Debtor – Dead to the World EP

By Ryan G

If you want to get pumped up to some Spirit-filled hardcore, this new EP by Debtor is filled with thrilling moments.

Debtor is band I wouldn’t know if not for Audiofeed Festival in central Illinois. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard me talking about this festival virtually nonstop for the last few years. They are known for booking provocative bands and bringing together Christ-centered community in a way I’ve seen no one else do it. Debtor is here to join that cause (which really goes beyond one festival) in a very brutal way. I wish they were playing the festival this year after hearing this EP (maybe next year!).

To understand how the band is provocative, you need look no further than the cover art. A figure crucified upside down is super imposed onto a crudely drawn peace symbol. Is this Christ because He is the Prince of Peace or is this figure St Peter because he was crucified upside down? I’m not sure. But in their own way both seem appropriate. Peter, in his last moments, declared he was dead to the world by forfeiting any last appearance of pride, even in a dark moment.

Hardcore music is a genre that holds a place near and dear to the hearts of many. Central to the culture is being able to communicate joy and anguish, often concurrently. Debtor pulls this off nearly flawlessly across 4 tracks encompassing about 12 minutes. The titular track of sorts focuses on the concept of dying to self and the challenges therein: “20 YEARS WALKING ON THE NARROW PATH / STILL I REAP WHAT I SOW FROM THE SINS OF THE PAST / DEVIL’S GUN TO MY HEAD, DON’T BLINK LIFE OR DEATH EVERY DAY.”

With this awareness of one’s own corruption, and the joy from walking in the light on my mind, the following track “Burned Over District” communicates a sense of foreboding and desperation. I need the sustenance of my Lord to avoid temptation each day, but also I can rest in the fact that He has my back – I don’t have to rely on my own efforts. But nonetheless sometimes it sucks. In moments of vulnerability I’ve screamed out to God about my own flaws and yelled at Him for letting me have those proclivities. But, as the song concludes with a cry of hope: “OUR TIME WILL COME TOGETHER UNDER YOUR SUN OUR TIME WILL COME HAND IN HAND WE’LL SING YOUR SONGS OUR TIME TO BURN.”

The third track compares the darkness of daily existence to the suffering of Christ on the cross. A downbeat foundation invites the listener to get lost in the music and the live music spectator to thrash in the tension.

The final track, “Holy Garb,” invites the listener to completely yield their pride with a harsh truth. The final stanza declares, “EVERY DEED LAID BARE REVEALED, DISPLAYED, EXPOSED AT THE JUDGMENT THRONE / EVERY DEED LAID BARE EVERYTHING CONCEALED IN HOLY GARB WILL BE REVEALED.” Surrender to God and embracing Christ’s sacrifice for us is crucial. The vocals here are some of the most desperate and frantic of the entire EP – this is an uncomfortable subject! Knowing that ultimately our good deeds will not measure up against a Good God is not a popular thing to discuss. But, I am thankful for God’s grace that saves me from my own pride and uses even my good deeds that tainted by my selfish motivations to accomplish His purposes!

Dead to the World is an EP that is an enjoyable but not necessarily an easy listen. After finishing it, I’m left feeling a bit vulnerable and sad. Which, in this Lenten season, feels appropriate. Christ’s death is something to be mourned. After all, Jesus wept when Lazarus died. But, someday when all things are made new, I’ll be able to stand in the pit with my friends and hardcore dance to pure joy. I have no doubt the J Man himself will be right there with us. That’s his M.O. after all.

Check out the new Debtor EP today.

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