Praise Before My Breakthrough by Bryan & Katie Torwalt: Review
Bryan & Katie Torwalt are two of my favorite artists in the CCM game. I’ve always felt like their musical ideas were so innovative when compared to the standard cookie cutter, K-Love-type catalogue (no hate—by the way, if you’re wondering why I’m critiquing worship music when all of it is pleasing to God anyway, check out my blog post that’s literally called “Why I Review”). I’ve also always loved the authentic way in which they invite the Holy Spirit to do whatever He wants to do, and how they always declare the kingship of Jesus in their music.
The Torwalts announced last month that they would be releasing an EP titled Praise Before My Breakthrough, and that it was an EP about powerful declarations in the middle of a tough season. They said in an interview with CCM Magazine:
“These songs were all written or finished during this last season of life…They were our prayers and declarations as we were learning to praise while dealing with fear and anxiety in the middle of an extremely difficult pregnancy, the birth of our beautiful baby girl and navigating parenthood for the first time. It feels like a journey that God has had us on for awhile, and we finally began to get language for it along the way. This is us in the middle of it all, leaning in to God’s heart and voice, trusting in His love and goodness.”
Here’s my take on Praise Before My Breakthrough.
I really love how declarative this song is. The gospel harmonies that come in the chorus and at the end of the track feel almost like a battle cry, and they remind me a lot of the corporate worship that happens at the end of “Praise Will Be My Song” off of Champion, or several of the songs from United Pursuit’s Simple Gospel (Live), one of my favorite albums of all time.
Favorite lyric: “You give life no man can take, no power in hell could separate. And who can stand against Your might, with armies of angels by my side?” Wow, what a powerful image, and an awesome reality.
Favorite musical moment: Without a doubt, my favorite musical moment in “My Hallelujah” is any time the gospel harmonies come in. I also really like the choice of percussion throughout the song.
Be With Me
Ah, we love a good 6/8 song. “Be With Me” gives me serious “You and Me” by Lifehouse vibes (c’mon, try singing the chorus of that song over the chorus of this one)—and maybe that’s the point. I mean, living a life with Jesus is experiencing the greatest love, right? I can definitely see myself playing this in the background as I pray during my personal quiet time, or as I journal about how loud and distracting the world is and how much I long to just hear God’s voice.
The chorus is simple, and I honestly don’t know if that works in the Torwalts’ favor. If a chorus or bridge is as simple as the one in “Be With Me”, I typically prefer for the words to be more…powerful? A song that I feel does this really well throughout is “Saviour King” by Hillsong Worship.
Anyway, “Be With Me” is a really sweet, personal song, and I love the way it builds and swells. I feel like the authority in the bridge makes up for what the rest of the track might be lacking (and the corporate worship comes back in the bridge, too!!)
Favorite lyric: “In Your presence, I know where I stand. I know who I am in Your love. In Your presence, what more could I need? I know I’m a child of God.” This is a really powerful bridge that for sure gives me “No Longer Slaves” feels.
Favorite musical moment: I really enjoy the dulcimer (?…my friend, Naomi, and I spent forever trying to figure out what the instrument might be and this was our best guess) playing in the background of each chorus. You can hear it really clearly coming into the first chorus at around 0:40.
Praise Before My Breakthrough
From the first verse, I could already tell that the power of this song was going to come from the authenticity of writing about the feeling of reaching the end of your rope, and turning to God in surrender. It reminds me a lot of the bridge of “I Breathe You In, God” from another Torwalt album, Here On Earth (“When I don’t understand, I will choose You / When I don’t understand, I will choose You / When I don’t understand, I will choose to love You, God”).
I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of this track because it thematically reminded me so much of “I Breathe You In, God”, and that song has a special place in my heart, but it’s growing on me a lot the more I listen to it. The bridge also reminds me a lot of something Elevation Worship would write (think “Do It Again” and the bridge of “Won’t Stop Now”), so that’s a win in my book. I think I would just prefer if there was more of a climax to the song. It seems to rise only as far as “Be With Me” did, and I personally feel like there was potential to do more, given the lyrical nature of this song.
