Most of the Christian music world first met Aaron Gillespie when Solid State Records signed a band called Underoath, for which he was the drummer and vocalist. Underoath got bigger and bigger, and Gillespie then formed his own solo venture, a pop punk band by the name of The Almost. Some time after Underoath's 2008 album, Lost in the Sound of Separation, Gillespie announced his departure from the band to focus on The Almost and a new project. After dabbling in death metal and hardcore and then the pop punk field, Gillespie has now ventured into another area: worship music. 2011 sees his debut worship album on BEC Recordings, Anthem Song.
There's not much to say about Anthem Song that hasn't already been said about countless other contemporary and worship albums. It's pretty standard material, which is extremely disappointing considering the immense talent that we have seen displayed from Gillespie in other projects. While it's clear that he's passionate about what he does, the music and lyrics remain rather unimaginative. He brings nothing to the table that you wouldn't get from a legion of Christian hit radio pop worship bands (or U2, which Gillespie has listed as an influence on his style). In fact, the album opener, "All Things," is led by some guitar that seems borrowed from U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)." Gillespie has also made it known that he's been inspired by Hillsong United, which presents itself pretty clearly throughout Anthem Song as well. The United influence is mainly heard in the music aspect, such as overused guitar lines and driving bass drums (rare, but present). Then there are tracks like "Anthem Song," where pretty much every bit of it (other than Gillespie's signature vocals) sound like they could fit on a United album.
Gillespie does have a couple shining moments on Anthem Song, though. The track "Washed Away" is a highlight amongst the rest. It's still not a great track, but it finds a way to stand out from the rest a little. The hook is pretty catchy, which may be the reason it sticks out. I do, however, enjoy the following track, "Earnestly I Seek Thee." It's a good rendition of an old hymn that may be the best track on the album. "You Are Jesus" has some catchy and well-played piano, sounding like something you might hear in a Poema song, but also has some keys and a southern-style guitar. The lyrics are also more on par with what we've come to expect from Gillespie, as are the lyrics to the next track, "You Are My Everything." Actually, this one may bring a smile to the faces of fans of The Almost. It's a little poppier than The Almost, but it's a nod in that direction.
Gillespie has already seen much popularity for Anthem Song's first single, "We Were Made For You," on Christian radio. He's bound to see a significant number of sales for Anthem Song from fans of his previous work (more so fans of The Almost than fans of Underoath, though I can picture Underoath's Christian fanbase possibly picking up Anthem Song as well), and he will gain new fans who listen to anything the radio feeds them, maybe even those who had never even heard the name Aaron Gillespie before. For fans seeking creativity in worship music (which is not a bad thing to desire), expectations may not be entirely met with this record. Much respect to Gillespie for making an album he's always wanted to make, but sadly, Anthem Song will be easy to pass on.
- PReview and Review date: 2/16/11, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com