Release Date: August 28th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Always Will Be
- It is Finished
- Oh Praise (The Only One)
- The Great Overcomer
- Never Gonna Let Me Go
- How Majestic
- Come Quickly
- Nothing More (feat. Lauren Daigle)
- Triumphant Conqueror
- To the Only God
‘…we read those last words of Jesus as he suffered and died and we tend to frame them in the context of the sadness and tragedy of the crucifixion. But if we only hear his words through that filter, we’re missing something. The fact that Christ’s work on the cross completed the plan of salvation gives so much reason to celebrate. It Is Finished came in the midst of suffering, but it is a victory declaration…’ Aaron Shust, possibly one of CCM’s most underrated worship artists, burst onto the Christian music scene way back in 2005 with his hit single “My Saviour My God”. 5 albums later, Aaron is now a seasoned veteran, and a singer/songwriter whose heart it is to allow his songs to minister to listeners as they are called into a space of worship and reverence. While not necessarily as popular as other worship artists like Chris Tomlin, Crowder, Jesus Culture, Hillsong or Bethel Music; what Aaron delivers is a sense of raw-and-real-ness, as these 10 songs, though not as polished/clean as a song by Chris Tomlin would sound, still showcase an atmosphere of worship in and amidst the chaos which is our everyday lives.
Released without much press or even single releases to radio prior to release date; Aaron has delivered song after song full of truth and emotion, and while this album is perhaps one of the most under-the-radar collection of tracks he has ever released in his whole career so far; what has resulted is an album full of unknowns, which is good in a way- listening to an album for the first time where you’d know nothing much about is sure to give you an unbiased look at the album. And while I still, even after listening to his album, will probably be partial to music of Chris Tomlin or Crowder, Aaron’s music is still refreshing, humbling, poignant and heartfelt. From a duet with Lauren Daigle, to Aaron’s first single “To the Only God”, Doxology is an album certain to be enjoyed by fans of the worship genre, or even fans of Aaron’s previous work previously.
Starting off the album with “Always Will Be”, a rock anthem uniquely musically choreographed with Egyptian-style guitars, hand claps and a gang vocal; Aaron presents us this theme of God always being with us in every circumstance- and though this theme can somewhat seem repetitive across many songs by many artists over the years; the song still is a powerful reminder of this fact and truth. As Aaron divulges in his blog about the song, ‘…you may be journeying through the dark night of your soul, but be at peace, our God, through the ever present comfort of the Holy Spirit, stands with you in the dark, in your pain, in your depression, in your anger, even in the blazing fire, he stands with you…’, we hear poetry collide with a heart of comfort as Aaron delivers one of the most energetic and vibrant first tracks since “To God Alone” in 2009. A comfort to hold onto during times of difficulty; “Always Will Be” is as energetic as it is enjoyable and necessary to hear.
