Release Date: October 21st 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- This Is Our Time
- My Heart Is Alive
- Leave Me Astounded
- Stronger Than a Thousand Seas
- The Water Is Rising
- It’s Your Love
- Sing It Again
- He Touched Me
- Your Presence
- Look to You
- Abba Father
One of Australia’s premier youth and praise and worship bands, Planetshakers have created many stellar and poignant live and studio albums since the early 2000’s, and in the same vein as Hillsong, these Aussies release albums every year, sometimes 2 or 3. Just recently, the new record This Is Our Time dropped, as a CD/DVD and a standard edition, via Integrity Music. Though I am not that familiar with Planetshakers’ music, aside from a few tracks over the past few years, as well as the entire Rain Down and All That I Want albums; I can still appreciate a good album when I hear it. Though the past few releases from these Aussie young men and women of God lack a bit of cohesion, with the albums Heal This Land, Limitless and Endless Praise falling a bit flat, a bit less that what I expected, this new record thankfully is a whole lot more engaging, and a joy to listen to. If there is one album I suggest you should listen to if you’re not a fan of this modern pop/rock praise and worship group, then this release is the one to check out!
As with any live albums, it’s hard to assess each live track individually, as sometimes the song could drag, but I don’t really want to be nitpicky just because the Holy Spirit moved. Rather, the right thing to do as a reviewer with live albums is to examine all the tracks together. As for this album, what is the overall assessment? Well, there are an equal number of pop/rock/dance tunes and slower ballads. And a few songs with cheesy lyrics and a few tracks that remind me why the band has that potential of being great. This album, though containing some tracks that border on cliché and unimaginative, still needs to be heard though, as the great songs are really great- some of the best that they’ve actually recorded.
Starting the album with an upbeat frenetic dance party driven by synth and electronics, Planetshakers kick things off with the title track, and personally I think it’s a bit of a disappointment. With the lyrics in the chorus relaying that ‘…this will be the best time of our life as we encounter Your love again, here with You our hearts will come alive as we declare Your praises, oh, woah, oh, oh, oh, woah, oh, oh as we declare your praises…’, the theme of taking a stand and ensuring that we actively make a stand for Christ could have been sung with a bit more gusto. Though I am sure that the band were singing the songs with 100% of their effort, something about the track felt off, but I am sure other listeners may have found this song engaging, especially when objectively speaking it would be a great song to sing live, and see the audience dance fervently in mosh pits! Thankfully the rest of the five upbeat tracks are head and shoulders more captivating than the album opener.
“Joy” is a celebratory tune led by electronics and synth, with electric guitar and remix effects added in as well. Lead singer Joth Hunt is extremely passionate in his delivery of the song, and this call and response track has something the first song doesn’t- life and a fresh atmosphere. As we praise God for who He is, and testify to His goodness, I’m getting a Israel Houghton and New Breed vibe, and that’s definitely a good thing! Rocker “My Heart Is Alive” follows suit, and is ok, although the track has repetitive and simple lyrics, and reminds me of Hillsong Young and Free, and other bands that may not be to my age bracket in terms of niche market. Nevertheless, this guitar based anthem that speaks about surrendering to God and laying down our lives, so that ‘…my heart is alive, you got me dancing on the inside…’.
Mid tempo radio friendly “It’s Your Love” is another track led by Joth, and is a highlight, as highlights how God’s love never gives up on us. As Joth sings with enthusiasm across synth and keys, the simplistic lyrics should turn me off the song, but it’s hard to not dance to this musically contagious track, with an infectious tempo sure to bring a smile to our faces as we dance about God’s unending love, with ‘…freedom is alive, running through my veins, victory is mine, over sin and shame…’. “Sing It Again”, led by the driving guitar, is an explosive high octane and frenetic tempo anthemic melody, as we are reminded that Jesus is to be celebrated and glorified because of who He is, thus we can sing it again and sing it loud that He is King and Lord! While the last upbeat track “Look To You” is littered with pulsating drum beats, moving synth and keys, and upbeat electric guitar strums, as Joth and co. emphatically declare that they look to Jesus at all times, whatever comes their way. Relaying that we won’t turn away from God, fixing our eyes on God in every season; this song is the best out of the dance/pop/rock/remix melodies.
