Opening track, “Take Heart” from Aftermath (sourced: Youtube.com)
After the rocking success that was More Than Life and the quiet beauty of All of the Above, the latest album by Hillsong United was widely anticipated with expectations of not just chart success, but the premise of something fresh in contemporary Christian music.
The opening track, “Take Heart”, creates some expectation, with a layering of instruments and vocals that slowly build up to a climatic strain of string instruments that are powerful even as they fade.
From the second track onwards, it is clear that this is not one of those albums that will take you on a whirlwind of musical euphoria and leave you breathless. Instead, it settles around you with repeated listens until you find yourself humming along to a vaguely familiar tune that you can’t quite place. And that’s where Aftermath fails. Aftermath sounds like the same formulaic approach has been taken, with little or no variation after the first three tracks. Surprisingly, long time singer in the band Joel Houston stated, “We didn’t want to rely on what feels familiar.”
The lyrics speak of a passion for God which is unfortunately not reflected in the music. The most radio playlisted song on the album, “Search My Heart”, describes following the Lord “with all my heart and all my soul/with all I am.” The band however, seems to be barely trying. The rest of the tracks are lyrically dense, but the words get lost in the repetitive nature of the music which makes it seem like the same ideas are being sung about, therefore rendering the lyrics unnoticeable and insignificant.
It is always different when reviewing a Christian album because the point of the album should not be to achieve commercial success but to produce music that praises and worships. Aftermath seems to do neither as the vocals and bland instrumentals make the songs seem like nothing more than words sung to a tune for recording purposes. Without the genuine passion that we?ve come to expect from past favourites like “Hosanna” and “One Way“, the lyrics in Aftermath seem too formulated and as a result, insincere.
Aftermath is not worth a repeated listen as listening to the album once sounds like listening to the same song, 13 times. Aftermath may find its place as the background music to an altar call or prayer session, but not in the hearts of fans.