Favorite lyric: “When I’m holding up my hands, when I’m counting every breath, Lord, all I need to know is You choose me. You choose me.” Man, sometimes when you feel like the entire world is against you, that’s all you need to hear. You just need to know that even though someone you love/opportunity/society rejects you, you are considered precious enough for Jesus to think of as He hung on the cross. I also love the idea of bringing our hearts to The Lord (re: the end of the chorus). So often, our hearts don’t feel naturally inclined to worship, and we, in our fatigue and hopelessness, need to drag our hearts to God and say, “Here. Everything really sucks right now. I need You.”
Favorite musical moment: I really love when Katie sings, “I will bring my heart, I will lift my song,” in her falsetto. We hear Katie belt so often throughout the Torwalts’ discography that we rarely hear vulnerability in her voice, which makes this rare instance so special.
Arms of Grace
“Arms of Grace” gives me a very Loft Sessions feel (think “Draw Near”), and I love it. Side note: I don’t know what’s shuffling around at 0:19, but I like how organic the recording sounds.
To me, this track kind of just ends up sounding like what “Be With Me” might sound like if it was in 4/4 and not in 6/8. We hear some of the same percussive effects from “My Hallelujah” and the dulcimer from “Be With Me” (still unsure about attributing that sound to that instrument, by the way) in the second chorus of this song. Unfortunately, it also follows the same buildup technique that the other songs on this EP use, and the texture sounds too similar to that of the other songs, so it doesn’t really stand out in my memory.
Favorite lyric: I love the line, “Bring your battle scars, He’ll embrace them.” Anything that shuts down the idea that we can only approach God once we’re perfect and spotless is great to me. Our God is a God who fights for the oppressed, loves those in tattered clothing, and comforts the weary. Because of Jesus, our Heavenly Father sees us by our sonship, and not by our sin.
Favorite musical moment: Bryan’s over here killin’ it with his falsetto at the end of the chorus, too! We stan.
Prophesy Your Promise
The lyrics of this track are great; I will say that over and over again. Despite that, I think it’s a little too similar to “My Hallelujah” in content. On a full-length album, I might expect to find only one song with this message, much less on a five-track EP. But maybe it was an intentional decision on the Torwalts’ part that “My Hallelujah” opens the EP and “Prophesy” closes it, just to remind the listener of what they were trying to achieve through these five songs.
Favorite lyric: The way I went about picking my favorite lyrics from “Prophesy Your Promise” was sort of like when you’re reading an article for school and you have to highlight the important parts, but by the end of it, you realize that you’ve highlighted every other line. There are so many phenomenal lyrics in this song. I especially love the pre-chorus and the second verse, and the first time I saw one of the Torwalts post the lyrics to the bridge on Instagram, I was honestly in shock.
“Fear can go to hell
Shame can go there, too
I know whose I am
God, I belong to You.”
There’s so much boldness and, honestly, *edginess* to those lyrics that I wish other worship songs would have. Fear and shame are, often times, frequent companions on our journey through life that we forget where they truly belong—in the depths of hell. I love the indignant anger, and the declaration of God’s supremacy in those lines. It reminds me a lot of “Not Today” by Hillsong UNITED, one of my favorite songs of 2017.
Favorite musical moment: I really love the way each pre-chorus is sung, and I think Katie really does a really great job overall on this track. The strings are also a beautiful touch.
I enjoy this EP, but I’m still trying to figure out how it stacks up to the Torwalts’ previous albums. I think I like that there are a few new ideas on Praise, but I think they could’ve explored more thematically and musically within these five songs. My personal preference for songs/bodies of work that are meant to be more vulnerable and intimate is for them to sound way stripped down like Steffany Gretzinger’s The Undoing, or for them to sound as organic as “Praise Will Be My Song” did. I personally feel like if that’s what the Torwalts were aiming for in terms of tone, they’ve sort of found themselves in a weird middle ground with this EP, where the content is intimate but there’s still a lot of production. Nevertheless, I definitely see this EP blessing lots of people who are struggling to lift their hands in praise as they await breakthrough that feels long overdue. I’m really appreciative of the Torwalts’ effort in bringing listeners to that place of surrender through a five-song journey.