Few people can really comprehend the dynasty that is Hillsong. They are able to put out album after album and garner more and more attention while not really altering their sound. However, recently they've been making some obvious changes. With Hillsong United's latest release, they tried some different takes on what the world recognizes as worship music. Does this trend continue onto God is Able? The ultimate decision belongs to the listener, but here's what I think...
The album opens with the building "Rise." Normally I would expect to hear the classic "thumpthumpthump" of a fast song within the first 10 seconds, but this time we are given a mid-tempo song that builds and builds. While it is a considerably long at over 6 minutes, it's a very effective opener as United front man, Joel Houston, proclaims that it's time for the Church to rise. The album continues with this mid-tempo feel for the first half of God Is Able. "The Lost Are Found" delivers the most different approach sonically with a delayed electric guitar and string section. The song carries a mellow feel for a majority of the track with beautiful lyrics about the Lord drawing people to Himself. It concludes with a very epic bridge as the Hillsong team and the crowd sing, "The lost are found, the blind will see, the lame will walk, the dead will live, and You our God, forever You will reign!" Even after the song seems to have ended the crowd continues to sing. Normally live albums can't capture these kinds of moments; I think this one did. When the crowd takes over, it becomes so much bigger than a worship service. It crosses the line into something heavenly.
The transition is seamless into the title track, "God is Able." While not the most original sounding track that Hillsong has put out, it is an incredibly encouraging song as it declares that God is with us. After this we are finally given two very upbeat and fast-paced songs with "The Difference," featuring worship leader J.D, and "Alive in Us," with worship legend Darlene Zschech. Musically, they don't offer anything that we haven't heard before, but it gives the album some life and is one of the reasons Hillsong continues to gain new listeners. However, the final track "The Cry of the Broken" is hands down one of the more impactful and different songs that Hillsong has produced in years. It begins with a gorgeous duet of piano and strings. The song points to our gratefulness to the Lord, but instead of sounding like typical happy praise and worship, it carries the feel of a lament. In my opinion, that makes it more honest and gives some weight to what the worship leader is singing.
So does the beautiful trend of different worship music, started by Aftermath, continue onto the newest Hillsong? Not really. While I'm able to point out the positive elements of the album, the rest of it doesn't really carry anything new. Some of the songs mentioned really are great, but three good songs out of eleven can't make up the difference nor should it. A large majority of the album feels like filler songs rather than something with sustenance. I know that during a worship service that that is not the case; the people behind those songs are truly worshiping the creator of the universe. But that's not what we are critiquing; we have to critique the music (the album as a whole, not just message or music). So, Hillsong fans, if you are hoping for Aftermath: Part 2, sadly, you will not find it here. If you want the album that won you over a few years ago - you've got it and you'll notice that it hasn't changed.
- Review date: 7/24/11, written by Ryan Barbee of Jesusfreakhideout.com