The Worship Well is Deep at Bethel
Posted September 09, 2012
By MarcusHathcock_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Bethel Church in Redding, Calif. has, in the last half-decade, become a veritable factory of worship artists and passionate, anointed worship music. The folks who brought us Kim Walker-Smith, Brian & Jenn Johnson, and (these days) Jeremy Riddle seem to have a rather stacked stable of psalmists and visionaries.
But with the new album Emerging Voices, Jesus Culture--the youth wing of Bethel's worship ministry--shows that the pool of praise warriors is deep in Redding, as 11 powerful, fresh tracks invoke the truth and presence of God, led by four new worshippers.
"Who has made the world turn? Who has made the heavens shine at night? Who has set my heart on fire?" These are the triumphant questions asked amidst the mid-tempo opener, "Here We Are," led by the unique-sounding voice of Justin Jarvis.
In this reviewer's opinion, the highlight track from this album is the second track, "I Belong to You." Led by the resonant baritone of Derek Johnson (no relation to Bethel Senior Pastor Bill Johnson), the song is a declaration of allegiance and adoration to the Lord. A high-flying, Coldplay-like bridge beautifully expounds upon the theme: "You have set my heart on fire / My love and my desire are only for You / And as Your glory fills this place / Your love we will embrace / It's only for You, and I belong to You."
Although the third song is called "Mighty Fortress," the references to God's strength give way to the central theme of this song: "He rejoices over us!" Worship leader Mary Kat Ehrenzeller provides powerful-yet-beautiful vocals that are a mix of IHOP's Misty Edwards and Hillsong's Darlene Zschech.
With "Let It Go," Johnson returns with Hillsong United-like guitar riffs and melody line. "There's no way we'll ever quiet down / Our God is alive," the second verse exclaims. There's a metaphor throughout this climactic song that compares singing to living the radical life of a follower of Jesus. To that end, the chorus states, "We are never gonna let this song die out!"
It seems as if an album's worth of a musical/worship journey already has taken place, but we're only to song No. 5. With "Be My Love," a Coldplay-like riff separates the choruses and the verses. "I can't find anyone like you who satisfies quite like You do / And my heart is burning for You," rings Jarvis in the simple-yet-sincere refrain. There's a great moment--well, three-and-a-half minutes--of free worship following that song with, "We Just Love You (Be My Love Reprise)," where, in varying levels of intensity, the live crowd repeats, "and my heart is burning for you."
"We love your presence, God," Ehrenzeller delicately whispers to start the passionate, acoustic guitar-driven worship ballad, "Who Can Compare." The song touts the holiness and otherness of God. "And You take my hand / And You guide me on / You show me the way to life / And You lift my head / And You give me hope / And You show me the way to life." It's a calming, powerful worship moment that features some great lower harmonies accompaning Ehrenzeller.
On the one hand, the lyrics of "You Are My God" aren't particularly unique or inventive. On the other, can we ever get tired of telling the Lord that He is our King, He is faithful, and that He's everything we've ever wanted and needed? Johnson's whispery lead vocals paint an ambient musical crowning of the King, particularly when the octave raises at the bridge: "All my days I will live to seek Your face, to know Your heart!"
The tempo kicks back up with "Where You Are," which for me, smacks of what an Anberlin worship song would sound like. Nate Ward II has definite Stephen Christian moments as he sings, "I have seen the fire in Your eyes / In Your love I finally am alive / I wanna be where you are."
Another synth-and-acoustic song, "Glory Come Down," features more whispery, peaceful vocals by Johnson that invite the invasion of the Holy Spirit: "Open the heavens, let Your glory come down / My heart burns for you, Jesus / For Your presence, for Your holy fire." It's a song that would easily find a home on Hillsong United's Aftermath, or perhaps an earlier release with Marty Sampson. It's a slow jam, to be sure, but another octave jump mid-way through the song pumps up the passion.
"I Won't Settle" closes the album with Ward guiding a mid-tempo declarative song about an unwillingness to compromise in life, rejecting the typical for the supernatural. "I won't settle for anything less / And I will hold on for greater things!" resolves the chorus, and the bridge sings, "Mark me as Yours / Set me apart / I want everything / All that You are!"
There are a lot of powerful moments on this collection of Emerging Voices. This round-up of new talent out of Redding, Calif. hardly sounds like that of green newbies to the worship scene; rather, their tunes easily keep up with many of the aforementioned anointed leaders from around the globe (Darlene Zschech, Misty Edwards, Marty Sampson, etc.).
There's a certain sort of raw, spontaneous energy that is characteristic of a Bethel release, and that is strangely missing from this album. If you were to listen to this without knowing from where it came, one might assume the "emerging voices" were from one of the global Hillsong Church campuses. That's not a negative; those are all strong, anointed artists. It's just a different sound for Bethel.
The talent and passion coming out of Bethel is strong, as evidenced on Emerging Voices
, and it's encouraging to see that we'll have a steady stream of powerful worship anthems coming for years to come.
Song to Download Now:
"I Belong to You" by Derek Johnson
(click to buy on iTunes)
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