Jesus Culture Music/Capitol Christian Music Group
Release Date: November 11th 2016
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Welcome Here
- After My Heart
- Because of Your Love
- Won My Heart
- Only One God
- Surrendered (feat. Kari Jobe)
- The Length of the Cross
- Heart’s Cry
- All To You
- Heaven Came For Me
Becoming extremely popular and relevant in worship music over the past few years; Jesus Culture, comprising of Kim Walker-Smith and Chris Quilala on lead vocals, have poured their heart and soul into their music and have given us gems and offerings that we all love and enjoy. Songs like “Rooftops”, “Alleluia”, “Show Me Your Glory”, “Forevermore”, “I Belong To You”, “Come Away”, “Burning Ones”, “Your Love Never Fails”, “One Thing Remains”, “I Want To Know You”, “Fierce”, “My Soul Longs For You”, “Alive In You” and “Miracles” have all touched our hearts and inspired us to live more and more for Jesus, with the movement being directed at young people, with the mandate being ‘…mobilising a generation of revivalists who shape culture and transform nations….’; in my opinion this worship collective that is sure to win over the hearts and souls of even the uninterested listener with just one song, has accomplished their goal and then some more, somewhat redefining worship music along with artists such as All Sons and Daughters, Leeland, Crowder, and Rend Collective. And while Jesus Culture have been instrumental in changing many listeners lives, don’t you reckon it’s time that we’re presented with and shown something different yet equally enthralling and impressive? Split The Sky, the solo debut album from Chris Quilala, released a while ago, and now it’s time to dive in and voice my thoughts on this 80’s themed alternative rock album. With “Because Of Your Love”, “After My Heart” and “Won My Heart” (the former an official single and the latter two promotional singles!) circulating radio last year and this year, let’s take a squiz at what makes this project similar yet so different from all of the other Jesus Culture projects from years gone before.
Well first things first, because Chris’ album is a solo project, I guess you could say that there’s more liberties to creating the type of music that stretches boundaries, that isn’t necessarily CCM or worship. And that is exactly what Chris has done, and done to perfection. Album opener “Welcome Here” is a straight up worship anthem with Chris proclaiming ‘…Spirit of the living God, Spirit of the living God, You are welcome here, You are welcome here…’, a declaration worth us all singing over our own lives, yet there’s a twist- Chris employs elaborate mixes and at sometimes excessive use of synth, electronics and an 80’s atmosphere undertone, creating the perfect worship hybrid, if someone like Keith Green, Rich Mullins or Larry Norman were creating music today using today’s music technology. It’s sound doctrinal lyrics with a refreshing musical take, that permeates throughout the album in definitely a good way, as Chris ‘creates’ his own genre so to speak.
“After Your Heart” once again utilises plenty of electronics, EDM and synth, creating a club dance feel, as Chris eloquently outlines that Jesus never stops chasing after us, that He’s after our hearts, our undivided attention and devotion, in this somewhat lyrically cliché and repetitive CCM/80’s themed melody; while the lyrically impressive second promotional single “Won My Heart” contains plenty of imagery, as Chris takes the tempo down a bit (yet still with the use of stirring synth and heaps of electronics and Nintendo/Gameboy sounds infused in this track for good measure!), and earnestly recounts the fact that ‘…I was a wasteland, where nothing could grow, but everything changed when, You called it Your Home, now I’m a kingdom, You sit on the throne, broke my defenses, made me Your own…’. An album highlight, and a standout in 2016 melodies in its own right, “Won My Heart” tells the ever-true story of Jesus capturing our hearts, and us fully surrendering to our Lord, Maker, Father and Friend.
But out of the singles, there’s no comparing the previous two to the current single “Because Of Your Love”- a 5 minute chilling and laid back electronics and synth prominent ballad which is basically a testimony like song about how ‘…because of Your love, hallelujah, I’m forgiven, the shadow has been lifted, You rescued me, because of Your love, I can stand with You forever, in the presence of my Saviour, alive and free…’. There’s truly nothing much more I can add about this magical melody, you just have to listen to the inspiring melody and let me know your initial thoughts- it’s quite special and truly Holy Spirit anointed!
