Album Review: Hillsong United – Aftermath

I was a little surprised to learn that Aftermath was only Hillsong United’s second studio album. I get that they’re a worship band first and that they’re more about the live experience than pumping out studio albums, but it still came as a bit of a shock. I guess they’re unique like that. They have a zillion live albums (give or take a few) but they just don’t venture into the studio that often.

This is a band that’s achieved all kinds of success, so of course the group’s second trip to a recording studio is going to get plenty of hype. If you ask me, though, the album doesn’t really live up to the hype. It’s a good listen – the songs are well-produced, melodic and emotional worship tunes – but they suffer from a fundamental problem:

They aren’t all that memorable.

I’ve listened to the album from start to finish three or four times now, and even as I pull out the track listing I can only recall a couple seconds’ worth of three of the thirteen songs. Granted, several of these will be played hundreds of times in churches across the country and will probably receive considerable airplay on Christian radio stations (we’ve been playing “Search My Heart” quite a bit on MyPositiveEdge) so eventually, these songs will manage to find a way to get stuck in people’s heads. It just won’t happen immediately. None of these songs really get lodged in my head to the point that all I want to do is go home and turn on Aftermath. So the album won’t get a lot of plays from me.

That’s not to say this is a bad album. Aftermath has several great moments. The instrumental “B.E.” is a wonderful track, placed in the middle of everything so you get a chance to pause and reflect instead of going through and digesting a new set of lyrics every few minutes. The vocal performances are strong and very effective at conveying the emotion of each song. And the overall sound of the album is great. The Coldplay-esque, soaring indie-pop thing may be nothing new, but it works, and Hillsong United is able to do enough to make the sound their own.

I give Aftermath three out of five stars. It’s not a bad album by any means, but there’s nothing about it, both in originality and in execution, that is really exciting to me. I don’t see myself listening to this one again.

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