Release Date: September 16th 2016
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- The Mountain
- The Ascent
- Here and Now
- Not By Might
- Simple Pursuit
- Can’t Stop Your Love
‘…my hope and prayer is that these songs will bring people closer to Jesus. It’s also acknowledging that it’s a journey and that it can be a challenge and hard at times and that’s ok. When we are in those hard times, it’s so important get close to Him and to pursue His presence. For its in His presence that we find life to the fullest and strength for the journey…’ Ben Cantelon, originally from Canada but now living in the U.K., has written some of worship music’s most underrated songs that are sung within the modern church today; penning tracks such as “Love Came Down”, “Saviour Of the World”, as well as co-writing others like “For Your Glory” and “Happy Day”, with Matt Redman and Tim Hughes respectively. Now releasing his brand new EP titled The Ascent Vol. 1 (thereby hinting of a Vol. 2 or 3 in the works), after a 4 year hiatus, Ben has delivered to us 7 songs full of hope and reflection as the theme of the songs overall give us a reminder of how when we climb the ascent and see things from His point of view compared to our own, our focus becomes more refined and our clarity and direction much more motivated and comforting, not only to us but those around us as well. It is when we realise that even travelling to the ascent isn’t by our own strength is something we need to grasp, often on a daily basis, and these songs Ben has shown us all, in their own way, offer up some impetus to climb towards the ascent in the first place. What has resulted from his four years away, is 7 songs, each song written with such fervent urgency, as Ben highlights his own need for these songs in his own life as much as ours. Ben is a wonderful songwriter and these songs are proof of that- here’s hoping everyone else who listens to the EP believes it too!
With two songs out of the seven tracks previously recorded on other albums by other artists, there is still a sense of familiarity going into this EP as I hear it, and while much of the track list is nevertheless new as I hear it for the first time, the fact that there are some songs on it that I’ve heard before makes the experience much more exciting. “Simple Pursuit”, quite possibly the next radio single from the Passion Worship movement after “Remember”, tells us of a moment of realisation, of when everything else is stripped away and when one thing remains- our unwavering faith and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. When all our add-ons, exceptions, ifs and buts are taken from us and when it comes down to it, are we really ready to boldly assert and proclaim, like Ben, for God to take us back to ‘…an unswerving faith, in the power of Your name, a heart beating for, Your kingdom to reign, a church that is known for Your presence again, God take us back…’ ? Where the church just exists for reaching other people who know not of Jesus, as well as building each other up and equipping the saints, rather than just existing for, dare I say it, an exclusive social club? Questions that are hard, I know, yet this song pulls all the right strings and allows us to delve into such issues.
Full of light keyboard riffs and an undertone of electronic effects, Ben evokes a sense of reflection as well as confrontation in “Simple Pursuit”, allowing us to commune with God as we hopefully bare our souls before Him, and maybe, just maybe, by the end of the song, we will proclaim with Ben the truth that ‘…nothing and no one comes close to You, nothing could ever come close…’, believing it ourselves in the process. “Can’t Stop Your Love”, previously recorded by One Sonic Society on their 2015 EP Make a Way, is as encouraging, maybe even more so, than “Simple Pursuit”, as Ben presents a theme that at times isn’t talked about as much as it should be at churches- that nothing we do or don’t do will make God retract His unending love for us. In fact, the title of the song says it all- that God’s love can’t be stopped, from showering us, and from allowing us to believe that fact wholeheartedly and fully. With a gospel choir toward the end of the song, allowing us to see how unique it is for the musical genres of worship and gospel to collide, and collide well; these two songs are certain to be played in rotation, if they haven’t been already, by radio stations around the world, in the weeks and months ahead.
The remaining 5 tracks are just as rousing and powerful as the two that I have aforementioned and discussed, and while it may take some time for Ben’s music to be accepted and sung freely and widely in churches around the world (as opposed to other worship artists and movements, like Rend Collective, Kari Jobe, Chris Tomlin, Jesus Culture, Crowder etc.); Ben’s music is enjoyable to listen to. “The Mountain”, quite possibly a radio single from Ben in the future, is the first track and explodes into life as Ben utilises powerful drum beats and his distinct voice that combines a little bit of a Canadian accent with a British one (considering that he was born in Canada but lives in the U.K., his voice, both singing and speaking, is very distinct and unique). The song is a call from us to God, wanting Him to lead us up the mountain so that we can see life from His view, and thereby glorify Him for all things, even the things we don’t even understand at a certain moment. Co-written with Tim Hughes and Kristian Stanfill, I suspect this song to blow up in terms of popularity as maybe, just maybe, these two other co-write artists could record it for a solo album and a Passion project respectively. “The Ascent” is a three-minute spontaneous track with minimal lyrics and a whole lot of choir singing. Drums, electric guitars and keyboards flood the track and create a space for free worship, as this 3-minute song allows Ben to spontaneously sing his thoughts and worship out in song as “The Ascent” becomes one of my favourite spontaneous free worship songs I’ve heard in a while.
“Here and Now”, quite literally the fastest paced song on the EP, is also the longest, as Ben creates a song to dance along to in celebration as we, alongside Ben, declare that ‘…here and now, we want all of You…’– then the chorus breaks into electronic dance music, and if you probably weren’t listening that hard to the lyrics, you may be mistaken to think that this song is a disco club track rather than a worship one. Still, the most out-of-the-box song I’ve heard from Ben. Kudos to him for such unique diversity. Inspired by the verse in Zechariah 4:6, Ben’s next made-for-radio track “Not By Might” was co-written with Brian Johnson of Bethel Music…in fact, this song could be a radio track recorded by Bethel Music in the near future. A song that encourages us to declare that it isn’t by what we do but by who God is, Ben continues with encouraging moments in “Mightier”, a song co-written with singer-songwriter Mia Fieldes (who also co-written songs like “Saviour King”, “I Am Not Alone”, “Fierce”, “You Won’t Let Go”, “God You Reign” and “Christ is Risen” to name a few). Anthemic and radio friendly, riveting and encouraging, Ben imparts to us all that God is mightier than any situation or circumstance, with is a realisation and maybe even a revelation that we all could need from time to time.
Ben has created an EP that has become one full of anthems of praise and adoration, with each song on the 7 track EP evoking powerful worship moments and reflection. The Ascent Vol. 1 is a reminder, that God is the ascent in which we travel towards, and that while that is our destination, it is the journey getting there that is equally important. While it has been a long time coming for Ben (I probably would’ve liked the EP to be a little longer…four years wait between projects an only a 7 song EP to show for it…); the quality of these tracks negates the EP length, and gives us songs to listen to again and again as we wait for Ben’s full length album in the future. One of the most underrated worship artists of today’s generation, this is a must have EP if you are a fan of artists like Matt Redman, Paul Baloche or Tim Hughes.
3 songs to listen to: Simple Pursuit, Can’t Stop Your Love, Mightier
RIYL: Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Leeland, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, Paul Baloche