Before we get started, remember that our reviews are meant to help you navigate the album and offer suggestions for use in your church context. I’d love to hear how you’re using this music in your church in the comments below. Here’s my rundown.
Here Now (Madness) // The opening track for the album is a solid ballad that is usable in almost any church context. The arrangement they play on the recording gives you a glimpse of both heavy arrangement and stripped-down acoustic led. The chorus sings of recognizing God’s presence in our lives and during worship. It is always important to remind our congregations that God is active and present as we’re gathered in worship. In usual Hillsong fashion, this one builds up at the end to drive home the catchy anthem.
Say the Word // Female led on the recording but you could easily have a male lead this. You could even use it in the same key. There are a lot of synths in this one so make sure you either grab the backing tracks, give your keyboardists enough time to prepare, or just do your own arrangement without all of it. I’d suggest this one as a solid up-tempo song in the middle of your set.
Heart Like Heaven // This one opens with some really cool synth that wouldn’t be too hard for your keys player. You just need to make sure you have the right patches or equipment ready for them. The chorus is really easy to catch on to. I suspect a lot of churches will grab on to this one.
Touch the Sky // United made a great choice with this song being released far ahead of the album. I’ve seen leaders doing it both with the tracks and also just with an acoustic guitar, guy or girl lead. Joel made the point that they put a lot of effort in making their songs adaptable on our latest podcast episode. You can really see that they succeeded with this track. I love the chorus “upward falling, spirit soaring, I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.” I really appreciate the poetry of this track.
Street Called Mercy // There are some really neat harmonies in this one. If you don’t end up using this song at your church, I’d recommend you at least have your vocalists run through the harmonies together an exercise. Seriously, try to sing the high harmony along with the recording, use this one to grow in your musicianship. The chorus sings of the supremacy of Christ in our lives and the our need for him.
When I Lost My Heart to You (Hallelujah) // This one starts with some really accessible acoustic guitar. It’s a simple love song committing a heart after God. While the recording is really stripped down, you could easily pull this one off with a whole band.
Even When it Hurts // The electric guitar for this one is a lot of fun. I also really appreciate the lyric “even when it hurts like hell, I’ll praise you.” If that made you pause as you read through it, good! Make sure your congregation is ready for a lyric like that. There’s no need to push it on them if it will cause a big stir but maybe it’s something that would really resonate with the people of your church. Be sure you’re close the the pulse of your church.
Prince of Peace // Another one that’s stripped down to simple instruments and vocals. I’m a big fan of Joel’s lyric writing, he paints an incredible picture of Christ meeting us in our weakness. The end builds up and declares God’s power of fear in our lives.
Empires // The title track of the album is full of lots of fun synth and piano for your keys players. Again, you don’t need all of the stuff they use in the album to be able to do this song. The core message remains the same and the image of laying our crowns at the feet of our king would work well in any worship set.
Rule // A solid up-tempo song that would be a lot of fun with you team and the multitracks. There are just a bunch of things going on. The chorus sings of the power of Jesus in the lives of believers. Love it or hate it, there are some “whoa’s” in this song that go along with the synth lead. Everything in moderation, right?
Captain // Rarely do I actually listen through an entire album in one go but I love the flow of this entire album. Captain brings down the energy with a beautiful melody and piano driven love song to God.
Closer Than You Know // This one’s a love song not to Jesus but to us from Jesus. Really powerful lyrics