ReVue: Hillsong London’s “Hail To The King”

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Welcome to ReVue – Product Reviews from multiple people, each with their own take away, exclusively here at TheWorshipCommunity.Com.  Each reviewer submits their insights independently which reveals the diversity in how we interpret the recordings.  We hope you’ll add your own review in the comments section as well!

Hillsong London’s Latest Release:
“Hail To The King” – Released 10/28/2008

Available Now on iTunes
Hillsong London - Hail to the King

Highlights:

* The single “You Are Here (The Same Power)” is currently number 10 on the Christian Single download charts and debuted 10.22
* Song is based on truth from Ephesians 1:19-20
* First album in three years and third album.
* They meet at the Dominion Theater (where “We Will Rock You” rock opera has run continuously for 6 years)
* Host of volunteers 100+ gather after midnight Saturday night to load-in church and set up for three Sunday services then load back out
* Passionate about people being the church…the visible representation of the invisible God
* Church motto/mission “Because We Can,” is geared towards ending poverty…because we can.  They are mission oriented, “You Brought Me Home” is the bonus video on the DVD that helps illustrate this.
* Mission to have a “life group” that will meet at every tube stop in London….so you can literally take the tube to anywhere in London and find a life group to meet with.
* Toured with Matt Redman in Europe this summer
* Album has co-write with Israel Houghton “Rise”

Conner’s Take:
(Conner Byrd, Worship/Youth Pastor in Baton Rouge, LA)

Hillsong London’s new project, Hail to the King, delivers 13 tracks just under an hour. For me it was quite a refreshing change of pace because one of my “gripes” lately is the blurring line between Hillsong and Hillsong United (if you could call that a bad thing!) This was my first introduction to Hillsong London and there’s definitely a different approach musically and vocally here than their friends from down under.
The first thing I noticed was the sound: effects on the vocals, throw back synth pads, chimes, tinkerings, and more of a dance feel than rock feel to the uptempo songs. Not that there wasn’t some familiarity with the music but much more of a distinction than I anticipated.  The one thing lacking for me was a simple, acoustic driven worship tune like “None But Jesus” or “Came to the Rescue”. Everything else seems to be covered though with some truly stand out tracks from “Now” and “Rise” to “You are Here” (The Same Power) and “Look to the Cross”.  At times I miss the crowd of a live Praise and Worship CD, but honestly, I didn’t figure that out until half way through.
In the end, I believe they could have trimmed back to 10 or 11 tracks and had a killer CD.  However, I’m so glad they’re not exactly what I expected. I’m anxious now to see what Hillsong London will be doing with this project and with what’s ahead for them.

Joel’s Take:
(Joel Klampert, Worship Leader/Youth Pastor in Middleton, RI)

After the brilliant CD “Jesus Is” I was really looking forward to “Hail to the King”. Overall the CD is ok. There are a few fantastic stand out songs. The CD seemed very disjointed to me. Too much going on stylistically. Lyrically there are some good songs and a few that are very typical. I think the production on a few of the tracks was stifling the vocals. To have “You Brought Me Home” on my ipod would make owning this CD worth every penny. 3 out of 5 stars.

Mandy’s Take:
(Mandy Thompson, Worship Leader in Boston, MA)

This album adds another layer of pop tones to modern worship music, with a few creative surprises and blends thrown in the arrangements. Strong songs. Strong tones. Strong melodies. Most of the tracks are singable and accessible for a variety of churches and generations, which makes this collection an asset for worship leaders of all styles.

Mike’s Take:
(Mike Mahoney, Children’s and Worship Ministry in Bridgeport, CT)

I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Hillsong United lately, so this album was a lot more mellow than I was expecting.  Where’s Joel Houston when you need him?  First listen through I was pretty unimpressed, but once I started listening more, I began hearing some very good music here.  To me, the album has an overall late-eighties pop feel to it, which is not necessarily a bad thing. There are some very good worship music here.  Unfortunately, there is some pretty predictable, formulaic music here as well.  The record is quite intimate, and in a way that is quite satisfying.

The Songs:

1.  Now

  • Conner:  Here’s that dance, club vibe I was talking about earlier, They’ve laid it upon the lyrical anthem calling a generation to rise now!
  • Joel:  – I like this one. It has a classic PFR with distortion feel to it. Good pump up song. Only thing I didn’t like is the lead guitar with almost a breeders sound to it.
  • Mandy:  An impacting and timely call for this generation: “let your voice be heard.”
  • Mike:  There’s a rather odd opening to the song, but I like track in general.  I can certainly hear this one being done in a congregational setting.  Aside from the opening twenty seconds, this track has some of the best production of the faster songs – a nice mid-tempo song, complimenting the overall theme of the record.

2.  Hail to the King

  • Conner: Very 80s sounding throw back with even a guitar riff of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. It comes off with a bit of cheese for me but there’s a a pay off with the bridge! It’s the redeeming quality for this track.
  • Joel:  I did not like this song. It was like three different songs in one. Starts with a Weezer feel into an odd “swing low” solo with a Lynard Skynard vibe into something that resembles NKOB mixed with United. The main melody is very typical.
  • Mandy:  A rocking song that any band would enjoy playing, and just about any congregation would enjoy singing. This is an energetic song of praise, with a surprise riff of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” thrown in.
  • Mike:  The title track has a nice, energetic groove to it. This would be a great song for a youth service.

3.  I’m Not Ashamed

  • Conner: I really dig this track! I love proclaiming the boldness found in the Gospel of Jesus and I think musically they nailed it as well!
  • Joel:  Overall I like this song. Very cool riff and chord structure. I felt like production was a little off.
  • Mandy:  Strong rock guitar riffs blended with driving drum beats. This song leads us into a declaration of devotion to God, great for youth/young adult ministries.
  • Mike:  To be honest, I think this song deserves better lyrics than it has.  It has a nice groove to it, with a great guitar riff throughout, but the lyrics are kind of predictable and trite.

4.  Rise

  • Conner: Instantly, from the opening riff this song grabs you! It’s one of those songs you’d listen to even if you weren’t looking for praise and worship music! Soaring guitars, driving bass and drums, and a catching melody that you just can’t help but sing along to!
  • Joel:  Great song, but I think it falls into a new overused category of revolution songs. That aside I think it really works
  • Mandy:  Produced in the signature Hillsong United style of guitar & melody, with a catchy melody, this track is a call for the church to be a revolution in this world.
  • Mike:  This is another great, energetic song.  I love the message, too – Christ’s church will rise and lead the revolution!

5.  You Brought Me Home

  • Conner:  I imagine this would be very difficult for a congregational singing, however despite that, I find it awkward. I either want it to get bigger or quieter dynamically.
  • Joel:  Aside from a wicked high key this song is amazing. This one tugs at my heart and brings me into worship. Can’t wait to do it!
  • Mandy:  Simple. Restful. Intimate. Accessible for many generations, with a powerful rising melody in the chorus.
  • Mike:  This could be the best song on the record.  It does feel a bit rushed through the verses.   And honestly, I think it would be better served by a different singer, perhaps someone with more grit and power.  That said – A+ on message and mood.  We’ll be using this one, I think.

6.  You Are Here

  • Conner: Such a beautiful and powerful song! Without even hearing it on the previous Hillsong CD, I wanted to burst out singing the first time I heard it!
  • Joel:  Great song that really benefits from a large band. I love the dynamics in this one.
  • Mandy:  Hillsong London brings in an engaging song from the beginning, with a surging chorus, and creative motif between verses.
  • Mike:  A nice, melodious song, acknowledging that God is present wherever we are, found within us.

7.  At Your Feet

  • Conner:  I absolutely love the groove of this song. Seriously, rarely do we have worship songs with such a lazy swing groove like this one. It’s really refreshing.
  • Joel:  This one had a forced Dissonance that I could not get into at all. Sounded like Coldplay meets old Michael Knott and it didn’t blend well.
  • Mandy:  This meditative song of repentance starts slow, but rises to an inspiring chorus and bridge.
  • Mike:   didn’t really connect with this one.  Perhaps it was the change in beat and style from the first verse to the second, from piano ballad to sappy pop song.  A bit to gimmicky for my taste.  Nothing earth shaking in the lyrics.  To tell the truth, it reminds me of a later Beatles tune.