Again, with chilling synth and reverbing electronics for a musical backdrop, “Only One God” adds a funky bass guitar line and explosive electric guitars for musical depth, as Chris ardently proclaims that there is only one God who stands tall above everything, that is worthy of all praise (a lyrically simple track, yet majestically sung and produced!), while we are introduced to our first ballad of Split The Sky in “Encounter”. Standing at 5 and a half minutes, the refreshing, reinvigorating and powerful synth led melody allows Chris to mine for musical gold, expressing himself more than he has ever done before in this ‘genre’ of dance/EDM/80’s rock, while also praising the same God who gave him these musical abilities! Crying out that ‘…we won’t stop, no we won’t stop, ’til we meet You, ’til we see You, we won’t stop, no we won’t stop, ’til we encounter You…’, we are glimpsed into the servant heart of Chris, as he reminds us all that Jesus should be all that we need, that only He alone is worthy of us needing Him and Him alone. The second ballad follows suit, with “Surrendered” being a soft, reverent, reflective and contemplative piano led ballad (which later turns into an organ/accordion/keys led 80’s themed ballad!), featuring Kari Jobe on guest vocals, outlining a moment of utter devotion and unbridled passion before our Lord and Saviour, as we ardently sing in communion with Chris and Kari that ‘…I find here in Your presence all I need, here I lay my life before You, I will give You everything…’.
“The Length Of The Cross” is as equally musically daring as it is confronting and comforting at the same time, with Chris posing questions, asking God how far He would go to do anything for us, with the answer revealed in the chorus being that Jesus would at least cover the length of the cross for any of us, because of His love for us. Somewhat cliché in the lyrics, Chris’ enthusiasm, passion and zeal for Jesus, and infectious joy abounding, offsets the uninspiring lyrics. Thankfully the rest of the songs are on point. “Reign” is a Starfield-like melody, co-written with Mia Fieldes and Jacob Sooter, where Chris ardently asks Jesus to reign in his life more than ever (the additions of Gameboy and Nintendo sounds makes for great nostalgia!), while the lullaby like “Heart’s Cry” brings the ballad count up to three, with the 6 and a half minute tune reminding me musically of One Sonic Society and All Sons and Daughters, with Chris declaring that ‘…my heart’s cry [is] to be a reflection of You, I want to be holy, like You are holy, Lord make me more like You…’.
Let me tell you, there’s something unique, beautiful and special about Chris stripping down almost all of the instruments, creating just a simple song between him and God, and that encourages us all to just praise our Father without any inhibitions nor worry about what praising God looks like. While we take a break from ballads as Chris fervently proclaims in the Matt Redman and Jeremy Riddle penned CCM/pop/worship melody “All To You”, a solid entry, that ‘…I have made my choice, I have set my course, all to You…Your love has marked my life, so I will give my life, all to You…’ (a melody that could well be recorded by Matt Redman or Bethel Music, or Chris Tomlin or Crowder in the future, or anyone from Passion!); the album ends with the most rousing ballad of all. “Heaven Came For Me” is Chris’ most inspiring song on the album, and it makes sense that it’s the album closer. Hymn like in nature, Chris delves into a prayer of gratitude, thanking God for coming to us and rescuing us even when we didn’t deserve saving nor forgiveness. Essentially the gospel in 6 and a half minutes, Chris has majestically created a track sure to stand the test of time, in an album that is sure to have plenty of replay value as the months and years progress!
Personally, I thought that a solo album from a lead vocalist of one of the biggest worship groups in the world would not work, however Chris Quilala has indeed proven me wrong with Split The Sky and his own ‘genre’ of electronic music meshed with ballads and worship anthems. In fact, this batch of alternative melodies, that wouldn’t normally be heard on a Jesus Culture live album, shows us that Jesus Culture and the label aren’t resting on their laurels and are not afraid to redefine what worship music sounds like, also evidenced by Kim Walker-Smith’s album On My Side (which will be reviewed soon!). Well done Chris for a well-produced and sung remixed album, one that has me excited for future Jesus Culture’s future projects!
4 songs to listen to: Because Of Your Love, Encounter, Heart’s Cry, Heaven Came For Me
RIYL: Kim Walker-Smith, Vertical Church Band, Hillsong UNITED, Crowder, Phil Wickham, Paul Baloche