Reviewed by Tony Cummings
One American journalist spelled it out recently. "Over their 15-year history Hillsong United has released a boatload of live albums, most of which sound nearly identical." Hard though it is to say, considering the Australian aggregation's huge contribution to modern worship, their live albums have become extremely formulaic. But now, after a time away from the gruelling touring, Joel Houston and co have returned with this studio set which is a complete overhaul of their musical approach and in doing so have released a peach of an album which fully deserves the honour of being the first number one on Britain's official Christian & Gospel chart. One of the key new elements in the band's revised sound is the addition to the lineup of keyboard player Benjamin "Tenni" Tennikoff whose angular synth lines bring new colourings to their powerhouse rock guitars while the use of acoustic guitar on a song like "Scandal Of Grace" gives the band an unexpected new folk sound. "Scandal Of Grace" movingly sung by Matt Crocker is one of the album's many standouts. Matt sings with joyful passion, "Grace what have you done/Murdered for me on the cross/The scandal of grace/You died in my place/Now my soul will love." "Oceans (Where Feet May Fall)" with its orchestral opening is equally poetic ("Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders/Let me walk upon the waters whenever you would call me"). With an intro as gentle as thistledown it builds to a sweeping climax. Other tracks are more immediate. The opener "Relentless" has synth and bass locked into a nagging riff, "Stay And Wait" has a hint of Coldplay while "Love Is War" offers a dazzling variety of synth sounds. Most important of all, the songs have rich potential to be used in the modern Church's conversations with God. Beautifully packaged, the deluxe version also contains a poster and a DVD which includes a Behind The Scenes Documentary, additional tracks and remixes. To end this review like I began, with a quote from an American journo, "The grandeur, depth, unabashed awe, hope, emotionally and theologically rich worship at the heart of this album is simply beautiful."
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