Prime Cuts: Still, My Stronghold, Where You Are
Pearl City Worship is not into shades or allusions when it comes to the Gospel. Rather, with brazen boldness proclaimed over 10 well-crafted dynamic anthemic worship tunes that never waver on the perspicuity of the Gospel, "We Won't Be Silent" lives up to every nuance of its titular. Such an unflinching message that Jesus is the only Savior becomes even more poignant when we realize that Pearl City Worship finds its locale in Hyderabad, India. Also known as the City of Pearls, Hyderabad, India is where over 1.25 billion people reside. Moreover, India itself professes to have over 3 million gods. Thus, for this Indian worship team to sing with such a fierce boldness about Jesus and His exclusive redemptive work, is itself stunningly counter-cultural. And precisely because the rhetoric of the album is against the grain of cultural norms, there is an alluring presence exuding out of these songs that can only come from the Holy Spirit.
Despite their Indian heritage, "We Won't Be Silent" is recorded in the US Under the watchful eye of Dove Award winning producer Ian Eskelin. Connoisseurs of contemporary Christian music will recognize Eskelin as man who has produced the music of Francesca Battistelli, Sidewalk Prophets, Chris August, and 7eventh Time Down. This means that this album stands toe to toe in terms of its sound and production to any US major label release. This can be the album's major strength as well as weakness. Strength because, Eskelin has kept the production tight without causing distraction to the actual worship. Rather, than imbued the music with a strong accent, a stereotypical sitar or Bollywood-style theatrics, the music here finds its drawing power in being Gospel-centered.
In a culture of shaded theological grey, the jaunty, Hillsong Young and Free-danceable "The Answer" anchors the team's hope and essence in Jesus alone. With lots of synth loops and big melodic hooks, "The One Who Saves Us" gives reasons why the team would not be silent when it comes to Jesus. Salvation has never been so melodiously phrased as this. "My Stronghold" is one of those songs that will get you humming to its chorus in no time. Written as a response to the persecution of Christians, "My Stronghold" gives affirmation again to the reliability and trustworthiness of Jesus within the furnace of sufferings.
But the album's key moments are in the ballads. When the tempo decelerates, you can hear the team's heart in a songs like "Hold My Forever," "Where You Are," and "Still." Offering us moments to lavish in God's presence the sweet and stirring "Where You Are" is a great worship piece; while "Still" is indeed the album's lodestar. "Still" doesn't shy away from the pains of life. Rather, it situates God's sovereignty in our mess as a result the song shows us how God changes us in the process.
Nevertheless, what taints the sublimity of this album a tad is that the worship leaders here are so "Americanized" in their vocal nuances and expressions that they are completely bereft of their Indian identity. Put them vocally aside Bethel Music, Hope Chapel, Vertical Church Worship and they all blend into the same cauldron; you can never tell them apart. With the richness of the variegated Indian music culture, if they could have incorporated some of these sonic threads, their CD would have even more intriguing and defining.
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