While I can objectively say that Planetshakers excel very well in their upbeat tracks, it is the slower anthems (all of them around 6-7 minutes each), that completely blow me away. “Leave Me Astounded”, a slow ballad driven by keys, was already featured on Endless Praise earlier this year, and this time also never fails to disappoint. Thematically about asking Jesus to shower His spirit onto us, as ‘…You’re the only Love that satisfies me, Lord we rise into Your loving arms, we’re safe and secure in Your light…’, this is a cry for revival, and the track that to me sums up the heart, mission and vision of the band. Similarly, “Covered” is a ballad once again led by keys, and also the acoustic guitar. Originally written and recorded by Israel Houghton, Planetshakers have recorded a brilliant rendition, and have made this worship anthem into their own. The theme of God’s grace covering us, making us spotless and blameless, is quite revealing, vulnerable, and poignant, and kudos goes to Israel for his songwriting, and the team for creating a well thought out anthem, that highlights the unending truth that ‘…no matter what I’ve done, no matter where I’ve been, no matter how I fall, You pick me up again, You have removed my shame, You take me as I am…’. And as Planetshakers are in their element, the rest of the slower tracks continue to be wonderfully written and exquisitely led!
“Stronger Than A Thousand Seas” uses plenty of imagery and descriptive words to describe the love of Jesus, as we are given a Michael Tait like vocal as the track expounds upon God’s love that is stronger, wider, longer, deeper and higher than anything that we could ever comprehend (which ought to amaze us as we worship Him!). Something that I could envision Hillsong singing, the radio friendly ballad is extremely powerful, and no doubt will change people’s lives. Also containing quite a lot of imagery is the water themed piano ballad “The Water Is Rising”, complete with an epic orchestral crescendo near the bridge; where God’s love is compared to water all around us, and His miracles to the waves. Though musically this track isn’t that inventive, it is the lyrics that are quite challenging and inventive, as we are reminded that ‘…God is doing something that we’ve never seen before, our God is moving, our God is healing…’.
While “You” (how original is this title?), led by piano and acoustic guitar, has the band softly and gently singing out that Jesus is the only One who can fill us up, and that He is everything we need- this track has plenty of instruments coming in from all directions, giving an anthemic and orchestral atmosphere; and “Holy” is a spontaneous and free worship song, that has the word ‘…holy…’ being sung over and over again, to the point of me having goose bumps; it’s evident that the band don’t really care about titles of songs that seem clever, but rather their hearts and motivations behind the singing.
Coming up to the final songs, the tempo is pulled back even more. “He Touched Me”, starting off as a piano only tune, plays out like a 80’s or 90’s Gaither like track, that later turns into a spontaneous worship anthem, relaying that Jesus touched us when we became a Christian, hence we are never the same again. “Your Presence” (nope, not Israel’s megahit “Your Presence Is Heaven”) is an original track, led by keys, and has the band passionately declaring that ‘…the cry out my heart is to be where You are, I love Your presence…Father where You are is where I want to be, hidden in Your courts is everything I need…’.
An emphatic and assured prayer to God, announcing that His presence is the only thing we want and need to survive this life; “Your Presence” is one of the band’s better tracks, and segues into the album closer “Abba Father”. A fitting way to end a stirring, personal, emotional and hard hitting album full of dance anthems and stripped back ballads; this song is simple in lyrics yet profound and powerful in its message. A song of love to our Saviour and Father, declaring that He is Abba Father, and that because of the cross and resurrection; it’s in this realization that we can worship Him freely, be in relationship with Him, and long for heaven when we can see Him face to face.
Overall an enjoyable album that has overall reinvigorated my interest for Planetshakers a bit more; this album achieved what it set out to do, and that is to share Jesus to the world using the methods and means that today’s culture understands and loves. Though not as hard hitting, poignant and emotive as albums from Passion, Jesus Culture, and Hillsong, Planetshakers have done Australia proud with their tracks full of inspiring messages and uplifting lyrics about Jesus! Well done Planetshakers for creating and album that is sure to be repeated on many iTunes playlists!
4 songs to listen to: Leave Me Astounded, Covered, Your Presence, The Water Is Rising
RIYL: Hillsong, David Crowder*Band, Matt Redman, Jesus Culture