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A Reason to Get Excited
Posted June 29, 2015
By JJFrancesco_NRT, Staff Reviewer

The Pitch: 
Phil Joel is back with a new band, and they're gonna do worship music. 

The Good: 
It's Phil Joel! The guy was with the Newsboys for almost 15 years and was a part of some of the biggest hits of their career, like the signature "Entertaining Angels" from Step Up To The Microphone. Then he went on to have a number of well-received solo releases.

The guy's clearly talented. So is it any surprise that the EP is incredibly enjoyable? Transcending the typical feel that comes with the "worship" music label, Zealand opts for an exciting sound that would be at home on any pop/rock Christian radio station. This is definitely the kind of music meant to be played live at stadiums (and they're a new Word band, so don't be surprised if they show up on Winter Jam). 

"You Awaken My Soul" is a stirring and exciting opener that keeps lyrics vertical and the music exciting and engaging. One of the funny things about Zealand is that it musically feels right at home both with the Peter Furler-era Newsboys and ironically also the current Michael Tait-era Newsboys, especially material from God's Not Dead.

"That's Who You Are" feels even more like something taken from one of the latest Newsboys albums. "Greener" is a slightly more laid back offering, but still of no less quality in its uplifting execution. 

"Savior" is another hit in the making with a soaring chorus and enough beat to drive the song home. With a slightly electronically-tinged pop/rock sound, this isn't at all revolutionary. But it sounds really good. And at any point, you know who these songs are about, and who Zealand is about. With this release, Phil Joel proves he has the chops to carry a band.

What Doesn't: 
The album doesn't totally escape some of the repetitive lyrics and slightly overlong tendencies of popular worship music. And as far as pop music is concerned, these songs take a familiar approach that could impede it standing out in the long run.

Closing Thoughts: 
Despite its safe and familiar approach, this is a refreshing and exciting release with catchy worship numbers and uplifting musical standouts. I'm definitely looking forward to a full-length release. Zealand has the energy and the passion to become big, and here's hoping this is a landmark comeback for Phil Joel.

Song to Download Now: 
"You Awaken My Soul"

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