Hillsong “Zion” Review

Through the years, listeners have received multiple
offerings from the Australian mega church, Hillsong.
They have produced some of the most congregational
contemporary songs that are sung around the world
while also producing some of the most mundane
songs as well. However, after Hillsong United’s last
release Aftermath, there were some blazing
improvements that seemed to be signs of change.
With their latest album, Zion, there is not just
change, but a complete overhaul.
The album opens with the electronic-driven
“Relentless.” Musically, this sets the stage for the
entire album, which is a great thing, with the
synthesizer and bass filling every crevice of the track.
Vocally, Matt Crocker is at his finest and the
harmonies compliment his sound so perfectly.
Seamlessly, this transitions to the tribal yet militant
sounding “Up in Arms.” Lyrically, the song expresses
the believers’ response to the grace and beauty of
Christ. This theme is echoed in the songs “Stay and
Wait,” “Mercy Mercy,” “Heartbeats,” and “A Million
Suns.” But each track is distinctive in nature and
delivery, making them all very enjoyable.
“Scandal of Grace” introduces the soft sounds of
United as the acoustic guitar simply strums while
Crocker sings, “Grace what have you done. Murdered
for me on that cross… the scandal of grace, you died
in my place, now my soul will live.” It truthfully is
some of the most poetically sobering lyrics that the
group has written to date. “Oceans (Where Feet May
Fail)” continues with a more intimate tone and will
surely grasp the heart of the listener as the song
reiterates, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without
boarders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you
would call me.” The music builds and builds to a
gorgeous climax that will pull on your heartstrings
whilst being encouraged by the faith that only the
Holy Spirit can give.
An incredible highlight is “Love is War,” featuring
United veteran Jad Gilles. The track’s assertiveness is
excellent and bears a passionate chorus that is sure to
have listeners wanting to lift a clenched fist in the air.
Paired up with this track is “Nothing Like Your Love”
and the title track, “Zion.” Listening to them all
together, it feels as if they are just movements within
one large composition – which makes this portion of
the album that much more special.
The album concludes with another pairing of sorts–
think cheese and fruit–with “Tapestry” and “King of
Heaven.” The former delivers a more organic sound
that sings a simple praise of how delicate yet strong
the grace of God is and how it is weaved into our
lives. The latter and final track is a magnificent
conclusion to the album that sings of Christ’s tearing
of the veil between God and His creation. Either one
of these tracks could have concluded the album, but
I’m glad they chose the way in which they ended it.
As a special treat, listeners should skip buying the
normal edition and should instead get the deluxe
version. Tracks like “Arise” and “Mountain” offer
something outside the musical realm of Zion but fit
in well with the collection. Plus, the remixes are very
unique and creative.
Simply put, this album is pretty amazing. From
beginning to end, if you can’t find anything to like
then you probably aren’t sure what you’re looking for
in the first place. The production is so well executed
that, honestly, you might even question if you
purchased the right album because this ain’t your
old-fashioned Hillsong. If this album is the new
standard in “typical” worship music, or music in
general for that fact, then it can only go up from here.
Well done, Hillsong United, we tip our hats to your
art.

Over their fifteen-year
recording history,
Hillsong United has
released a boatload of live
albums, most of which
sound nearly identical. But
they’ve also released a
couple of studio albums,
where they’ve shown
potential as a band of
musical artists. Their last
such album, Aftermath,
had this decidedly non-
Hillsong fan tipping his
proverbial cap a little, and
with 2013’s studio album,
Zion, the cap is tipping just
a little bit more. Where
Zion first earns points with
me is that it reminds me
quite a bit of Lovelite’s
latest album, In Three
Persons. Some 80s pop era
synth is used throughout,
combined with thoughtful
indie pop that makes it a
real treat to listen to. The
second set of points that
Zion earns is due to the
lack of any songs along the
lines of previous United
songs like “Go,” “Freedom
Is Here,” or “One Way.” No,
United admirably steers
clear of the fast pulse-
inducing, marshmallow
fluff tracks, replacing them
instead with smart
songwriting and a stronger
emphasis on worshipping
Jesus through art than
merely with nice words
about Him. Of course, the
opening track “Relentless”
may make a valid case for a
rebuttal of that statement,
but musically, the new
wave influence overpowers
the powerpop. Now, with
all that being said, this is
still Hillsong United.
Despite the different sound,
it’s easy to tell that this is
the same band we’ve gotten
to know. The beginning of
the album is especially
telling, but all throughout
Zion, we hear melodies and
lyrics that have fallen right
off of the Hillsong tree, just
in much less abundance.
The first two tracks,
“Relentless” and “Up In
Arms,” are the worst
offenders, but I use the
term very loosely, as they’re
still decent and listenable.
The highlights of Zion
include “Stay and Wait,”
“Nothing Like Your Love,”
“Arise,” and the deluxe
edition remix tracks (for
lack of a better term). If
you’re like me, and the only
United album you’ve even
remotely cared for is
Aftermath, you’ll want to
check out Zion. Not only is
it the best album United
has ever released, it’s one of
the best mainstream
worship albums I’ve heard
in a long time. – Scott
Fryberger, 2/16/13
Record Label: Sparrow Records / Hillsong
Album length: 13 tracks: 70 minutes, 16 seconds
Album length: 18 tracks: 96 minutes, 59 seconds
(Deluxe)
Street Date: February 26, 2013
Buy It: iTunes
Buy It: iTunes (Deluxe)
Buy It: Amazon.com
Buy It: Amazon.com (Deluxe)
1. Relentless (5:09)
2. Up In Arms (4:28)
3. Scandal Of Grace (4:06)
4. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) (8:56)
5. Stay and Wait (5:13)
6. Mercy Mercy (4:41)
7. Love Is War (7:15)
8. Nothing Like Your Love (5:51)
9. Zion (Interlude) (3:32)
10. Heartbeats (3:53)
11. A Million Suns (5:06)
12. Tapestry (6:42)
13. King Of Heaven (5:29)
DELUXE BONUS TRACKS:
14. Arise (3:14)
15. Mountain (7:10)
16. Mercy Mercy (4:10)
17. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) (6:59)
18. Stay And Wait (5:11)

I Am TholhuGospel

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