Provident Label Group/Essential Worship
Release Date: April 6th 2018 [Bright Faith, Bold Future] / August 31st 2018 [Planetarium EP]
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Track Listing: [Bright Faith, Bold Future]
- Open the Gates
- Yes I Will
- Over All I Know
- Hallelujah Amen (feat. Jon Guerra)
- My Defense
- Real Thing (feat. Sean Curran)
- All Hail the King
- After Your Heart
- Strength of My Life
- Shelter (feat. One Sonic Society)
Track Listing: [Planetarium EP]
- Yes I Will
- Over All I Know
- Open the Gates
- Hallelujah Amen
- Real Thing
‘…we have been born into the middle of the story. We know the beginning, and we have read the histories of those who have gone before us. We have seen God’s plan play out and the redemption brought to us through Jesus Christ. And like those who read ahead, skipping to the last chapter, we know how all of this will end. Christ defeated death and promised us a future with Him forever. We are children of a Kingdom that will never end, and the future for us is bright. How unique to be living our lives in between what has been accomplished and what has been promised. Between the already and the not yet…’ Vertical Worship (previously known and Vertical Church Band prior to their name change in mid-2017), since releasing their debut live album in 2012, have continued to release songs for the church. This collective, or movement, full of a revolving door of artists and worship leaders (now currently featuring leaders like Andi Rozier, Lauren Sweeney-Smith, Tara Stutes, Jake France and Judd Harris), show us that a worship movement is less about the artists involved and a lot more about what the Lord is doing, in spite of the artist and what is happening, even on the stage where worship is to take place. Vertical Worship have been one of my favourite worship movements, alongside Passion, Jesus Culture, Bethel Music and the ever reliable Hillsong UNITED, over the last few years, since listening to their chart-topping tracks, from ‘Open Up the Heavens’, ‘Light Shine In’, ‘All Glory’ and ‘Who Will Rise Up’, to ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Restore My Soul’, ‘Spirit of the Living God’, ‘Lamb of God’ and ‘Exalted Over All’. Now entering 2018 with the release of their new live album Bright Faith, Bold Future, whom has graced our iTunes stores from April 6th onward, alongside their brand new Planetarium EP that released August 31st (which consists of 6 tracks originally on their live album, but now reimagined and recorded in The Planetarium in Chicago); the passion exuberated within both these musical offerings is nothing short of remarkable and enthusiastic, as all the worship leaders give us great reminders of what it really means for us to have a bright faith, and to look to the future with certainty and boldness, a conviction that runs as a theme through these melodies.
The albums in general, with features the Vertical Worship team, as well as special guests Jon Guerra (formally part of the band but not anymore), One Sonic Society and Sean Curran (formally of Bellarive and currently part of Passion), are certain to become fan favourites as Andi Rozier and co. deliver some of the most vulnerable and poignant worship songs of 2018 thus far. They have continued to do what they have done best- deliver vertically directed worship music that allows the listener to become immersed in the various facets of what worship consists of and how it is expressed. Bright Future, Bold Faith and Planetarium are both great albums, an alternative if you will, if you’re looking for something different than the usual Hillsong, Bethel or Jesus Culture album that frequently releases each year. In fact, dare I say that this album (Bright Faith, Bold Future) is one of my favourites of 2018? Even on par with other poignant and powerful worship albums like Lincoln Brewster’s God of the Impossible, Rend Collective’s Good News and Phil Wickham’s Living Hope?
