.
Aidan Severs is a teacher by day. Rap fan by night. Husband of one. Father of two girls. Living in Yorkshire, UK and serving at South Craven Evangelical Church. Lover of fine food, German cars and Inline Skating. You should read his blog Beats, Rhyme, and Christ if you’re interested in hip hop and Christ.