Album review: Zion by Hillsong United
Hillsong United is a Christian band that originally rose out of the youth ministry of Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia.
This progressive worship band is a global recording and touring entity sent out to share the ever-evolving worship music of Hillsong Church to an international audience through live performances and records.
United desires to see a generation across the earth awakened to real love, rising up with hearts as one and finding value in the broken, hurting and lost connecting with Jesus.
Two years after their No. 1 international hit and highest-selling album to date “Aftermath,” Hillsong United drops their third studio album called Zion (the other 10 albums being live recordings). Compared to the rest of their United albums and live recordings Zion is unique and matchless.
To label Zion as a fresh sound is to understate it’s originality.
“In the aftermath of Aftermath, we all took a little break and in that time caught a fresh vision for what it is that we do, why we do it, and what it means to be a part of the church,” United’s Joel Houston said.
“The album was birthed out of our cry, ‘God I want to be a part of what it is you’re doing,‘” he said.
“If that means write a song, we’ll write the best songs we can. If it means serving the poor and those who are hurting, then we’re going to do it better than we’ve ever done it before.’”
Noticeably different from past projects, Zion retains the indisputable feel of the band that has brought some of the world’s most sung praise and worship songs to the Church. The result is a collection of songs that takes the listener to the intimate core of uncluttered worship, and many tracks are set to become anthems of praise in churches and youth ministries across the globe.
Zion opens with Relentless, and Up In Arms, both songs have this classic and early 90’s pop/rock vibe yet the both sound particularly new and different. The vocals are highly unexpected, the raw husky sound quite brings a new sound that listeners wouldn’t have anticipated. Not forgetting the message of the songs: The love of God which is relentless and being in total awe of this love of God.
Bringing it back to the modern times is the very first single of the album Scandal Of Grace. The song written by Joel Houston and the song’s vocalist Matt Crocker. A great song about grace and the extent of God’s grace, visit here to watch the story behind the song.
Oceans (Where the feet fail) is a powerful worship tune and actually the first song on the album that has the potential of becoming an “anthem” in local churches and youth ministries. The song is performed in such a relaxed manner, this tune is jazzy and so congenial, loved the easy strokes of the piano keys and the easy on the ears voice of the singer. She sings “spirit lead me where my trust is without borders let me walk upon waters wherever you will carry…‘
The first few seconds of Stay and Wait almost sounded like Hillsong’s 2012 single Cornerstone but it actually took a retrospective direction. Same vibe as Relentless I may say, at this point one can notice a theme peculiar to the record.
Mercy Mercy calls on God to have mercy and arrest our heart, set us free and give to us His sufficient grace – it is a song cry. This song is indeed an ardent prayer and call to God which is sang with such longing and humility.
Jad Gillies performs Love is War and Nothing Like Your Love which I must say have outstanding arrangements, also the message and theological context of both songs are brilliant. Jad is a decent vocalist, but I kept waiting for that moment that he will blow me away vocally(over-expectant of me). Nothing Like Your Love is a song that I can picture thousands of people singing in a conference and getting blown away by it.
A Million Suns is yet another strong song, sang by Taya Smith and Jad Gillies. The song is a worship song like no other, exceptionally fresh and uncomprehendingly cutting edge.
Tapestry just like a million suns is a veritable doxology that brings praise and glory to God.
Arise which is performed by Joel Houston himself is my favourite song off Zion, maybe because it reminds me of Gungor, Civil Wars or Andrew Peterson: who all happen to be truly eccentric.
Another favorite of mine is King of Heaven. The subtlety, soul and passion behind this song is perfect, any worshiper will truly appreciate King Of Heaven as it will send shivers down the spine. On the other hand Mountain got me doing a little dance, the sound is so indie pop/ rock at the same time maintains that trademark element of all Hillsong United songs.
This is one of the most sincere Hillsong United album ever. Listeners are so used to hearing them do live music that a real studio album now sounds somewhat strange to the ears. It is safe to say that they make beautiful live music and the experience of being in a stadium worshiping (even though it’s in our minds eyes) totally tops it all.
Apart from the fact that Zion is a studio effort, Hillsong United went on a brave and bold path taking this direction on Zion. The sound and the vibe are so enthusiastic and original, Hillsong gave us indeed a studio album with impressively engineered songs, throwing in synthesizers, organs, stadium sounds and retro/neo keyboard sounds. They balanced the production ingeniously in such a way that the record doesn’t appear to be overproduced. I would say Hillsong took a gigantic risk with Zion and personally I think it was worth it!
Zion may or may not fascinate fans, but I am certain it will blow the minds of studio geeks and worship leaders.