Released as the first single on the album, ‘Real Thing’ dropped digitally and as a live music video in February 2018, and led by worship leader Sean Curran (who was formally of Bellarive- now defunct, and currently leading in Passion at the moment), we are met with I reckon, one of 2018’s best kept secrets (in terms of worship songs)…till now that is. With Sean Curran fast becoming one of today’s most eloquent and emotive, most heartfelt and humble, encouraging and expressive worship leaders of the modern post-Chris Tomlin era; ‘Real Thing’ is a result, and while the song itself could’ve been placed on Passion’s Whole Heart this year and no one would’ve blinked an eyelid, it is nice to see this track being the song to promote Bright Faith, Bold Future, if ever there was one song to listen and hear. Sounding very radio-like, this worship song full of power and biblical truth, Sean invites us all to partake in the proclamation, that ‘…Your love is the real thing, it’s the air I breathe…’, all the while knowing that it is in moments of this life (be it when we marvel in awe of God’s goodness, or we contemplate and reflect on God’s goodness, even through the valley) where we realise that God is real, that there are no substitutes. Whether or not it will be released on radio and played on various stations across America and the world is another question entirely. Nevertheless, “Real Thing” is an encouragement, and destined to become a favourite in various Sunday morning worship service set lists in the months and years to come. And who cannot love this song, when we’re met with such a poignant moment in the bridge, where Sean declares ‘…I can’t outrun it, I can’t explain it, I don’t deserve it, Jesus, Your love for me, it’s not complacent, it’s always chasing, it won’t abandon, Jesus, Your love for me, not disappointing, won’t leave me wanting, its overwhelming, Jesus, Your love for me, I know I need it, I know it’s worth it, the cross, it proves it, Jesus, Your love for me…’ With anthemic undertones and a victorious atmosphere, this powerful melody full of rousing moments of declaration and proclamation, is a perfect song to pick to anchor the album thematically, while each of the other 10 tracks are also as poignant and heartfelt as ‘Real Thing’!
Throughout the rest of the album, (both Planetarium and Bright Faith, Bold Future), we are met with songs from the band that are both heartfelt and vibrantly joyous and worshipful, as many of these songs can easily fit in Sunday morning worship service set-lists around the world in the upcoming months ahead. Sung by Andi Rozier, we are offered both ‘Open the Gates’ and ‘All Hail the King’, the former being a rousing anthem while the latter being a song that is a mid-tempo worship song that works quite well on a Sunday morning. While both these songs don’t necessarily have a pull that ‘Real Thing’ has, Andi nevertheless conveys the theme of asking the Lord to come down and fill the place with His glory and power through ‘Open the Gates’, while reminding us all that we praise the Lord out of our response of what He has done for us, as we ask for the Lord to come down and do the things again that He has done time and time again across the years. ‘All Hail the King’ is a more traditional worshipful atmospheric anthem as Andi and the team deliver a retake on ‘Crown Him With Many Crowns’, presenting a track that feels more like a modern hymn than anything else. While not a bad song, ‘All Hail the King’ can still feel lost in the sea of songs on Bright Faith, Bold Future, nevertheless, Andi and co deliver a song that feels right at home I’m sure with much of the songs that we as fellow Christians sing on a Sunday morning worship service set-list.
‘After Your Heart’ serves as an upbeat song that reminds me a lot of what David would probably have sung back in the day to the Lord (if upbeat worship music was a thing, back then, then again, maybe it was and we didn’t really know it!), as we are met with a vibrant and passionate declaration that ‘…I’m after Your heart and all that You are, the treasure I find, to know what You’re like, I’m after Your heart…’, while ‘Strength of My Life’ is another fit-for-the-church song that allows us all to engage in the heartfelt words that God is indeed our strength, for not just that particular moment, but for our whole lives, as the song invites us all to rely solely and fully on the Lord for His guidance and strength. The music of ‘My Defense’ is something akin and similar to Rend Collective’s ‘Nailed to the Cross’ (though I’m sure unintentional), as we see a melody that is presented with such joy, with it’s message even more passionate and joyous, that God fights our battles and stands in our defence, us knowing full well that fear cannot control us when He is defending in our corner. ‘Goodness’, the album closer, finishes the 11 track album Bright Faith, Bold Future, in great fashion, as the rousing anthem full of life and enthusiasm, is a timely refreshing for us all, that God’s goodness and mercy chases after us, even if we may not necessarily believe it or even want to accept it, for whatever reason. Then there’s the songs that stand out. The ones that the album I’m sure will be remembered for, years later. Yes, there’s ‘Real Thing’ that was unpackaged and unveiled earlier on in this post. Then there’s songs like ‘Over All I Know’, sung by newcomer Lauren Sweeney-Smith, ‘Yes I Will’, from up-and-coming worship leader Judd Harris, and the ever reliable One Sonic Society’s ‘Shelter’, alongside Jon Guerra’s addition, ‘Hallelujah Amen’.
