Release Date: August 26th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Empty Grace
- Show Us Your Unfailing Love
- Come Quickly
- Blessings Flow From Grace
- Lowest Moment
- I Won’t Withhold Anything
- Holy (Strengthen Your Weary Arms)
- Did You Mean What You Said
Comprised of three brothers Justin, Jeremy and Jordan Willet from Westminster, Maryland, Willet, a 3-piece independent worship/rock band have released their latest album Searchlight this week; on the back of their album Love On The Outside in 2012 and also acoustic version of that album. Sounding similar vocally to Aaron Gillespie, Adam Agee from Stellar Kart, Mikey Howard from 7eventh Time Down and Michael Barnes from RED; lead singer Jeremy Willet and his brothers deliver an explosive, impacting, heartfelt and moving worship/rock album, with an independent yet still professional and hard-hitting sound, and a certain purchase if you love indie rock and worship, or both infused together. With the brothers working together to inspire worship and missions, raising a large amount of money for overseas missions and the funding of projects helping millions of people all over the world; the “Searchlight World Tour” started a few days ago, with the band sure to minister to many people globally. As they share the love of Jesus, and also donate tips from the Searchlight EP download on Noisetrade to mission efforts; I am marvelled at the heart of these men of God as the remind us that we are to be the light and salt of the world in a place that is broken and in need of God.
The title track opens up proceedings, and thematically it doesn’t get any more profound than this. Jeremy sings with passion, with raw emotion, and with a sense of urgency, as he relays that Jesus’ is the light of the world. He also alludes to the fact that it is an honour to be sent out by Him into the world to spread the gospel, as it is our mission to see people come to Christ. Driven by a strong bass line and powerful electric guitars, the radio friendly just-under-3 minute tune has me singing along and shouting God’s praise with equal fervour, as Jeremy’s vocals soar, and the band let us know that people need to know the gospel via any means necessary and that is where we as Christians come in.
One thing that Willet do quite well is use their rock roots and worship to mesh these two recognisable genres into a unique and courageous sound, that is uniquely them, yet still very catchy as well, reminding me of many other artists and influences that I love and enjoy. It is evident in many tracks that these brothers are not afraid to push the lyrical and musical boundaries of Christian music. In “Empty Grace”, the band do a impression of southern rockers Rhett Walker Band, Disciple and needtobreathe, as they sing about how Jesus left His mark on the empty grave; that His resurrection signifies that ‘…I have been set free by the blood of the Lamb…’. It’s really a salvation and testimony kind of song, and this upbeat guitar led tune includes a stirring electric guitar solo, ardent gang vocals, as well as honest and emotional lyrics from Jeremy- what more do you want from a band on fire for Jesus?
Willet take the sound down a few notches in the subdued and reflective “Miracles”, a slow guitar led ballad, where we are treated to Jeremy sounding like Mike Grayson from mikeschair. With high notes attempted by Jeremy (he does make a good job of it!), he urgently sings about God’s love that never changes, and the fact that we are looking for the big miracle from God, so that we can believe His promises and plans for our lives. But the band then remind us gently that the miracle we only need to look at are the ones in the Bible, and the fact that Jesus rose from the dead; that He loved us before we knew His name. As the band shout out that Jesus is the God of miracles, and that His love never changes, I am in awe and wonder as I listen to one of my favourite indie songs of the year! While the hard hitting and explosive rocker “Show Us Your Unfailing Love”, a repetitive yet still poignant melody, has the band declaring that they are standing up as Christians, and not hiding from the world, while also asking God to show them His glory to other believers; and the longest song on the album “Come Quickly”, a piano ballad turned to a guitar frenzy, and a important yet confronting melody (with a speech at the end of the film that I can’t , speaking about the waiting for Jesus to come back, and the fact that it’s good that Jesus will rid the world of false prophets and the things of this world that hold our attention more than Him; it’s clear that Willet doesn’t settle on the big issues, as they tackle the topics that sometimes signed artists are too afraid to, or prohibited to talk about by labels.
The back end of the album is just as poignant and encouraging than the front half. “Blessings Flow From Grace”, a guitar led mid tempo 5 minute tune, though the title is a mouthful, give us hope and reassurance, that Jesus’ grace that abounds and extends to us come with blessings and favour that extend to us. while the benefits of believing in Jesus may not be apparent at first glance, in the long run, the fruits of our faith are sure to show, and people will be drawn to the light that is Jesus Christ, as ‘…we put no hope in flesh, we fill the air with praises, we are living proof of a God who saves…’.
As “Lowest Moment” kicks into gear; this acoustic guitar love song to God declares that God is with us in our lowest moment, therefore we must give God the highest praise at that time due to His name and sovereignty. The lyrics might seem a bit surprising as it is hard to praise God in our struggles and difficult situations. But our faith isn’t based on a feeling, it is based on scripture which never lies, so the band has reminded us that in our hard times, what keeps us going is the God who doesn’t change and always is faithful. Such a profound song that is a favourite of mine on the album, the song is segued into the acoustic guitar driven “I Won’t Withhold Anything”. A prayer that could be complementary to the Lord’s prayer- that says that we won’t withhold anything from God and that we will be 100% honest with our lives and totally transparent; Willet have shone brightly in this track and others, as they have quickly won me over musically and lyrically with their earnest and honest songs, with their signature rock sound blended in with their evident worship undertones as well. The final two tracks are the fervent and impacting worship melody “Holy (Strengthen My Weary Arms” and the emotional, heartfelt acoustic guitar led ballad “Did You Mean What You Said?”. With the penultimate track being a worship song, driven by the mid tempo electric guitar and pulsating drums, that praises God as holy and sovereign; the final track is what hits me.
I’m not sure if the song is based on something or not, but “Did You Mean What You Said” is confronting and emotional nonetheless, as we are met with the Jeremy singing about a friend (or the persona in the song singing about a friend), who has died. As the words are sung that ‘…did you mean what you said, when we prayed to God back then, did forgiveness and grace wash the tears from your face when you let go? Did you change your ways, did you forget yesterday?…’; it can be surmised and inferred that Jeremy’s friend died and Jeremy wasn’t sure he was a Christian or not. While the topic of ‘fake Christians’ is very controversial, we do need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ that they stay true to the word of God, and for our non-Christian friends that God reveals himself to them. As a last track, this song prompts us to undertake the Great Commission, and is fitting to end a worship album where the mission and vision is to see lives saved all over the world. Well done Willet for a compelling, thought-provoking and encouraging album that will be on my iTunes playlist for a while, that will be recommended to my friends as well!
‘Competing’ with Bluetree, Steffany Gretzinger, Rachael Messini, Julie Elas and Thousand Foot Krutch this week as a release day, Willet’s Searchlight is a gem of an album, of a genre I can only describe with a made up word- rockship! It’s got heart, soul, rock and vertical lyrics to Jesus, and what more do you need. The trio of brother remind us that sometimes the indie artists are just as good music and lyrics-wise as the signed artists; and never have I been excited for an indie artist to succeed than Love Collide earlier this year. A must buy for fans of rock, worship and any other genre in between; Willet’s album will stir your soul and ask you pointy yet necessary questions. Well done guys for broadening my mind and focusing more on Jesus. A job well done!
3 songs to listen to: Miracles, Lowest Moment, Did You Mean What You Said?
RIYL: Aaron Gillespie, 7eventh Time Down, Stellar Kart, Hillsong UNITED