Known to us and everyone else as the final words that Jesus spoke when He died on the cross, Aaron delivers a song in “It is Finished” that celebrates, exemplifies and solidifies this truth- that the simple act of Jesus dying and resurrecting finished, completed and washed away all of our sin, dirtiness and shame. With a steady electric guitar undertone, Aaron invites us to believe that these words spoken by Jesus are overcoming to those who hear it, and this 3:35 minute track is as great an invitation as any. “Oh Praise (The Only One)” presents to us a melody that sounds strikingly hymn-like as this simple melodic atmosphere full of strings and light instrumentation sheds light on the poignant and powerful lyrics that we ought to ‘…praise the only one who shines brighter than 1000 suns, death and hell call Him victorious, praise Him…’; while “The Great Overcomer” explores a reimagining of “Solid Rock” in a song not written by Aaron at all, instead written by songwriters Seth Mosley and Michael Farren of Pocket Full of Rocks. While Aaron didn’t have a hand in writing the song, his passion to deliver the words with such conviction brings to us a highlight on the album, as we hear the emotive and encouraging words of how ‘…You’re the Great Overcomer, You’re the King of all kings, You’re the One who was and who’ll always be, You’re our Source of life, You’re the breath we breathe, You’re the reason we’ll sing for eternity…’
Both “Never Gonna Let Me Go” and “Come Quickly” have a southern-gospel twang to each of the melodies, as each of them deliver similar, yet different themes to listeners. The shorter track, “Never Gonna Let Me Go” was borne out of hurt, suffering and despair, and written in response to Aaron’s friend’s death not too long ago. With light percussion and a country music undertone, “Never Gonna Let Me Go” is a fun track to sway along to, but its theme is as pertinent and necessary for us to hear. As spoken by Aaron himself, ‘…the irony of that song is that, while it’s definitely a celebration, it was a song Benji Cowart and I finished writing after a close friend of mine died. He had asked that we throw a big, blow-out, praise celebration rather than a gloomy memorial for him, and that’s what we did. The lyric says ‘even death won’t take us.’ John 10:29 reminds us that our Father is greater, and that nothing can snatch us from His hand. Not even death…’ “Come Quickly” embodies a southern gospel a la Third Day or Kirk Franklin as Aaron tries his hand in a genre that he may not have recorded in before, yet this song pays off in a big way. Emphasising upon the musical genre of years past that finds its roots in the history of African-Americans longing to be free as they were enslaved in America, this song presents a theme of us longing, but not to be free because we already are, but longing for God to come in His own time to take humanity home to Him.
“How Majestic”, a song derived from the Psalms as a praise and worship song, we hear Aaron poetically describe God our Saviour, with the song lifting Him up in praise and thanksgiving. With the keyboard placed front and centre in this track, “How Majestic” has a Matt Redman or Tim Hughes-esque stamp on it (not necessarily a bad thing) as this track 6 becomes a favourite of mine, alongside other standouts like “Never Gonna Let Me Go” and “Always Will Be”. “Triumphant Conqueror”, standing at a little over 5 minutes, focuses on the majestic qualities of God, and while lyrically and thematically similar to “How Majestic”, it shows us a different side to our triune God. Presenting to us the power in the words of how He is ‘…triumphant conqueror, forever glorious, our Lord victorious, You are worthy…’, a song that is declared by Aaron himself to be one of his own favourites, is also yet again a standout of mine as well. The longest song on the album, “Nothing More” was written with worship leader BJ Putman and Jonathan Lee, and while possibly the most lyrically simplistic (yet equally truthful and profound) melody, it is also the longest song on the album, standing at over 6 minutes. Collaborating vocally with worship music artist Lauren Daigle (quite possibly one of the most unique, innovative, powerful, poignant and enjoyable new artists to listen to ever since Dara MacLean in 2011); Aaron and Lauren have provided us a song certain to be sung in churches in months and possibly years to come.
Aaron’s new album, though under-the-radar, is indeed one of my favourites of the year so far. The last song on the album, “To the Only God”, encompasses the theme of the album as a whole, as Aaron himself declares that ‘…[the song] perfectly summarizes the theme and celebrative feel of the album, gathered around His Throne, we lift our eternal praises to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ: the only God our Savior…’ While at times the album may feel a little too raw for my liking, like there’s something missing (Aaron does have a more unpolished quality about him compared to artists like Bethel, Hillsong or Chris Tomlin); Doxology is by far one of my favourite albums from Aaron ever since his 2009 Take Over. Released on what is considered one of the busiest months of Christian album releases (releases from Rend Collective, 7eventh Time Down, Abigail Duhon, Warr Acres, Nichole Nordeman, JJ Heller, One Sonic Society…need I go on?); Aaron continues to deliver biblical truth after truth as Doxology shoots to being one of my top 5 albums of the year so far! Well done Aaron for such an enjoyable album. This is certainly going to be on repeat in my iTunes playlist for months and even years to come!
3 songs to listen to: To the Only God, Never Gonna Let Me Go, Always Will Be
RIYL: Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, Bethel Music, Matt Maher