After a long wait of over two years, Hillsong UNITED has released its eleventh full-length and second studio album, entitled Aftermath. After their last release, Hillsong UNITED took some time for a season of rest in their local church. The band members took the time to challenge themselves musically and lyrically. Their efforts have paid off, because Aftermath offers a very fresh, creative collection of 12 new songs that explore the life-changes that occur in the “aftermath” of an encounter with Christ. The only song I already knew on this album was “Awakening”, from the recent Passion album, but that made sense when I realized the song was co-written by Chris Tomlin and Hillsong writer Reuben Morgan.
“I think we just wanted to create an album that didn’t follow all the rules and that we ourselves would want to worship to, whether we’re in the car driving home, on the train on the way to work or wherever we happen to be. We didn’t want to rely on what feels familiar,” says Hillsong UNITED’s Joel Houston.
“Normally ‘aftermath’ has a negative, even traumatic, connotation,” Houston says. “At the same time, when I look at the Crucifixion as an event, it paints an extraordinarily negative and horrific picture. But the aftermath of the Cross is hope for all mankind. It’s grace, freedom, peace, life and everything that is good about God. I absolutely love that picture.”
This album definitely has a unique sound for Hillsong UNITED, especially since it’s only the second studio album by the group. As much as I enjoy listening to a live worship album, there is something about a studio album like this that is really appealing. On the whole, I would say it is a more contemplative, reflective album compared to other UNITED albums. Many of the songs are very artistic, ranging in style from rock, to orchestral ballad, to all electronic music.
Some of the songs that stood out to me:
Track 1 – Take Heart (Joel Houston) This is not what I expected for the opening track of the album, and I think that’s what caught my attention. With its pounding, driving tom rhythms, this song sets the tone for the rest of the album – “Hold on to Hope, and take courage again”. Hope in the aftermath is a recurring theme on this album.
Track 3 – Like An Avalanche (Joel Houston) This is a beautiful song that speaks of the paradox of Jesus, the King, becoming a servant for us, and of His humbling, amazing grace.“And I find myself here on my knees again, caught up in grace like an avalanche”. Again, the driving, syncopated rhythms, especially on the bridge, and the outstanding vocal duet make this a standout track!
Track 4 – Rhythms of Grace (Chris Davenport, Dean Ussher) I really enjoyed the progression of this song from a nice, lilting 6/8 song to a driving, syncopated, rhythmic, multi-layered offering of exuberant worship!
Track 7 – Bones (Jill McCloghry, Joel Houston) When this song started, I thought I was back in the ‘80s with the heavy synth pads, which continued to be the driving sound of the whole song. But, as the song went on, the sounds seemed to fit perfectly with the lyrics “You can take my dry bones, breathe life into this skin”. It actually became a fresh sounding, driving anthem of crying out for the Holy Spirit to revive us again!
Bonus Track – Search My Heart (Radio version) ( Joel Houston, Matt Crocker) This radio version of “Search My Heart” (Track 11), is one that will surely catch on in many churches! It is a cry of commitment and dedication “With all my heart, and all my soul, with all I am, Lord I will follow You”. An inspiring anthem that is easy to sing, and one that I can’t wait to use!