Hillsong United, Zion
The members of Hillsong United are masters at creating an atmosphere for modern worship to thrive. Their 12th release and third studio recording, Zion, continues to mark the Aussies as one of the most forward-thinking acts in Christian worship. The collective doesn’t follow trends, they create them.
The title of the album, a call to birth heaven on earth through God’s people, is apropos considering Hillsong United’s mission has always been focused on Kingdom work, whether it be reaching out to the poor, standing up for the oppressed or writing songs for the Church. Much like their press photos that depict the line-up amidst falling confetti and swirling hues, the musical landscape of Zion, recorded in both New York and Australia, is a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds all converging around the central, oftentimes hard-to-swallow truth of the Gospel.
Opening anthem “Relentless” unveils the first of 13 avant-garde tracks that oscillate between larger-than-life atmospheric cuts and raw, organic selections. It will soon have churches around the world chanting, “Your love is relentless.”
“Love Is War” and “Nothing Like Your Love” follow suit with declarations of loyalty to Christ. “Stay and Wait,” while mid-tempo, is a gem, giving voice to the deepest longings of a sinner’s heart with lines like: “Who loved me through my rebel way/ Who chose to carry all my shame/ Who breathes in me with endless grace/ The King of Glory Jesus Christ.”
First radio single “Scandal of Grace” and the stripped-down “Mercy Mercy” focus on the unmatched sacrifice of Christ, giving His death and our redemption poetic borders; while the instrumental title track embodies all the passion and creativity of Hillsong United in one expressively intricate interlude.
Although Hillsong United’s line-up intentionally evolves, to keep the focus off the performers and on Christ, longtime United collaborators Joel Houston and Matt Crocker remain at the forefront of songwriting and also perform a large amount of lead vocal duties, alongside Jad Gillies. While each of their unique vocals find comfortable homes amidst this new collection of songs, it’s the female vocal that’s the real treasure.
At singer-songwriter Brooke Fraser Ligertwood’s recommendation, Houston convinced newcomer Taya Smith to record vocals on two selections. “Oceans (Where Feet May Fall)” is an exquisite conglomerate of experimental reverb laid beneath the perfect vocals of Smith, easily making this song the crowning achievement of Zion. If you only download one track, this is the one to add to your playlist. Smith joins Gillies on “A Million Suns,” for a glistening track that shows off her vocal beauty a second time.
Like the mirrors that detail every curve of creation in the letters of United on the album’s cover art, these songs are a reflection of the beauty of our Creator, inviting listeners to allow their lives to display Christ alone to the watching world around us.