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Hail to the King

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Oct
Hail to the King
Sounds like … modern worship with strong Brit-pop accents, similar to early U2, Oasis, Blur, and Snow Patrol, plus some of Hillsong United's more straight-ahead approachAt a glance … though it caters to convention in spots Hail to the King is for the most part is a successful modern worship disc created with Brit-pop enthusiasts in mindTrack Listing Now Hail to the King I'm Not Ashamed Rise You Brought Me Home You Are Here (The Same Power) At Your Feet I Receive He Is Greater Selah (Perfect Love) Look to the Cross All to Show The Call

Oh, those Brits. They meet in theaters, cafés, or even cross over to France to hold bilingual worship services, using rock 'n' roll lighting, staging, and music to reach out to indifferent hipsters and a secularized culture that has long written off the church as irrelevant.

That's the ministry of Hillsong London, an offshoot of Hillsong Church in Australia that has been in existence since 1996, but that only recently has begun to share with the world the music coming from its ranks (including pop star Natasha Bedingfield, who contributed a couple of songs heard on 2004's Shout God's Fame). In recent years, the worship team has slowly grown legs of its own, distinguishing itself from its mother-church colleagues by adopting a sound more in step with its heritage.

Hail to the King, Hillsong London's fourth album and first studio effort, sees them inching ever closer to the Brit-pop style championed by the likes of early U2 and Blur, plus nods to more recent torchbearers like Travis and Snow Patrol. Worship leader and executive producer Peter Wilson tries not to let things reach the arena-rock heights of those bands, keeping the songs less dense and allowing them more space to breathe.

This minimalism may discourage modern worshippers more accustomed to being pummeled over the head with arrangements that leave little to the imagination. But in practice, the simplicity renders the songs incredibly devotional, like the slowly building "I Receive," the solemn "At Your Feet," and the melodically excellent "You Brought Me Home" (the best worship song this side of Coldplay's "The Scientist").

All this balladry doesn't mean Hillsong London can't get let loose when they want to. Hail to the King's sharpest rock teeth show when the worship team goes the British invasion route, referencing everything from Achtung Baby rock ("Now") to garage rock ("I'm Not Ashamed") and even strains of The Clash ("Hail to the King").

A few of these rockers are more conventional, especially those that borrow a little too liberally from Hillsong United ("All to Show," "Rise"), but there has to be some resemblance to their brethren Down Under, right? Those exceptions aside, Hail to the King does enough things right to position Hillsong London as a modern worship frontrunner in their own right.

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