Release Date: May 1st 2020
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- My Testimony
- Graves Into Gardens (feat. Brandon Lake)
- The Blessing (Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes)
- Never Lost (feat. Tauren Wells)
- No One Beside
- Have My Heart (Vamp)
- There Is A King
- What Would You Do (feat. Isaiah Templeton)
- GOD SAID LIVE!
With a great volume of high quality and not so high quality worship bands and solo artists out there; the competition is fierce and there is quite a standard as well- as groups like Hillsong (all facets!), Planetshakers, Vertical Worship, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture and Passion all deliver high quality worship albums year in and year out (for the most part); not to mention solo artists like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Phil Wickham, Kari Jobe, Meredith Andrews, Crowder and Paul Baloche to name a few. Creating probably something of a worship saturation point from all of these many artists churning out the album releases; does the addition of another worship movement/band create an unnecessary movement, or a challenge for new and existing bands to rise up and become more creative and inventive with their songs, musically and lyrically? What exactly makes a band like Elevation Worship so special, particularly since their main lead singers Mack Brock and London Gatch left the group a little while back?
Graves Into Gardens is a live release that dropped a couple of days ago, and in that time, I’ve been totally ministered to and ushered into the presence of God…probably the most by an Elevation Worship album! While the band has recently started to become popular on the radio due to their songs “O Come To The Altar”, “Do It Again”, “Echo”, “See A Victory” and “Resurrecting” I reckon their latest offering is one of the most cohesive ever- yep even more so than Hallelujah Here Below. It’s no mean feat for the group to release a second full length album after both Mack Brock and London Gatch have left to pursue solo careers; yet in light of this development, Graves Into Gardens stands tall amongst quite a lot of worship albums from this year- Elevation Worship deserve to be congratulated, and to be proud of themselves.
To release a live album during a time where we are all on quarantine seems to be a bit like rubbing it in all of our faces, reminding us all that ‘hey we had this you-beaut worship service that none of you can go to now- and since we’re all on lockdown, let me put it in your face that you couldn’t go to this awesome concert! Sucks for you!’. Yet on a deeper look, I realise that this live project is exactly what we need at the moment. Explosive and rousing opener “Rattle” sets the tone for the entire album, as this ball of energetic joy fervently relays to us that the source of all of our praise and happiness comes from God, and Jesus. As we hear the sounds of bones rattling and dead men coming alive, surely we can sing to God and praise Him with a passion and enthusiasm never heard before, right? Coming in soon after the opener which is this emphatic declaration, is the radio-friendly guitar led mid tempo anthem “My Testimony”- basically a jovial testimony sung out to Jesus, as we are once again introduced to an upbeat worship anthem this time with simpler and slightly more effective lyrics- lyrics that declare the ever-true nature of God, that ‘…this is my testimony, from death to life, ’cause grace rewrote my story, I’ll testify, by Jesus Christ the righteous, I’m justified…if I’m not dead, you’re not done, greater things are still to come…’.
Co-written and brilliantly sung by Bethel Music’s Brandon Lake, the compelling and powerful guitar led worshipful title track eloquently relays to us the undeniable true fact that ‘…You turn graves into gardens, You turn bones into armies, You turn seas into highways, You’re the only one who can…’ on the chilling backdrop of a vibrant choir resembling something of a gospel track; while the contemplative piano led ballad “Available”, co-written with Jason Ingram, Ben Fielding and Matt Redman, speaks about the concept of being available for what Jesus wants to do in our lives. Standing tall at almost 10 minutes, this track doesn’t feel rushed at all, as Chris Brown reiterates his heart for what personally is one of my favourite tracks on the project: We wanted to write a song that carried this message of surrender. Tiffany Hammer was just the voice right away to carry it, because of who she is and how she carries herself. Hopefully, it’ll be one of those intimate tracks on the album that people can very much so connect with personally.
One thing that I’ve found from this album and many others from Elevation Worship, is that they’re not afraid to employ co-writers and guest vocalists- all in the name of worshipping Jesus and making His name famous. That’s definitely the case with “Authority”, co-written with Brooke and Scott Ligertwood- an honest and emotional ballad expressing wonder at God’s authority and power in relation to creation; while “Never Lost”, a lighthearted R&B groovy type of track skillfully and emotively led by Tauren Wells, is an anthem that authoritatively cries out that Jesus Christ has never ever lost a battle, and He never will. “No One Beside”, on the other hand, brings the tempo back down to soothing and reflective, as this slow tempo keys led track could actually fit on a Hillsong Worship or Planetshakers album. And with the profound simple yet grandiose look at the might and power of our Father and Saviour, “No One Beside” ticks all of the boxes musically and lyrically; as well as atmosphere-wise- and I am delivered a track that has resonated with me greatly this year!
“Have My Heart (Vamp)” is a spontaneous free worship type of melody, in which each second of the 4 minute duration directs utter and unbridled praise and devotion to God, asking Him to have our hearts; while the spine-tingling and heartfelt “There Is A King” plays out like a future modern hymn, and majestically relaying to us that ‘…all our worship will belong to Him forever, death is conquered and our Savior holds the keys, there is a name that reigns above all others, Jesus Christ, the king above all kings…’, quite musically similar to and reminiscent of “Living Hope” from Phil Wickham. The penultimate proclamatory and effervescent spontaneous free worship like “What Would You Do” features Isaiah Templeton on vocals, and is basically a cry and call to us all, asking us what would we do if we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus Christ was residing and dwelling in the room that we are in right now; while the album closer “God Said Live” is the spiritual sequel to the album opener- similar musical structure and themes and comprising an enthralling refrain which declares that dry bones can come out of the grave and live, similar to Ezekiel in the Bible.
Yet if I were to pinpoint one song on Graves To Gardens that I reckon is sure to impact the wider world that we live in- it’s have to be “The Blessing”. Sung with Cody Carnes and Kari Jobe. Elevation Worship have recorded a winner here, as they unveil to us probably the next “O Come To The Altar”. Simple lyrically, as this track is basically The Priestly Blessing directly taken from Numbers 6:24-26, where God reveals this prayer to Moses, for Aaron and his sons to speak over the people of Israel; Cody, Kari and Elevation Worship deliver this anthem in perfect harmony and vibrant passion- as I am emphatically swept away in a sea of raw and vulnerable emotion. Well done guys for this soon-to-be timeless classic- you deserve all the praise and accolades!
While the band is still on the rise, and many songs from Graves Into Gardens expected to propel Elevation Worship to even greater heights than “O Come To The Altar”, “Do It Again” and “Resurrecting”, such as “The Blessing”, “My Testimony”, “Never Lost” and “There Is A King”; it seems that the group are doing just fine without Mack and London. Sure they will miss these guys because of their experience and the worship leading ability, however we must have faith in the newer guys like current lead singer Chris Brown, that Jesus would guide their steps in respect to leading people in worship just like in this album. With the group’s next album maybe being sometime in 2021, let us hope and pray that the awesome music that was present in Graves Into Gardens continues. So well done Elevation Worship for this impressive project- one of my favourites of this year! Bring on the next album sometime in 2021!
3 songs to listen to: My Testimony, Available, Never Lost
RIYL: Hillsong Worship, Planetshakers, Meredith Andrews, Kari Jobe, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman