One of the first big-ticket worship album releases of 2019 comes from CCM veteran John Waller. Having garnered much fame from his radio hits "The Blessing" and "While I'm Waiting" (both excellent offerings), it's clear that Waller is hoping to strike gold once more with his latest endeavor, Explosions of Light. As his eighth studio album since going solo, Explosions lays bare the common struggle artists often face at this point in their careers: relevancy.
Opening with electronically-charged "You Say I Am," Waller's intentions become clear right off the bat. The lyrics fall short of Waller's past offerings, with the song essentially repeating the lines "because You are who You say You are / I am, I am who You say I am." Discerning between the opening track and the follow-up title track is somewhat difficult, but at least a slight lyrical improvement is in order: "Come Jesus, light the fire in the night / You are explosions of light / light darkness with Your glory / You are explosions of light."
The third track, "Awakening," seems to be neatly ripped from Francesca Battistelli's playbook. This is neither good nor bad, but it does come across as somewhat cliché. "Epic" is a generic-sounding worship piece, but it's well-crafted and superior to many of its contemporaries. At this point, thankfully, Explosions of Light vastly improves. "Mama's Prayers" is a sweet Waller-esque song which carries a slight country vibe and lovely lyrics. "Mine" is a clever and sweet folk-rock song and is one of the recommended album highlights.
The next two tracks, "Comeback" and "When God Says No," don't stand out as particularly memorable songs, but they're enjoyable and harken back to Waller's earlier projects. "Good News" is an excellent worship song, and the contemplative "I Choose You" is a beautiful piece with carefully constructed lyrics: "I choose You / all of my attention, affection, all my devotion's for You / If everybody's worshiping something, I choose You." The closing track, "Here's My Yes," sounds similar to some of Chris Tomlin's best pieces and is worth a few listens. I'm often not a fan of the contemporizing and insertion of traditional hymns into modern worship music, but Waller does an exceptional job of just that here with "'Tis So Sweet."
In summary, Explosions of Light is one of Waller's shortest offerings to date. This, in addition to an overreliance on synthetic and electronic elements, greatly detracts from what the album could have been. Frontloading the album with fewer standout tracks also causes the gems later on to fall by the wayside. Ultimately, Explosions of Light is an acceptable album which neither raises nor lowers the bar for the remainder of 2019. Current and past fans will find some enjoyable tracks, but this likely won't serve as an adequate entry point for new listeners.- Review date: 1/24/19, written by David Craft of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Radiate Music
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