Critical Mass, a Kitchener, Ont.-based Catholic rock band, has released a third CD with a definite jump into the rock/alternative genre. There is no doubt that from the beginning, Critical Mass has supported the pro-life cause. They were one of the first Catholic rock bands to be a part of Rock For Life (www.rockforlife.org) and are also an integral part of www.Standupgirl.com.
David Wang, songwriter and lead singer of the band, is a proud father of nine wonderful children and truly believes “in the Catholic church’s teaching with respect to abortion and contraception.” He lives out the pro-life message everyday and his gift for music is a perfect medium to spread the word to others. He feels that ultimately, “the message of the album is one of hope and redemption.”
The band’s latest CD, Grasping for Hope in the Darkness, is more than just a collection of songs. The songs are ordered in a way to tell a story – a story of anger, fear, temptation, confusion, hope, surrender, love and conversion.
Al is the main character. The obstacles in his life can easily mirror those in our own lives. It is Wang’s prediction that the album “will, and should, evoke strong emotions.” The issues dealt with in the songs are often avoided in real life, but Wang has decided, “It’s time to take a stand, to take a total stand now,” as highlighted in the song, Reverend Larebil.
Al neglects his only daughter for almost her entire life. When she becomes pregnant before marriage, Al’s advice – practically a demand – is for her to get an abortion immediately. However, she seeks solace with a neighbourhood priest, who counsels her to keep the baby.
The strong pro-life message throughout the CD is unmistakeable and the band is adamant about the importance of this message. Wang incorporated the pro-life message into the CD because he “needed to have a topic that would inflame emotions” and it was “an issue that just seemed natural.”
The songs also deal with addiction to pornography, the lies of “safe sex” and the recent abuse scandals that have plagued the Catholic church. On the CD insert, there are some song commentaries.
Wang understands the problem of struggling with pornography and says it is “one of the hardest sins to guard against, because we are inundated with explicit images everywhere we go.” In the song Reverend Larebil, the message is extremely clear – we should be sick of the lies of doctors, politicians and the media that promote “safe sex.” A verse from the song goes: “You keep promoting your safe sex/You just fuel the epidemics/There’s our STDs, like HPV and HIV/ The only cure is to be pure.”
A successful CD release concert for the new album was held Sept. 11 at the Waterloo Stage Theatre. Devine, a band consisting of former Critical Mass members, opened the show. Critical Mass played many of their new songs, as well as a few oldies from previous albums. They managed to get the audience up on their feet clapping and singing along. Roughly 150 people attended the show, from young children to older adults. You can purchase Grasping for Hope in the Darkness in the Critical Mass section of the website www.catholicrock.com. Upcoming tour dates can also be found there.
While Grasping for Hope is Critical Mass’s third CD, the members of the band have changed since their last album, Completely. The focus and purpose have also changed dramatically. On their first CD, Faith Looks Up, the focus was on making praise and worship music. Both past CDs were instant successes, getting airtime on radio and awards from the Canadian Gospel Music Association.
They had the opportunity to sing at the papal welcoming ceremony and at the papal vigil at World Youth Day 2002. It was shortly after that the band realized there were differing interests in the group.
“We decided to take a break and evaluate,” said Wang. “There were a couple of events after World Youth Day in which we expected the energy to continue and it didn’t. That did have an impact. That does play on your mind and we were all somewhat discouraged …
“Myself, I felt that Critical Mass wasn’t done. There was a lot of songs and messages inside of me that I wanted to get out. I really wanted to push some artistic boundariees.”
Wang is the lead singer in the current group and also the only founding member left. Other members have gone on to continue in their own music ministries.
“We had a set of studio musicians who played on the album and we’ll have another lineup for touring,” he said. “Two of the new members of Critical Mass are under the age of 25. They’re on fire for the church and for God. I think things are happening.
“This was a different Critical Mass album in that we went in with a concept for the storyline and lyrics … It was very experimental. It was an emptier canvas to start with and we hope people find the results rewarding.”
-With files by Tony Gosgnach.