Prime Cuts: Precious Jesus, Wilderness, It is Finished
Overall Grade: 3/5
Standing at the gateway of feeding the church with her vocabulary of worship are Bethel Music, Darlene Zschech, Jesus Culture, Housefires, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong Worship, Matt Redman, Passion Worship and Gateway. These are the teams and artists that have been most influential in shaping the church's praise. Thus, any release coming from these names are paramount in terms of their theology and musical expressions. Gateway finds its origin at Gateway Church in Southlake, Tex., one of the largest churches in North America ministering to nearly 40,000 attendees across multiple campuses and thousands more online each week. Over the years, Gateway has had provided the church's worship soundtrack by gifting us with staples such as "Oh The Blood," "The More I Seek You," "Come Thou Fount, Come Thou King," "You, You Are God," "Revelation Song," "Grace That Won't Let Go" and many others.
"Monuments" is thus a monumental effort for worship music. The collective is born out of the rich heritage of Gateway Worship and features multiple Dove Award winner and GRAMMY® nominated Mark Harris as well as Matt Birkenfeld, Anna Byrd, Austin Benjamin, Lauren Dunn, Maddison Harris, Cole Novak, Levi Smith and others making up the voices and songs. The new 12-track LP finds symmetry in the monuments observed throughout scripture and the moments in our own life, pointing to the belief that we are monuments of His faithfulness.
So, what's the verdict on "Monuments"? As with their previous releases, there are at least two pristine gems ready to be mined by worship leaders. "Precious Blood" is this album's "O the Blood." A pensive ballad that carefully ruminates on the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross before giving in to the hymn "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus," the mixing of the old with the new gives this song an endearing and immediate connection. "Wilderness" is another prime cut because it asks God not so much to deliver us from our wildernesses. Rather, the song teaches us not to waste our wilderness experiences by deepening our trust in Him. Such Godliness needs to be widely sung and taught over and over again.
Then there are songs that may not revolutionary signature tunes but they are still considered passable. "It is Finished" is a crescendo-building power ballad is rifle with lyrics that give articulation to what the resurrection of Jesus does to our lives. "Open Up the Heavens" may not win any awards for having the most original lyrics (how many songs these days have the same titular?) but at least it's a strong album opener that boasts some refreshing electronic beats. The title cut "Monuments" which challenges us to be grateful to God for the signposts of grace in our lives is a worthy reminder.
As for the rest of the songs, they tend to fall under the same category of most worship songs today. They are impeccably executed with toe-tapping rhythms and solid lyrics, but are they memorable? Maybe, if you take the time to listen to them over and over again. On the whole, "Monuments" does have its moments; but most it still fall under the brand of "generic."