Since 2014, Remedy Drive has been repurposing the usual trappings of a band’s career– their songs, shows, and merchandise– to become an amplifier for the anti-trafficking work of The Exodus Road. New album Imago Amor continues to tell the stories Remedy Drive began with Commodity and The North Star.
Three albums in to exploring these specific kinds of themes, the challenge that faced Remedy Drive was to create songs that did not feel like retreads of old territory. To keep the energy fresh, frontman David Zach creatively reunited with his brother (and original Remedy Drive member) Philip Zach. The result is a rich, layered album that the pair has described as a collection of love songs.
Specifically, these love songs ask a question in two parts: what does it look like to be made in the image of love, and how do we recognize and restore that image in the world?
Lead single “Dragons” begins to address that question with an anthem for adventurers. In a culture where we often live numbed-out and complacent, “Dragons” is a reminder that there are still epic quests to be had– foes to be fought that are as fierce as any dragon. The intensity of the lyrics is backed by searing guitar tones and a melody that rides the raw edge of David Zach’s voice.
“In the valley of the shadow
It’s the starlight that guides us
In the alleys of the neon glow
In the pathways of the righteous
Our love is forged you see
In the furnace of adversity.”
The rest of the album begins to unearth what adventure-seekers can expect to uncover in the uncharted waves of this world. As title track “Imago Amor” reveals through a gentle ballad of revelation, if you dare to venture into the perilous unknown, chances are that you’ll discover the image of love shining in the dark. “We are made for each other in the image of love,” the cinematic, celebratory chorus sings. This song identifies each one of us as the relational nature of God continually incarnated on earth, walking in the footsteps of Christ. “Lovely” follows close behind, a song that calls out the sacred dignity of the girls The Exodus Road works to free in Southeast Asia and Latin America. “I want more for you than this life,” the song tenderly begins, a declaration that could be sung from the heart of God Himself.
Some of that same tenderness weaves its way through “Caravan Princess” (a song with a subtle musical flavor that transports the listeners to the locales that inspired this album) and stripped-back “Candle.” These are songs that feel made to sing from the darkest places on earth, songs that prove that sometimes defiance comes in the form of gentleness and grace.
However, Imago Amor certainly holds a prophetic bite as well. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, the lyrics Zach penned operate with the understanding that justice is innately restorative. That restoration of the image of God requires sacrifice: sacrifice of the old patterns of thinking, sacrifice of the privileges bought by oppression. “Using My Name” is a divine lament, grieving the rampant nationalism and institutionalized injustice in Western Christianity. If it feels like an uncomfortably direct call out, it should. It’s directly stitching together the timeless words of the prophets.
“For your rights and privilege
You trade prophetic witness
For economy and prosperity
You have betrayed
Me with your kisses.”
“Pax Melodiam” is a delightfully gritty rock track built around keen insight. As distorted guitars spiral and build, the lyrics draw parallels between the historic Pax Romana (peace of Rome) and current “pax Americana” (peace of America). Both are identified as counterfeit “peace” predicated on the oppression of the vulnerable. It’s a keen inditement of our apathy. “Burn Bright” is a song that turns its attention away from the slavers to the enslaved, giving voice to captives throughout history. This fierce, towering song cries out full of their courage and resilience.
Musically, Imago Amor feels like a natural progression from the two albums that proceeded it, deepening the dynamic and textures that Remedy Drive has been experimenting with for the better part of a decade. That same maturation is evident in both the substance and the form of the lyrics. David Zach has always had a poetic bent in his songwriting, but here the ability to capture the otherworldly in words is on display at a new level. “Time” is a tightly-written track that explores themes of time, of lost innocence, of redemptive urgency. Album closer “Blue” paints a startlingly lovely portrait in the color of metaphor, singing “Blue like the dawn / Like the wild morning glory / Your eyes sings your song / And your smile tells your story.”
The spirit of adventure and trailblazing captured in “Dragons” is one that ultimately marks the approach of this album as a whole. The concept of being created in the image of God is one that has often been cheapened and reduced to a convenient talking point in arguments to be won. With Imago Amor, Remedy Drive uncovers what is truly at stake if we believe that everyone is created in the image of Love. Goodness, truth, healing, beauty– they are woven through the fabric of this world, shining in the face of the forgotten, the enslaved, the downtrodden. These songs ask if we’re brave enough to go looking for them, brave enough to play a part in the incarnational love that is still making all things new.