Prime Cuts: We Will Not be Shaken, No Longer Slaves, Nearness
One of the tenets indispensable to longevity is the ability to be versatile enough to explore new sounds and fresh perspectives and yet never abandoning the core themes central to Scripture. Bethel Music is one church worship team that is not afraid to latch on to a decidedly defining angle with each passing record. With their album 2013 "Tides," this Redding California worship team flowed with the current trend towards a more angular electronic pop turf that resulted in one of their biggest singles as "Chasing You" became a Christian radio and iTunes darling. Then with last year's "You Make Me Brave," the church team brought their women leaders to the fore as the album was a recording from the mega-church's women's conference. Now, with "We Will Not be Shaken" they have cast a net a little broader to showcase their emerging worship leaders with the limelight adjusted more on their newly developed singer-songwriters.
In this regard, "We Will Not be Shaken" not only features the regular Bethel worship team of Brian Johnson, Jenn Johnson, Hunter Thompson, Matt Stinton and Amanda Cook, but newer leaders such as Kalley Heiligenthal, Hannah McClure, Paul McClure, Jonathan David Helser and Melissa Helser are also brought into the fray. Nevertheless, this is where the problem lies too: there are far too many chiefs (10 worship leaders in all) and far too few Indians (there are only 11 songs). As a result, two consequences ensued: first, a few of their former leaders such as Steffany Gretzinger, Jeremy Riddle, and Kristene DiMarco are left out. Second, with almost a different singer singing lead on each song, the album sound like a "greatest hits" compilation where each leader gets to throw in his or her one hit wonder. Thus, what is gravely lacking is the seamless consanguinity between the songs where all the tracks collectively flow to tell a story.
With one's disgruntle out of the way, "We Will Not be Shaken" does have its merits. The title cut, which is only one of two songs featuring Brian Johnson, is one of the better pieces. A song that was conceived during the church's spontaneous worship moments, "We Will Not be Shaken" like "You Have Made Me Brave" is a faith anthem that boasts a melodious chorus that is bound to be many church's favorites in the months to come. Jonathan Hesler's "No Longer Slaves" does open surgery on our hearts to discern the root cause of our fear and how Christ emancipates us from such tyranny. Jenn Johnson who used to be the marquee of the team doesn't get to the microphone until the seventh song, "Nearness." Her ability to lead us into the heart of worship with this string-laden worship ballad reminds us what a gift she is to worship music.
Never one to resort to clichés and recycled platitudes, "Seas of Crimson" is rifled with lots of Biblical imagery that adds depth to worship. Of the emerging leaders, Kalley Heilgenthal is most promising as she sets her Annie Garrett-esque vocals to work on "Ever Be," a turbo-charged power ballad that leaves one breathless with all the high octave soaring notes. Nevertheless, there are far too many ballads on the album. But the problem is not just with tempo; a few of them such as Hunter Thompson's "Home," Amanda Cook's "You Don't Miss a Thing" and Matt Stinton's "Who Can Compare to You" are on the side of tedium. It takes many repeats to get one hook to its evanescent melodies. Nevertheless, despite the quibbles, "We Will Not Be Moved" does have songs that are going to make into the repertoire of many worship teams in months and years to come.
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