Worshiping the King
Posted January 16, 2014
Elevation Worship is the worship team from Elevation Church, which got its start in 2006 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Much like Hillsong UNITED, the group is a large family unit of sorts. Under the guidance of Pastor Steven Furtick, who helps with the songwriting, Elevation Worship is Mack Brock, Chris Brown, London Gatch, Brad Hudson, Wade Joye, Andrea Smith, and Jane Williams. Before finally signing with Essential Records, the group released three indie projects. Last year, their sophomore major label release, Nothing is Wasted, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Christian Albums chart.
The group is clearly excited for their third Essential album, Only King Forever. Beginning on Jan. 1, the band has promoted the new record by streaming a track per day on their website. With its 13 new songs, the 14-track CD is filled to the brim with 79 minutes of guitar-driven contemporary worship exalting Jesus Christ, risen Savior and eternal King.
Lively opener "Only King Forever," with its driving drum beat, is akin to a Chris Tomlin-led Passion number. While not particularly original, the track brings a reverent yet vibrant spirit that kicks off the record in fine form.
"Grace So Glorious," four tracks deep and the first song to really grab my attention, is without a doubt the album's centerpiece. Chris Brown, along with Pastor Furtick and Israel Houghton, penned this song that draws inspiration from Ephesians 1:5-6, which states that God has adopted us "to the praise of his glorious grace." Moving beyond formulas, this musically dynamic and lyrically inspired piece allows the listener a genuine moment for spiritual connection and prayerful reflection. Indeed, when the group pauses to allow Pastor Furtick to speak on "Grace So Glorious (Reprise)," the scriptural truth behind the song comes shining through.
After this high-water mark, only a few songs leave a memorable impression. First is "The Love of Jesus" where guest Darlene Zschech, proving that sometimes less is more, proclaims the simple yet powerful line: "The love of Jesus is enough for me."
Another highlight, "Last Word," was written for their church's sermon series on the "expectation gap," where we may be discouraged by the fact that our expectations often exceed our eventual experience. The song puts life into biblical perspective, recalling that it is Jesus who has final authority: "You have the last word / It is finished." It is His resurrection and victory over death that promises the same for us so that we may sing, "My fear is silenced in Your love / My hope is endless."
"I Will Sing" begins small then bursts out into a mass sing-along, corporate worship style. Doubtless a great live moment and one that will be embraced by fans of the group and the genre, it doesn't translate to disc in a way that will grab the ear of a new listener.
If Elevation Worship is going to make a splash, it will more likely happen with "Raised To Life." Written for their baptism series, the group enlisted the writing help of none other than Matt Redman. Celebrating new life in Christ, "Raised to life with Christ, the Savior," the group exclaims, "Sin was strong but Jesus is stronger / Our shame was great, but Jesus You're greater!"
There is a LOT of music on this record. While I've covered the stronger material, much of the remainder, though pleasing, doesn't yet set the group apart in the worship scene. Should Elevation Worship vary their sound a bit, focus on writing lyrical content with theological depth that raises it beyond the formulaic, and more frequently utilize their strong female vocalists, the band might strengthen and broaden their appeal. Unfortunately, aside from the Darlene Zschech guest spot, the female-led songs were pushed toward the back of the record. That's a shame, for sequenced where it is, the beautiful "Everlasting Father" will likely be overlooked.
With Only King Forever, Elevation Worship presents a packed-full record. For fans of the group and the modern worship genre, this project may provide a transcendental worship experience. However, for some it will be a lesson in patience and endurance. Don't get me wrong, there is some solid stuff here, but I would have appreciated a more concise, more selective record. While showing great promise on Only King Forever, Elevation Worship ultimately falls just short of lifting off.
Song to Download Now:
"Grace So Glorious" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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