With One Sonic Society delivering ‘Shelter’ after bringing to us ‘This We Know’ on Frontiers, we hear lead singer Jason Ingram present in true OSS fashion, full of reverbing keyboards, light acoustics and a whole room of worshippers declaring out that we are safe in the shelter of God, that there’s nothing to fear when we are in the shadow of the Lord, our hiding place in His love. While a tad slow (as much as I love OSS, and Vertical Worship, the song itself can be a little mellow and subdued, more than much of the album which are more vibrant and upbeat!), Jason and co. highlight the need for rest through this song, and rest I am getting when I hear it- which I’m sure. Jon Guerra, who is currently not part of Vertical Worship, nevertheless lends his voice to ‘Hallelujah Amen’, a simple song musically as Jon worships alongside acoustics and a light-sounding keyboard. Musically, the song is a tad safe, but lyrically and stylistically, the song is breaking barriers, as the message of simply declaring hallelujah, can evoke many things and many people, but at the end of the day, it is the very notion of saying the word ‘hallelujah’ that can make an impact in someone’s life, and here’s hoping whomever hears this song by Jon, will feel such things of hope and empowerment also! ‘Yes I Will’, a song that is a definite standout (and a potential WOW Hits 2020 candidate!), features newcomer Judd Harris on vocals, as the song is presented as a declaration, that what we sing and say ought to be lived out, as we realise that singing the words ‘…yes I will lift You high in the lowest valley, yes I will bless Your name…’
‘Over All I Know’, sung and led by Lauren Sweeney-Smith, is my favourite song on the album, and gives us comfort and conviction that God is over everyone, everything, and everything we know and love to be true as well. Standing at well over 5 minutes, Lauren captivates us all with the riveting and poignancy of how ‘…You are the one above it all, I stand in awe, You’re the God over all I know, no higher Name, no greater throne, You stand alone, You’re the God over all I know…’, complete with anthemic moments that allow the listener to declare alongside the band, proclaiming the biblical truths that make this song arguably one of the best that Vertical Worship has ever done, period. In fact, much of Bright Faith, Bold Future has resonated a lot with those whom have heard the album, so much so that six songs were chosen (‘Yes I Will’, ‘Over All I Know’, ‘Shelter’, ‘Open the Gates’, ‘Hallelujah Amen’ and ‘Real Thing’) and given the acoustic treatment for Plantarium, and hearing through the EP, I’ve found that much, if not all, of these renditions are equally as good, maybe even more so, than the live originals. Both Planetarium and Bright Faith, Bold Future have some powerful and emotive songs, songs that while they won’t necessarily become as famous as the popular worship songs of today (a la Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, Jesus Culture, Crowder, Elevation Worship etc.), these songs present still have poignancy and heart, as this collection of songs continues to become some of my favourite worship melodies I’ve heard this year, alongside albums from Phil Wickham (Living Hope), Lincoln Brewster (God of the Impossible), and Rend Collective (Good News)!
With the vast amount of worship movements, from Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Hillsong UNITED and Hillsong Young and Free, to Passion, Gateway Worship, Desperation Band, Fearless BND and the ever reliable Hillsong Worship; Vertical Worship from Chicago, Illinois is such a movement where each album subsequent has been better than the last, and both Bright Faith, Bold Future and Planetarium are no different. Their most heartfelt and encouraging set of albums I’ve heard from the group since their debut album in 2012; Andi Rozier, Tara Stutes and everyone else, have given us an album worthy to be placed within my top 15 favourite albums of 2018 thus far. From the first track “Open the Gates” to the Jason Ingram led “Shelter” and my favourite song, ‘Over All I Know’, Essential Worship and Provident Label Group have a worship movement that’s certain to grow and continue to increase its popularity amongst listeners in the upcoming months. Well done Vertical Worship for these 11 songs on the album, and 6 on the EP, some of the most enjoyable collection of worship tracks this year, alongside Phil Wickham’s Living Hope and Rend Collective’s Good News!
3 songs to listen to: Yes I Will, Over All I Know, Real Thing
RIYL: Passion, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, UNITED