Hillsong United Empires on 2LP
Worship band Hillsong United's newest endeavor Empires follows 2013's Zion, the group's most successful and fastest selling album to date. With over 1.7 million albums sold, and over 30 million people singing their songs every Sunday, Hillsong United has set a precedent in the church that will only grow with the impact of the highly anticipated Empires.
Formed in 1998 out of the youth ministry of Australia's massive Hillsong Church, the nine-member band dominated Christian music for much of 2013 and 2014 with the platinum-selling "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)." They recently took home the award for top Christian artist at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards. The nine-member group's new collection promises to continue the group's arena - and megachurch-headlining success with an expansive worship-music style that draws on alternative pop, grand-scale rock.
The group takes simple songs – sung by four vocalists and pads them until they're lofty in scope. Not one song on Empires runs less than four minutes, and some run longer than eight or nine minutes. Much of the appeal of Empires comes from the mood it creates. While the washes of reverb and synthesizers can threaten to bury gently murmured vocals in the mix, the effect is still soothing and reassuring. And if only the occasional lyrical phrases emerge from the sonic mist – "I touched the sky when my knees hit the ground" or "I'll follow your voice straight into the dark" – that's still enough to convey the message.