Hillsong United launches Zion with an ethereal cloud of sound that gives way to alternately soft breathy verses and percussive, synthy beat-laden choruses on “Relentless, the album’s opening track. And it is a harbinger of things to come. The album has an alternately grand/huge and intimate quality, long stretches of synth soaked atmospherics and celestial haze, revolving pads, ascents, swirling keys, pulsing/pounding drums—guitars take a backseat. Whether this corresponds to your preferred style or not, one has to respect the commitment that Hillsong United made to a particular artistic path. As usual this is a team affair, with different leaders fronting each song, and multiple writers.
The quality of melody and lyric sometimes gets lost in the multi-layered mist, but these are some of United’s strongest lyrical/melodic blends to date: “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail),” “Nothing Like Your Love,” “A Million Suns,” “Tapestry.” One fresh and refreshing song is followed by another. “Mercy, Mercy” and “Arise” are simply stunning, as is the first single “Scandalous Mercy,” that paints an exquisitely moving picture of the cross and our worshipful response.
Zion may come from what is considered Hillsong’s youth side, but adapt the arrangements to your preferred style, and you’ll find songs across generations and traditions to honor God and transform hearts.
More: The grandeur, depth, unabashed awe, hope, emotionally and theologically rich worship at the heart of this album is simply beautiful.
Less: The production sometimes becomes the jewel rather than the setting and directs focus away from the content of these truly gorgeous songs.