Prime Cuts: Is He Worthy?, I Stand in Awe, Nobody Loves Me like You
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
Over the years, Chris Tomlin has had nailed down the formula for what a surefire worship song ought to sound like. And to his credit, his template is well-acknowledged, esteemed and upheld by countless worship leaders all over the world. This is why his songs such as "At the Cross," "Whom Shall I Fear," "Jesus Messiah" and many others have become the standard soundtrack for worship across countless churches. "Holy Roar" is full of songs that could easily rise to such a lofty standard. And in the hands of a lesser artist this album would easily be graded 5 out of 5. But in the hands of a stellar songwriter like Tomlin, this album is pretty formulaic. It is as if Tomlin uses the same blueprint to manufacture each entry here, such that each song begins ponderously before the loud instrumentation kicks in for a dynamic chorus, before ebbing again with the repetition of the chorus.
However, if you can get your head around the formulaic structures of the song, there are some really good songs made for the church to sing. The title cut "Holy Roar" with its dramatic melodic sequencing is the perfect opener not only of this album but a Sunday worship set. "Praise is the Highway," a co-write between Tomlin, Hillsong's Ben Fielding and Bethel's Brian Johnson & Sean Feucht, uncovers the secret of worship. Worship isn't just about singing, but it's the "highway to the heart of God." Though "Satisfied" doesn't really charter new ground sonically and lyrically, the song encapsulates a timeless reminder that Jesus is our life's satisfaction.
Nevertheless, the best song on the album is not written by Tomlin. Written by Andrew Peterson & Ben Shive, "Is He Worthy?" is a dramatic unfolding of Revelation 5 echoing the question from the Biblical text, who is worthy to break the seal and open the scrolls? The song doesn't come to denouncement until it's chorus which is so thunderously glorious that you would want to hear again and again. Though none of the other ballads come close to such sublimity, "I Stand in Awe" is another turbo-charged worship number. Also of note is "Nobody Loves Me Like You," the song recounts the ways God loves us from creation to the cross. "Goodness, Love and Mercy" is a re-working of Psalm 23 that is pretty nondescript.
Other than "Is He Worthy?,"Tomlin plays it safe throughout the record. He basically sticks to the same template that first brought him to attention. So, if you are looking for worship songs that thrive on dynamic explosion of energy and passion, there's lots of songs here that will tickle your fancy. But after album after album of using the same formula, one would also wish Tomlin would break the mould and surprise us with something that truly roars.