Breaking Barriers - An Album Review of Hillsong’s Empires

June 29, 2015

Madness. Hence the first title of the first track on the newest album released by Hillsong, a church band out of Australia that is making moves in both secular and sacred circles around the globe. However, this can aptly describe the reaction from many circles to the core message and theme that Hillsong now represents and the music they make. Empires is one of those albums that can leave you feeling uplifted or abased.

Although controversial and also creative, the band’s album has attracted major attention, and for good reason. One of the pre-released songs on the album, entitled “Touch the Sky”, has some stimulating but simple lyrics: “My heart beating, my soul breathing, I found my life, when I laid it down”.

After a long-expected wait, much of the reception from the public came due to the popularity of Hillsong’s famous previous album, Zion, whose songs were played or sung in many churches and on occasion, “secular” spaces, such as nightclubs and public malls. Hillsong’s ability to make music that is widely embraced in many different social settings and by a wide range of people, whether Christian or otherwise, is a trend that will in time prove to be the band’s litmus test.

When commenting on Empires, Joel Houston, the band’s front man and son of the founding pastor Brian Houston, stated, “it helps us understand our calling and what we are living for. We are immersed in the culture that we are in, but we should be building...for the unseen aspects of God’s kingdom - that’s the whole message of this record.”

Whether the album itself proves to be a hit or miss, Empires certainly does force the listener to seriously consider what the core message of Christianity is and its impact on the world. Music has been the canvas that Hillsong chose to make its mark on the world, and this art form is a reflection of the direction that the band has taken from its inception to the current day.

The album’s title track, “Empires”, provides a fitting message to encapsulate the album’s theme. “Beneath our skin, a new creation, the night is done, our chains are broken, the time has come, the wait is over, the King is here, and His Name is Jesus”. Indeed, Hillsong’s latest album should provoke conversation.

- Joseph Kolapudi.

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