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All of the Above

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Album Review

By the time Australian modern worship sensation Hillsong United released their seventh album, All of the Above, they were already a phenomenon not only in the land down under, but also in the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and even parts of Africa. Delirious? frontman Martin Smith declared them "the best youth worship band on the planet" — quite a compliment, considering Smith's own history in the modern worship canon. But United didn't need endorsements to achieve mass success. Instead, it was a slow and steady climb, driven by a tireless, one-album-per-calendar-year work ethic that eventually had fans counting the days until the next scheduled United release. But they were in for a surprise this time: All of the Above is the group's most atypical release thus far. For starters, the album was recorded in the studio — a first for a band whose bread and butter are live recordings. As the youthful progeny of Darlene Zschech and the Hillsong Australia team, United grew into a heavyweight of its own with the albums Look to You and United We Stand, both of which were large on stadium-sized pop/rock anthems, Brit-pop sensibilities, earnest balladry, and catchiness to spare. But All of the Above is the antithesis: it's moody, pensive, even shoegazing at times. There are explosive, rousing moments such as the raucous "Break Free," the post-punk "whoas" of "Solution," and the breathtaking, apocalyptic catharsis of "Hosanna," but these are in short order compared to the bulk of the album, which favors a more individual expression of devotion to God than the group's customary corporate approach. While still a modern worship band at their core, United have shifted their focus to faith in action, which explains why the songs are decidedly more horizontal than vertical in scope — that is, more about reaching out than simply reaching up. A number of veterans in Christian music could take some cues from these twentysomething Aussies.

Biography

Genre: Christian & Gospel

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Hillsong United began as Hillsong Church's youth ministry band. Originally dubbed United Live, the group was first led by singers/songwriters Reuben Morgan and Marty Sampson. Their 1999 debut, Everyday, established their creative template: each album was recorded live at the annual October youth conference Encounterfest — enabling contributions from a variety of church members, friends, and supporters, including the popular Christian folk chanteuse Brooke Fraser — and released on CD and...
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All of the Above, Hillsong UNITED
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