Capitol Christian Music Group / Hillsong Music Australia
Release Date: March 11th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Hillsong Worship– These Same Skies (Studio) (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- That’s the Power (feat. Benjamin Hastings)
- Fresh Wind (feat. Brooke Ligertwood & David Ware)
- Never Walk Alone (feat. Mi-kaisha Rose)
- Hope of the Ages (feat. Reuben Morgan & Cody Carnes)
- Son Of David (feat. Ben Fielding)
- Always Been God (feat. Hannah Hobbs)
- Resurrender (feat. Brooke Ligertwood)
Here’s an assertion that I reckon is pretty spot on, in my own opinion. Hillsong Church is probably one of the most well-known, popular, inspirational, loved, hated, controversial, and much needed churches/bands/institutions ever. All of these adjectives at the same time, you ask? Well…yes. In short, Hillsong and all of its incarnations have encouraged many, and have angered much more. Yet even as a divisive international entity, the biggest church in Australia still offer so much hope to the world, that it’s hard not to be floored in a good way, and amazed at the group’s musical endeavours. Particularly Hillsong Worship of late, we have “What A Beautiful Name”, “Who You Say I Am”, “King Of Kings”, and more recently “Hope Of The Ages”, each breaking records on radio and changing lives. My brother Jon even wrote about Hillsong on one of his latest Momentous Mondays blog posts a couple of years ago.
Yet just as early as a couple of years ago (and also well into this year!), Hillsong has been in the news for all the wrong reasons though. In July 2019 I think (I can’t be sure of the exact date!), former worship leader Marty Sampson renounced his faith in Jesus. In response to this unexpected news, John Cooper the frontman of rock band Skillet, wrote a lengthy response to Marty’s admission, which in effect spoke about the importance of placing our faith in Jesus and reading the Word of God rather than looking to worship leaders as the source of all of our truth. As John firmly reminded us all to place our roots in the Bible so that they can’t be shaken…Hillsong stayed silent on this ever-prevalent matter (aside from a generic statement they posted on their website, which I saw back in August 2020, but I can’t find now!). Now I’m not sure if many worship leaders from Hillsong were walking with Marty in his time of need, and are still walking (I’m hoping and praying that they are!), but I reckon a public statement from the church about all of this wouldn’t do any harm, and clear up any speculation about the church’s stance of what Marty has said- once and for all. And though right now you hear nothing from Marty (I think he’s cut himself off from anything to do with church and with Christians), another ‘scandal’ reared its head in late 2021, as Brian Houston is now on trial for concealing evidence back in the 70’s of his father abusing children. Carl Lentz also faced backlash and scrutiny after his affair; while this year as well, there’s a documentary on Disney +, that speaks about the many scandals Hillsong has faced, and painting the church in a negative light. And so, whatever your own views on what is happening right now with Hillsong and their church, in the forefront of the media (and it may be negative, and in that case, I probably wouldn’t blame you!)- there’s no denying that there’s still some impressive music that these guys have released.
It is under these same skies that Christ’s church–His body on earth–exists today. And–though separated by oceans and closed borders–the mission of Hillsong Worship continues under these same skies. One in heart and spirit, unified in mission and cause–to glorify the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to build His Church, and to serve His Church with the new song. We pray and believe that all of our labor sown in faith will mean a harvest for God’s glory, and we pray something that really blesses you and helps you to encounter Jesus in a fresh way in this season.
When I reviewed the Spanish album Hay Mas from these guys, I firmly reiterated that ‘…It isn’t known whether Hillsong Worship will retire (I really don’t think so, and my guess is that they’ll keep going, and eventually phase out older members and introduce newer worship leaders, resulting in eventually a brand-new movement). And it also isn’t known what will happen in the near future- their reputation and brand may hinge upon what they say in response to Marty’s revealing post. However, I think personally that their best is yet to come!…’; nonetheless, I reviewed the live album These Same Skies in November 2021. You can read all about that album here, but the long and short of it was that I found these songs revitalising and refreshing, despite the scandals and the controversy. Considering everything that was going on with Marty, and with the Carl Lentz affair, and with Brian over the past few years, I was hesitant to dive deep into a Hillsong album at great depth- especially last month when I read the press release about the album being released. Even though I knew some songs would be inspiring- I was positive that I wasn’t going to be in the right headspace to listen to something by a worship movement who has been in the news for all of the wrong reasons. Yet one re-listen to the lead single “Hope Of The Ages” (which released in its studio form and was reviewed by Jon here!) and I was hooked. This was yet another reminder from God that These Same Skies is an album that needs to be listened to despite everything that happened to Hillsong the church- and such an album needs to be extensively examined- and we need the separate the artist from the art.
When I say the word ‘Hillsong’… obviously I’m sure some of you may feel hurt from the church. For those of you, I reckon that maybe These Same Skies may not be for you at this time, because it might dredge up old wounds not healed properly. That’s totally ok and a valid feeling and thought to have, and obviously, you may take time to listen to Hillsong again or you may never will. However, this album objectively presents to us promise after promise that God has impressed to us upon our hearts; and if we can set aside for a moment any preconceived ideas we may have about this group, then I firmly believe that These Same Skies will be a powerful and moving worship album that we all might be able to listen to again and again and again. I’ve said this in my review of the live album, and I will say it here again. Sometimes you need to separate the artist from the art; and if we cancelled everyone based on their past transgressions… well, I guess we’d be cancelling everybody!
