As time has proven, Hillsong United is not your typical worship band and their latest project only proves it all the more.
Zion, the followup album to the group’s 2011 Aftermath, has a unique sound that is all its own. For those who think worship music is boring, this album is for you.
While the album isn’t fast-paced, the electronic, almost dub-step tinged music is creative and inventive. It’s definitely not your daddy’s worship music from decades ago.
Even the band’s website’s approach of introducing the members is totally unheard of. Each musician is featured splattered with paint. This is something you might find on a secular album, but a worship album? It seems to fit the theme of Zion.
“Committed to creating a musical expression that is almost uncomfortable in its uniqueness, our mission is to write songs that awaken churches and individuals to the fact that we are redeemed and called into the story of God. Everything we do is an expression of a really extraordinary God doing what only He can do through really ordinary people who love Him, want to serve Him and want to build His Church. To simply serve God and allow Him to do what only He can do has always been the team’s desire.” —Joel Houston, musician, songwriter, pastor and leader of the Australia-based band.
Hillsong United, a worship band from Hillsong Church in Sydney, was formed in 1998 and has remarkably released a new album almost every year since. Zion is the group’s 12th full-length album and third studio recording.
Each song features a long instrumental segment that displays United’s artistic talent and range. Houston says, “The album was birthed out of our cry, ‘God I want to be a part of what it is You’re doing. 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.’”
To listen to Zion is to begin a musical journey. It is a journey that lasts over an hour from beginning to end. The album begins with the song, “Relentless,” which has a distinct 80s electro feel to it. The guys whisper the following lyrics, a message of truth:
Salvation sounds a new beginning, As distant hearts begin believing
Redemption’s bid is unrelenting, Your love goes on, Your love goes on
You carry us, Carry us
When the world gives way, You cover us, Cover us
With Your endless grace
Some have criticized the group for having simple lyrics in the past. This time though, the lyrics are simple and yet profound, much like the Bible which inspired them.
“With this project, we made a very simple decision not to compromise,” said Houston in a February interview. “Not on anything: the lyric, the sound, the devotion and the story behind each and every song and moment carries a weight, confession and beauty that comes from knowing God is in this. That doesn’t mean the album is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe it represents the true heartbeat of really ordinary people who in desperate need and passionate response to their Savior, chose to give the best that we could, and we were aggressive in our pursuit of that above all else.”
Perhaps the song with the strongest message is “Scandal of Grace,” whose lyrics are both comforting and sobering at the same time:
The day and its trouble shall come, I know that Your strength is enough
The scandal of grace, You died in my place, So my soul will live
The longest song on the album, “Oceans: Where Feet May Fail,” is almost nine minutes in length, so don’t expect to hear all of it on the radio. Ironically, the album’s namesake song is the shortest and has no lyrics at all, but is completely mesmerizing as it builds.
The album isn’t for everyone. If you need your toe to be tapping the whole time you listen, you will be disappointed. Still, Zion has its own mood to create a musical journey. A journey that is long, but is one worth taking.
Zion comes in “two sizes;” regular and deluxe. Both feature 13 tracks and over an hour music. The deluxe version includes bonus songs, remixed versions and the video, Welcome to Zion.
For the Hillsong fans and worship music lovers out there, this one’s definitely might be worth checking out.