ERIK THIEN


ZION | Hillsong United

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Zion began streaming free for a short time today on iTunes and I took some time to give it a good listen [album available now].  The new album by the UNITED guys is as beautiful as it is driving.  Many of the tracks are filled with crystal clean synths [which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone] and drenched with ambient vocals spilling out catchy melodies and lyrics that connect to the listener.  They are delving a little deeper into the ambient, experimental world of electronic blips and atmospheric soundscapes than ever before which I am not complaining about at all.  This album, more than any other, seems influenced by bands like M83, Cut/Copy, and Daft Punk which have been on playlists for years.  You could see it in their previous albums but Hillsong has shed it’s usual U2 gleanings and fully unleashed the space-pop beast that was lying dormant since the 80′s!

I am a fan of Michael Guy Chislett as a guitarist and a producer from his Hillsong participation to his side projects [The Academy Is...and NO].  The producer in him comes to life with the brilliant sonic layering and the conscious [I assume] choice to move more towards the electronica genre instead of a guitar driven album!

There is a new female vocalist, Taya Smith, who has such a strangely interesting tone and style that I was immediately captivated by it.  Her voice has elements of soul with strong phrasing placements and volume dynamics which made her parts stand out powerfully, especially the song Oceans [Where Feet May Fail].

Love Is War stuck out to me as one of the best songs on the album.  It begins with a stream chimes and pads that walks you into a thick wall of synths.  It’s propelling and keeps a steady pace through the rest of the song.  Lyrically it has a desperation of someone who is fighting to cling to God through trials and joining in the fight alongside God.

Personally, the most attractive thing about Hillsong UNITED is their ability to draw a theme together inside of their albums.  It’s almost as if a parade of individual songs is being rallied around a single vision.  Each song has it’s own identity AND has a connection to the greater picture being painted by the album as a whole.  Here is the track listing for the album.

  1. Relentless
  2. Up In Arms
  3. Scandal of Grace
  4. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
  5. Stay and Wait
  6. Mercy Mercy
  7. Love Is War
  8. Nothing Like Your love
  9. Zion (interlude)
  10. Hearbeats
  11. A Million Suns
  12. Tapestry
  13. King of Heaven
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