Aftermath marks the end of a two year hiatus of new recordings from Hillsong UNITED, the massively powerful and passionate worship collective born out of the Hillsong Church in Australia. It is also only their second studio recording out of their now 11 full-length releases. Though known mostly for producing live albums, they have grown considerably in their second studio release that better conveys the dynamics and richness of the live recordings, which was somewhat lacking on their first studio release, 2007’s “All of the Above.”
Lead primarily by pastor and singer/songwriter Joel Houston, UNITED’s team of writer’s penned tracks for Aftermath and discovered a common theme throughout: paradoxical hope in the wake of the apparent tragedy of the Cross. It’s not a theme we can grow weary of, and it’s played out both lyrically and musically. The opening of this album is unlike other UNITED releases, as it seems subdued by comparison, drawing you in through over 7 minutes of growing emotion and declaration.
“So take heart, let His love lead us through the night…” (Take Heart)
As the dust settles on the realization that the Cross has finished the work, the reverberations of that ultimate event lead to the missional thrust of “Go” but we’re soon back into that more subdued tone. Whilst most UNITED releases are a 70/30 split between guitar-driven-uptempo tracks and then more reflective soundscapes of worship, the proportions seem turned around this time around. It’s a perfect reflection of our need to spend time with the Father before we can go in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit. If we try to serve from our own strength, we’ll just come up short. But UNITED invite us to dwell on the richness of what Christ has done, and provide ample space musically to allow people to think, pray, worship and respond.
“And I know You’re with me, yes I know You’re with me here, and I know Your love will light the way!” (Aftermath)
The ample musical interludes, including a full track, put me in mind of Delirious’ Glo in that the album serves as a full expression of worship, with room for response and meditation. It’s an album to linger over and to soak in, and to take into our churches. In a world full of 3 minute pop songs trying to grab a quick hook and distract us for a few moments, UNITED operate differently. Aftermath features 8 out of 12 songs that clear the 5 minute mark. Though musically excellent, they’re firstly about worship, not about radio play.
There’s a bigger diversity of sounds on this release. It’s still guitar driven, but synths and other textures also present themselves more prominently. The band has taken full advantage of the studio without drowning out the songs with production. Closing out the album is a cover of Chris Tomlin’s recent “Awakening” and I have to admit I prefer this to Chris’s own version released this year. It’s a perfect end of response to the reality of the Cross of Christ.
It is great to see Hillsong UNITED growing and providing consistently excellent releases that serve both corporately and devotionally. Make some space to revel in the Aftermath.
 An unofficial, unfounded statistic based on arbitrary data from experience.
This is a repost of a review written for Foursquare.org and I received the album from EMI at no expense for review purposes. No pressure was exerted or expectation expressed from the publisher to obtain a favorable review. All opinions expressed are my own.