Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hillsong United: AFTERMATH Review


Today, Hillsong United is celebrating the release of their second studio album Aftermath. Aftermath shares the "second half" of the gospel: First Jesus came, died, and rose again, but now we are living in the aftermath of it. The Holy Spirit is in us now, and we are called to go out into all the world and preach the gospel. Hillsong United's Aftermath does not sound extremely similar to previous projects from this group, especially because most of the album was on the slower side of things. However, Aftermath, led by Joel Houston, Jad Gillies, and Jonathan (JD) Douglass, and featuring appearances from others (most notably Jill McCloghry), is sure to make an impression on the long-time Hillsong United fan with it's timeless message of God's presence here with us.

I was at first slightly disappointed with the slower opening of Aftermath, largely because of the anthemic worship tracks such as "Break Free" that I am used to hearing from Hillsong United. "Take Heart" begins Aftermath, sounding quite a bit like a previous hit, "You Hold Me Now," and speaks of how God has overcome the world including all of our hurts, failures, and fears. The track did progress a bit to a beautiful worship song with the bridge being the definite highlight. "Go" took off more in the direction I was hoping to see Hillsong United go, with a high-energy track with booming percussion, singing of complete surrender to God: "We're giving it all away, away!/ We're giving it all to go your way." Energy-wise, "Go" was the most upbeat track on Aftermath, and is definitely one that most long-time Hillsong United fans will connect to most.

"Like An Avalanche" was one of two tracks led by Jill McCloghry, the only female singer who appeared on Hillsong United's second studio record. Ironically, both songs sung by Jill were the two tracks that I connected with most easily, as their timeless messages were very heart-felt, and I very much enjoyed watching these tracks progress by the arrival of the easy-to-remember bridges. "Rhythms of Grace" is a beautiful worship song about how there is no one like Jesus, as the highlight of the track proved to be the piano act in the bridge of the track.

The title track wasn't my favorite off the album, but is it memorable for one reason: it is led by Marty Sampson. Marty literally hasn't appeared on any Hillsong projects for a few years, so his unmistakable voice was very enjoyable in this powerful song about the effect of the gospel on our lives: "In a moment of glorious surrender. You were broken for all the world to see. Lifted out of the ashes. I am found in the aftermath." Clearly, the highlight of this track was again the bridge which brought things to a catchy, slightly electronic sounding drum with these inspiring lyrics: "And I know that You’re with me/ Yes I know that You’re with me here/ And I know You’re love will light the way." "B.E. (Interlude)" provides a three minute flashback to Hillsong's A Beautiful Exchange album, perfectly complimenting the title track in similar melody and tempo.

"Bones," again led by Jill McCloghry, was perhaps my favorite track on Aftermath, speaking of how God breathes life in our dry bones and works through us to make His will be done. The track builds to a very enjoyable contemporary tempo, as Jill sings the most powerful lyrics of this song: "Oh Jesus, alive in me." The bridge follows, being very catchy and easy to sing along to. "Father," led by Joel Houston, is a deep, heart-felt track speaking of following wherever God chooses to have us, and seemed to be a perfect part two to "Aftermath": "Father, let heaven and earth collide in the endless wonder/ of Your love upon the cross/ We will follow/ And offer this life forever/ To see Your love unfold/ Adopted as Your own/ Alive to make You known/ Now this means love..."

"Nova" begins with a booming drum beat that sounds similar to that of Michael W. Smith's renowned hit "Secret Ambition," and is an upbeat cry to God for Him to come and pour out His glory on us. "Light Will Shine" could have easily been part two of the preceeding track, as the noticable bass and fist-throwing tempo continue the lyrics of the previous track. As with many Hillsong United tracks, I very much enjoyed the fill-ins that this group has, as I also enjoyed the anthemic bridge: "We are devoted/ whoa-oh-oh/ we are devoted to You!"

Hillsong United's radio hit from Aftermath, "Search My Heart" follows, led by Matt Crocker. "Search My Heart" proved to be another highlight of the album for me, as Matt sings an honest prayer to God, asking Him to search our hearts and take out anything that is not of Him. It also reminds us that we are nothing apart from Christ, and that He is the reason we exist on this earth. "Awakening" was also very enjoyable, sung by one of my favorite Hillsong United singers -- Jad Gillies. I have always loved the self-lessness that Jad shows through his singing, which made "Awakening" very special on the album. Also, "Awakening," written by Chris Tomlin and Reuben Morgan, also appeared on Chris's And If Our God is For Us album. I enjoyed both versions, although I would have to say that I enjoyed the piano asset on Chris's song more. Especially highlighted is the powerful bridge: "Like the rising sun that shines/ From the darkness comes a light/ I hear Your voice say this is my awakening." Finally, "Search My Heart," the radio version, ends Hillsong United's Aftermath album. This version was little more than a shorted, edited version, which is more radio-suitable than the original version featured on this album as well.

It took me a little getting used to the sound of Hillsong United's Aftermath album, mainly because most of the songs were on the slower, more Hillsong Live-like worship side of things. Nevertheless, there are many highlights from this album, including "Bones," "Like An Avalanche," "Search My Heart," "Awakening," and "Go," that are sure to leave you coming back for more. This is a sure hit for the Hillsong United lover, and is definitely one for worship fans to add to their CD collection.

Rating: 4/5
Release date: February 15, 2011

1. Take Heart
2. Go
3. Like An Avalanche
4. Rhythms of Grace
5. Aftermath
6. B.E. (Interlude)
7. Bones
8. Father
9. Nova
10. Light Will Shine
11. Search My Heart
12. Awakening
13. (Bonus) Search My Heart (Radio Edit)

8 comments:

  1. Aye, it was great to have Jill and Marty back! Incidentally, my favorites so far are Bones and Aftermath (what awesome songs!), with probably Light Will Shine following.

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  2. Very good review. I enjoyed it. I am looking forward to hearing the new Hillsong United album. I know I love Search My Heart and Go. Looking forward to hearing the other songs on the album.

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  3. I know it! I missed Brooke, too! :(

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  4. Unfortunately this album didn't hit the spot for me. The instrumentation is top notch as usual, but the songwriting is pretty bland. My mom observed how short modern songs are on melody, and she's right.

    The album's style reminds me a little bit of MercyMe in some ways, and in other ways of Jars of Clay Monsters.

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  5. Love Brooke Frasers voice but Jill Mc's voice is unbelievable as well!! Would have to say the two songs that she sings are my favourites on this album

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  6. Are you sure Aftermath is Marty and not Reuben?

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  7. Yes... positive! I looked it up several times! :)

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