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This Generation

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Mar
This Generation
Sounds like … more like the original Sonicflood than ever, with resemblances to other modern worship bands like Delirious, Fusebox, and Charlie HallAt a glance … This Generation still suffers from the stale formulaic approach plaguing so many modern worship albums today, but it is nevertheless a significant step forward for Rick Heil's version of SonicfloodTrack ListingThis GenerationAll I've Failed to BeYou AreEverlastingMore Than AnythingProdigalYour Love Goes On ForeverNever Forget You (Psalm 103)Moment of GloryGod Is Here

Not to keep harping on the unique history of Sonicflood, but when you take on a successful band name and vision, you also absorb their history and leave yourself open to comparison. The original Sonicflood, led by Jeff Deyo, helped ignite the modern worship movement with their self-titled debut in 1999, but then split apart in 2000—to the chagrin of legions of fans. The current Sonicflood, led by the original band's touring bassist Rick Heil, has released two more worship albums since—to the chagrin of legions of critics. Despite generating a couple of radio hits, 2003's Cry Holy was panned by many as one of the most formulaic modern worship albums ever.

Fans who haven't noticed—or cared—about the change in regime before probably won't mind that the band has once again completely changed (with all new members except Heil) for This Generation. But critics and cynics who have noticed or cared, may want to give Sonicflood another chance—they are much improved. Many have previously complained, for example, about Heil's whiny vocals on the last two albums. He's since overcome a long struggle with Crohn's disease, an intestinal disorder that's forced him to re-learn how to sing properly after his surgery. So besides being freed from his pain, his voice is considerably stronger.

As is the band's sound. Co-produced by Marc Byrd (City on a Hill), Jim Cooper (Building 429), and Dan Muckala (Joy Williams), the music is more polished and aggressive than it's ever been under Heil. Though not as good as the original Sonicflood, this band comes close at times with the heavier guitars and slick production effects. The title track approaches electronic and industrial rock with a heavy and dark chorus. "Prodigal" and "Never Forget You" both benefit from stronger guitar riffs, more reminiscent of Audio Adrenaline and Led Zeppelin than the average modern worship band. Other tracks like "God Is Here" simply feature a good melody suitable for group worship.

What still suffers, unfortunately, is the songwriting. Heil can't be held completely accountable; though he probably chose all ten songs for this album, he only co-wrote half of them (and none by himself). Though "All I've Failed to Be" isn't a bad song, it demonstrates lazy lyricism: "Jesus Christ, I am in awe of Your sacrifice/Holy I stand in Your presence here/I am near to You." The same holds true for "Everything," another tired worship ballad relying on unimaginative rhetoric: "You will always be the same/Your love will never change/I will put my trust in You/Forever to be true/You are the everlasting." A song like "You Are" could almost stand up with classic Sonicflood if it weren't for the clichéd writing: "I want to live for You/You are worthy/Boldly I'll speak Your truth and lay down my life." Does originality even matter anymore when writing worship music?

The worst lyric comes in "Moment of Glory" with this forced line: "There's something radical about this revelation/There's something magical about the cloud formations." Meaningful and evocative this ain't. Compare that to the best song on This Generation, "More Than Anything," written by Derri Daugherty and Steve Hindalong of The Choir and City on a Hill: "How sweet the rain that falls on barren land/So much more I need you/Divine the grace that heals a broken man/Precious Lord, I love You." Likewise, "Your Love Goes on Forever" (written with GlassByrd) seems more meaningful with words that recall the Psalms and classic hymns: "All you creatures of the sea and children of the Savior/Yearning hearts and oceans deep, praise the Lord."

Sonicflood still has a ways to go if they want to match the superior musicianship and meaningful songwriting of worship artists like Chris Tomlin, Brian Doerksen, Delirious, Something Like Silas, and Jason Morant. But This Generation is a significant step in the right direction for Heil, displaying improvements in his singing while surrounding himself with a stronger band and production team. If he can make similar progress with the writing and song selection, it wouldn't be unfathomable for Sonicflood to reclaim its legacy as a leader in modern worship, rather than maintain its reputation as a follower.