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Hillsong United, Zion - Review

Hillsong United, Zion - Review

By Chris Olson on February 26, 2013

Have you ever found yourself somewhat entranced by the beauty (textures, colors, layers) of music in such a way that you almost forget to listen to the lyrics?  I have!  When listening to the new Hillsong United album, Zion, I found myself quite engulfed in the sonic qualities of the album.  18 tracks of texture, dynamics, electronic sounds, passionate vocals, etc….  But, while we all enjoy an album that is great to listen to, it doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of “worship” if the lyrics aren’t strong.  Thankfully, Zion does not disappoint.

Coming two years after their last recording, Aftermath, United mainstay Joel Houston shares with us the inspiration behind this new work: “Zion is precious to the heart of God and it’s essentially what Jesus came to establish – Heaven on earth…. The whole point of this album is the realization that God is doing His thing, and He has already done it, He is establishing His Church, and it’s through us.”  And through the 18 tracks on this album (The deluxe version; 13 tracks on the regular album), the listener is taken on a journey that reflects this sentiment.  

Now, typically, reviews such as this one often highlight three songs or so off a typical album.  But, I can’t do that.  Sorry.  You’ll have to forgive me.  This whole album is great, but for me, there are six really standout songs on this album that you should pay special attention to.  

The second track of the album, “Up in Arms,” is fantastic.  With vocals from Joel, this song has a superb vibe and a strong melody well suited to Joel’s vocals.  Another great melody awaits on the nearly nine minute long “Oceans (Where Feet May Fall).”  With a beautiful female vocal, this song evokes images of strong rays of light dancing on crystal clear waters as God reaches down to us.  

Following “Oceans” we are greeted by Joel again via “Stay and Wait.”  This is easily tied for my favorite song on the album.  With a fantastic melody, wonderful groove and arrangement, this song communicates a powerful message of waiting in the midst of trial, holding fast to the Word.  

Looking for something with an anthem feel to it?  Check out the bridge on “Nothing Like Your Love.”  The whole song has a great vibe, but that bridge kills.  And, it feeds into the title track of the album, “Zion,” which is actually an instrumental this time around!

A few more tracks and you hit “A Million Suns.”  With a heavily electronic feel, we are treated to another wonderful female lead vocal and lots of textures.  This is a wonderful upward worship song about God’s awesome glory (“… You shine like a million suns ablaze…”).  

Now, skipping to the deluxe version of the album, we find “Arise.” This song alone is reason enough to get the deluxe version, and it is the other song tied for my favorite on the album.  This song has a completely different feel from the rest of the album.  Acoustic guitar driven, and with incredibly tasteful and powerful vocal effects, this song is literally beautiful.  The melody is intoxicating, and the vocal treatments make the whole thing sound airy.  The second part of the second verse is insane.  At the risk of sounding extremely cheesy (which I typically hate), this is one of those songs that I hope we hear in heaven.  

Who says worship albums can’t sound cool?  With Zion, Hillsong United again brings some ear-pleasing tunes to us in album form.  But beyond that, this album is worship.  Lots of songs sound cool, and lots of songs have really great, worshipful lyrics.  These songs have both.  Great in a corporate setting, or just sitting alone with some headphones on, this album will take you to the throne, where you can praise the great name of our Lord.  And THAT is what it’s all about.

GIVEAWAY: We are partnering with EMI to give away two copies of this album. Answer this question in the comment section to automatically be entered: What is one way YOU cultivate creativity in your life?
Deadline: Wednesday, Februrary 27 @ 5pm CST. You must be at least 18 years old to enter. US residents only. We'll pick 2 random winners.

Disclosure: A copy of this album was provided by the record label or artist for review purposes. The iTunes widget above is a part of a third-party affiliate program.

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Chris Olson

Chris Olson

Chris has been involved in worship ministry in some way for over 20 years, ranging from worship team guitarist/bassist/drummer to staff worship pastor. Chris presently serves as one of the worship leaders at Grace Church in Overland Park, KS, and is also a songwriter with a passion to write songs for the local church.  Chris married WAY up when his wife Rachel said “I do,” and they have two awesomely awesome kids, Aedan and Caitlin.