As far as the studio album (or EP- it’s 7 songs long!) goes, which released today; is the project worth it to review? I loved These Same Skies on the whole, but how do these studio versions live up to their live counterparts? In short, this EP is still impressive, with “That’s the Power”, “Resurrender” and “Never Walk Alone” being standouts and poignant and impressive. Yet personally, my favourite song of These Same Skies (live version and studio version!) is “Hope Of The Ages”, and as Jon reviewed this single around Easter last year… can I say that I totally agree and echo Jon’s sentiments? In fact, Jon has said it so good, that I’ll quote: Standing at a bit over 5 minutes in length, this song is humble and heartfelt, compelling and confidence-building, and a song to be the ‘sequel’ if you will, to ‘King of Kings’. Led by both Cody Carnes and Reuben Morgan, we are met with a song that states the reality of what the gospel is (or should be) to people, and through the words of the first verse, we know that this is a song that has the power to impact just like songs ‘King of Kings’ and ‘What a Beautiful Name’ beforehand- ‘…the gospel of Jesus, it’s the hope of the ages, burning brighter and brighter and standing forever, the church He is building, nothing can stop it, it’s a city that’s shining, a light in the darkness, nothing can stop it…’ ‘Hope For the Ages’ is a great reminder of what the gospel of Jesus can and does do for people who fully understand the gravity of our own sin, and the extraordinary love of God in spite of how we have behaved… Reuben’s been a founding father for Hillsong Worship all these years ago, and so to see him leading this song is a nice touch. Cody is starting to become one of today’s most emotive and humble worship leaders, so for both Cody and Reuben to collaborate on this track is a reminder that two different generations can still come together united in Biblical truth. It is in not only this song, but through Take Heart (Again) and At Easter EP, where I’ve found a new-found appreciation for Hillsong, and maybe, just maybe, people can revisit songs from these two aforementioned EPs, and be reminded that in a time of 2021 with the pandemic not slowing down anytime soon; timeless, familiar songs (like Hillsong’s two previous EPs), and songs that can seem to feel like they’re familiar and timeless (like ‘Hope for the Ages’), can often get us through even the most difficult of circumstances. Well done Cody and Reuben for this emotive and powerful song, maybe a lead single for a forthcoming album in the future? And let me just say that there’s nothing much more to say about this song. It’s God-breathed and special in oh so many ways, and if there’s ONE song to listen to from These Same Skies (live version and studio version!), this would be it.
With 4 of the songs being studio versions of live tracks (“That’s The Power”, “Resurrender”, “Never Walk Alone” and “Hope Of The Ages”); I actually found myself gravitated to the newly penned tracks for this project at first. “Fresh Wind”, a song we sing regularly at our church on Sundays, and a track that released at the beginning of 2021 and presumably missed the cut on the live album of These Same Skies, is a powerful, emotional and explosive worship anthem about wanting a fresh wind, a new word from heaven to sing throughout the global church. Led by Brooke Ligertwood and David Ware, this song is inspiring and impacting, and encourages us to keep pressing into Jesus, asking Him to ‘…pour Your Spirit out…’; while the melody also encourages us to only look to Jesus as our Father and our Saviour, rather than any other earthly person we may place on a pedestal. “Son Of David”, led by Ben Fielding, is a prayer, asking Jesus, the son of David, to have mercy on us- the collective ‘us’ referring to the 7+ billion people in this world who are inherently sinful, although this track is indeed cliché, yet still impacting and encouraging. The final ‘new’ track is “Always Been God”, led by Hannah Hobbs, and extensively speaks about the faithfulness of Jesus Christ and His immense and unending love for us.
If you guys aren’t into Hillsong Worship– then I’d say the studio album Awake is the best place to start. But if you are a fan and are unfazed by the ‘off-field drama’; then These Same Skies (both the live album and studio album!) is right up your alley. “Hope Of The Ages”, “Fresh Wind” and “Always Been God” are the standouts on this studio EP, and essentially every single track on this project is proof of the band’s longevity and their incredible song-writing and worship-leading ability. Even though I do enjoy the Hillsong United albums better than the Live counterparts (really, what is the difference besides a few worship leaders on one and others on the other?); the megachurch are still a force to be reckoned with, both in CCM and worship. They make the 3-4-albums-a-year aspect work, and if they stick with what they know, then it will definitely work for them in the future! Personally, I reckon “Hope For The Ages” is as good as Hillsong Worship have ever been, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting more future projects in the coming months! Well, I guess now it’s time to re-listen to Awake and There Is More; don’t you reckon?
3 songs to listen to: Hope Of The Ages, Fresh Wind, Always Been God
RIYL: Planetshakers, Hillsong UNITED, Hillsong Young And Free, The City Harmonic, Elevation Worship, Passion, All Sons And Daughters