8.  I Receive

  • Conner: I was curious if they’re would be a “U2-esque” song found here? Found it! Lyrically, “I receive Your love” doesn’t work too well for me, it’s not something I’ve said in response to my wife and it’s not something that comes as a natural response to Jesus for me either.
  • Joel: Very simple and it works. Perfect for corporate worship. I like the airiness in this song, but way too much tambourine.
  • Mandy:  The lyrics and melody reflect the heart of many in our world today – singing about security in ourselves coming from security in God’s love for us.
  • Mike:  Some more sappy, typical worship ballading.  Catchy, but that’s about all.

9.  He Is Greater

  • Conner: Umm…as Randy Jackson would say. “it was just alright for me.”
  • Joel:  This song is ok. It has a good sound and lyrics, but It isn’t memorable for me.
  • Mandy:  Acoustic start. Refreshing beginning. The melody brings us in and draws out a desire to climb further in the song. Strong bridge. Powerful for congregational singing. Simple song of truth – praise – declaration.
  • Mike:  Other than the second verse being a little awkward, this is a very nice acoustic ballad.  It has a nice, gentle rhythm to it, a simple message, and an easy pace about it.  Anyone got the chords?

10.  Selah (Perfect Love)

  • Conner: Beautiful, soaring, simple, smooth! It probably enhanced He is Greater for me. It provided some space to let those words ring out a bit and sink it.
  • Joel:  What can I say other than I am a sucker for the instrumental break.
  • Mandy:
  • Mike:

11.  Look to the Cross

  • Conner: What a stand out track! Stripped down instrumentation and this beautiful soulful female lead is so incredible! The line “I look to the cross, Lord, let me see Your love anew,” isn’t leaving me. The thought of looking to the cross and each time seeing His love in a brand new way is weighty.
  • Joel:  Fantastic Song! I just wish they would have had another person sing it. The vocals being flat really bothered me.
  • Mandy:  Led by a female voice. Meditative. Thoughtful. A prayer that God will give us peace. One of my favorite tracks on this album.
  • Mike:  Finally! A female vocalist.  This is a great acoustic ballad, tender and sweet.  While laid back,  the song seems to soar on it’s own.  Could be my favorite ballad on the album.  I love the intimacy of this song.

12.  All To Show

  • Conner:  keep skipping this track to get to The Call. Not enough of a difference here to keep me around for 4 minutes I’m afraid.
  • Joel:  It took a few listens, but this is a very cool song. A different style overall and makes for a great listen.
  • Mandy:  Very contemporary pop sound, in the style of U2, Radiohead, Coldplay, Timbaland, The lyrics challenge us to show off God’s blessing “in the life you gave to me.”
  • Mike:  This has a very “Hillsong United” feel to it, with some cool bass lines, and a lot of dynamics.  One of my favorites.

13.  The Call

  • Conner: Do I detect some Tears for Fears here?!? Great anthem and a great closer.
  • Joel:  I’m not a fan of 80’s guitars, OOOO’s and Styx sounding keyboards. If you can listen past that the song has some real potential.
  • Mandy:  Pop song of devotion in response to God’s call on our lives, with a creative use of the phrase “whoa” in each verse. May or may not fit congregational singing, but the chorus is strong.
  • Mike:  This song is very similar to All to Show.  In fact, they are quite a bit alike, although this one is not as driving and agressive.  Standard, middle-of-the-road pop fare.
Have this album?  You can pick it up on iTunes or at IntegrityMusic.Com.
We’d love to get your review – comment below.



Fred McKinnon is the Founder and Publisher of TheWorshipCommunity.Com. He’s also the Worship Director for St. Simons Community Church, a husband, father of 4 wonderful kids, an e-biz owner, and a self-professed web2.0 addict, blogging at www.fredmckinnon.com.