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When Silence Falls

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Aug
When Silence Falls
Sounds like … worshipful Brit pop/rock that immediately recalls Delirious, Matt Redman, Coldplay, Travis, and Jason MorantAt a glance … for an album purportedly about worship in the valley times of life, this is fairly standard and safe modern worship, though it's also new territory for Tim Hughes that's done very wellTrack ListingBeautiful OneYouConsuming FireGiver Of LifeWhole World In His HandsBeauty Of Your PeaceName Above All NamesWhen the Tears FallNothing In This WorldJoy Is in This PlaceHoly, HolyBeautiful One (reprise)

Even those marginally familiar with modern worship and Christian pop have probably heard of Tim Hughes without realizing it. "Here I Am to Worship" is the most popular worship anthem since Darlene Zschech's "Shout to the Lord," earning the 26-year-old worship leader Dove awards for 2003's Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year and 2004's Worship Song of the Year. And since the release of his late 2001 debut album bearing the same title, it's probably easier to count the Christian albums that the song has not appeared on.

The son of an Anglican minister, Hughes gained experience as a worship leader with Soul Survivor UK under the guidance of Matt Redman. It's therefore not surprising that his sound closely resembles that of his mentor, as well as British worship band Delirious. What is interesting, however, is how quickly the apprentice seems to have learned from his master. Hughes' sophomore effort, When Silence Falls, surpasses Redman's last couple of albums and comes close to similar sounding discs by Delirious and Jason Morant.

No doubt there are worship leaders earnestly hoping for another instant favorite with the church, but they should note that Hughes tried to approach worship differently with When Silence Falls. Good worship albums often fall into two categories. One provides the church with new songs for use in corporate worship, which is to say they're easily sung by large groups of people. The other kind is better at ministering through your stereo or in a concert setting—good worship music that's not always easy for group singing without a degree of familiarity. This album, like a lot of Delirious' material, leans more toward the latter category: very worshipful, good songs, but not necessarily an album of worship songs that churches can embrace.

Produced by Nathan Nockels (Watermark, Matt Redman), When Silence Falls is purportedly about finding and glorifying God in the valley times. As Hughes notes in reference to Scripture, these broken places are where the most profound worship experiences typically come from. Worshiping out of lament is an intriguing idea that's not explored often enough, and unfortunately, it still isn't here. Wouldn't it have been effective to start the album with melancholic songs reminiscent of the Psalms, and gradually progress toward songs of praise in spite of the hurt and uncertainty expressed?

The theme is only obvious in a few instances, however, primarily in the ambient ballads. The album's title comes from "When Tears Fall," a maudlin track with these lyrics: "When hope is lost, I'll call you Savior/When pain surrounds, I'll call you Healer/When silence falls, you'll be the song within my heart." In the gentle "Beauty of Your Peace," Hughes sings, "Take from our souls the strain and stress/And let our ordered lives confess/The beauty of Your peace," offering hope of eternal life amid desperate times. "Whole World in His Hands" uses the familiar lyric from the children's song to create a new comforting reminder of God's sovereignty, and it's made all the more effective with the introduction of a choir two minutes in.

For much of the CD, Hughes relies on typical songs of praise to convey God's vastness and surrendering to his will. The album opens with "Beautiful One," a familiar Delirious-meets-Redman rocker written in 2002. Both "You" and "Name Above All Names" openly praise the infinite majesty of the Almighty, yet even in these songs, Hughes succumbs to lyrical conventions; in the latter, trying to convey God's awesomeness, Hughes resorts to the usual bowing knee and confessing tongue chorus. Elsewhere, he offers the rousing praise song "Joy Is in This Place," reminiscent of classic Delirious, but aside from familiar phrases of "Everybody dance and shout," half the song relies on the first verse of "Amazing Grace"—certainly a cause for joy, but not an originally worded reason.

It's telling that one of the album's two standouts is a revived classic by UK worship band Phatfish. Hughes's cover of "Holy, Holy" is not as beautifully bombastic as the original, but it's still infectious in its beauty and simplicity, demonstrating the song's potential for adaptation and longevity with worshippers. The other highlight is "Nothing in This World," a song Hughes wrote back in 1998 that comes close to matching the easy melody of his beloved hit. It's a great sounding worship album—the best one Delirious never recorded—thanks to Hughes' gift of melody and Nockels' sure-handed production. But lyrically, Hughes needs to rely less on convention by finding fresh illustrations and phrasing to help bring his worshipful musings to life.