Prime Cuts: The Lion and the Lamb, Invisible, Beloved
After a five year hiatus, Leeland has announced that they have joined Bethel Music. They have had made an appearance earlier on Bethel Music's "Have It All," where they delivered their current single "Lion and the Lamb" to great acclaim. Now under the Bethel Music Artist Collective imprint, they have serviced us with their fifth album "Invisible." For the uninitiated, Leeland is a duo not an individual. Though the band is named after its lead singer and guitarist Leeland Mooring, it's actually a duo that consisting of Mooring as well as fellow guitarist and vocalist Casey Moore. Together, they have garnered 4 Grammy nominations and 8 GMA Dove Awards. Known primarily for their rock-edged worship, they have lighted radio airwaves with songs such as "The Great Awakening," "Follow You," "Count Me In," and "I Wonder."
Partnering with Bethel Music does has its pros and cons. Let's start with the pros. "Invisible" has opened Leeland to write with a greater platform of stellar worship scribes such as Darlene Zschech and Bethel's own Brian Johnson and Steffany Gretzinger. Certainly, such collaborations have yielded great results. The album's lead single "The Lion and the Lamb" is a career-defining record. This song is to Leeland what "Shout to the Lord" is to Darlene Zschech. Theologically, this song is a gem. Few songs (if any) capture the Biblical tension of Jesus being both the Judge (the lion of Judah) as well as the sacrifice (the lamb) as judiciously and as gloriously as Leeland has.
With its pulsating beat functioning as warm invitations, the title cut "Invisible" draws us into an intimate dimension with God assuring us that He is not invisible when we approach him in faith. Speaking of Zschech, she joins Leeland in crafting the cinematic piano-led ballad "Beloved." With the camera lenses zooming in to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as the song begins, the lenses slowly widened to include us we wait with Jesus on God in our times of trials. Utilizing the story of the prodigal son as the song's arc, "Perfect Love," a co-write with Steffany Gretzinger, is a devotional meditation on the relentless love of God that is deeply worshipful.
Yet, several cons exist with Leeland's collaborative effort with Bethel Music. The record on the whole sounds more like a Bethel Music album than a Leeland record. Almost sounding like a guest artist on their own album, there's not much here to establish Leeland's own creative mark here. Most of the songs adopt the same template Bethel Music has been utilizing over their last few albums: the songs begin slowly before bursting into a grandiose epic climax with skyscraper high belting choruses.
Other than a few uptempoes, the album is very ballad-oriented, which tends to create a sense of "sameness" when a bunch of worship ballads are sequenced one after another. The album would certainly benefit from if the guys were to take more risks. And they are definitely capable of. In fact, the album opens and closes with some gorgeous bell chimes which sounded heavenly. One would have wished they have utilized them a tad more in the bulk of the album.
If you like Bethel Music and their style of worship, this album won't disappoint. But ultimately, this is also a Leeland record; we would like to hear more from them.