Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hillsong UNITED: New Album Review

Aftermath--Hillsong United, $13.99

Editor's Note: Check this out on 90&9 for pictures and a review from Hillsong United's 2010 tour.

(Reviewer’s Caveat: To be honest, this isn’t my favorite genre. So take that into consideration as you read.)

Have you ever fought the urge to laugh while singing “At the Cross” on a Sunday morning? Don't look so shocked! You know the line I mean:

Would He devote that sacred head

For such a worm as I?

No denying the truth behind the sentiment, but it delivers such a funny image in such a straight-faced, melancholy way.

On a related note, this may be one of my biggest problems with Hillsong music. It takes everything so seriously. Everything is earnest to the tenth degree, and the new album Aftermath by Hillsong United is no exception.

This group evolved from the youth movement of the famous Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia. Aftermath is their first new release in over two years. It focuses on the apparent contradiction that the unspeakable tragedy of the cross created an aftermath of hope.

The music itself is very well done. The arrangements make the most of the material. They often start simply and build with moving crescendos. The repetitive motifs with the guitars get a bit annoying, but the overall sound is high quality. A mix of soloists, both male and female, take turns singing the smooth, silky melodies.

The lyrics are more milkshake than filet mignon, sweet and bland. You probably won’t hear anything you haven’t heard before regarding grace, love, and stars in the sky. And the false rhymes sound a bit lazy. “Shoulders” and “daughters” is not the cleverest match. Aftermathskims along, never quite touching a deeper chord. Perhaps that’s a point in its favor. It’s easy to ignore the words and just exist in an atmosphere of worship. Tune out and tune in.

I’m not saying every song needs a punch line, but even Jesus spoke to everyday people in words they could understand, with mental pictures that tickled their imaginations: a rich man being compared to a camel, a clueless hypocrite with a beam in his eye, a blind man leading another blind man into the ditch. Aftermath lacks this humorous creativity.

Although this album may be uber-serious, it is sincere. But if you like grandiose metaphors comparing God’s love to natural disasters (e.g. hurricanes, avalanches, etc.), then this might be the album for you.

Reviewed by Shannon Dunlap

UPDATED: Aftermath debuted at No. 1 on multiple international retail charts. (But you've probably already heard their first single "Search My Heart" on Christian radio.)

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