Sounds like … Paul Baloche, Brenton Brown, Matt Redman, Charlie Hall, Kathryn Scott, and other pioneers of the '90s modern worship movement.
At a glance … Doerksen's first studio album continues his tradition of excellence in congregational worship, even if things aren't as focused or grand as past efforts.
Once again, a new album from Brian Doerksen is upon us, yet only the devout worship music aficionados seem to know about it or care. What's going on? Where's the love?
Doerksen has certainly paid his dues. As a pioneer and founding father of what we today call modern worship, he's been at the production helm of 25 live recordings, including essential albums like Hungry and Come Now Is the Time to Worship. Both projects—along with key albums from Delirious, Matt Redman, and Sonicflood—ushered in a new season of worship, one where rawness and passion supplanted the more corporate and routine sounding praise choruses of the day.
But aside from his milestones as a producer, he also has thrived as a solo artist and songwriter, responsible for such contemporary standards as "Come Now Is the Time to Worship," "Refiner's Fire," and "Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing)." Though inexplicably under-the-radar, his albums You Shine, Today, and Live in Europe have enjoyed critical applause across the board, and are a prime example of Doerksen's strong points as a worship artist—particularly, his inherent desire to meld his rock and modern-worship tendencies with classical and liturgical elements. By keeping focus, his albums become thematic, almost devotional bodies of work, rather than collections of standalone worship songs.
Yet these accomplishments aside, one thing Doerksen had yet to do was record a full-fledged studio album of his own. Holy God, his fourth disc with Integrity Music, finally fixes that. To help him along, he recruited longtime production assistant Phillip Janz, who has long proven an ear for Doerksen's reverent-yet-modern style of worship. Together, they don't veer off too far from what's previously worked so well. But is familiarity the way to go for someone who's been an architect of so many other influential recordings?
Not exactly, at least for an album that, on the surface, seems to be a study of contrasts—between God's divinity and humanity's frailty, his holiness versus our depravity, and his constancy against our faithlessness. The album's artwork sets the worshipper against vast landscapes—looking so small when compared to the immensity of God's creation—and, naturally, you begin to expect Holy God to be this grandiose, life-altering concept album.
To an extent, it is, so long as Doerksen sticks to the theme. Take the rousing, breathtaking title track, which ranks with the best power anthems Doerksen has penned—an intense, reverb-heavy tour de force of celestial proportions. It's one of those songs that can stop you dead in your tracks, the same way Doerksen's magnificent "Faithful One" or "You Are Everything" may have in their prime.
Other songs can be just as grand. The medley of "Be Unto Your Name" and "Holy Holy Holy"—with its shifting dynamics and atypical percussive patterns—is awe-inspiring, as is the climactic "Triune God," a simple yet affecting ode to heaven's Triumvirate: "Sacred bond/Humble friendship/Living dance of light …The Spirit's liberty, the grace of Jesus Christ/The Father's faithful love/The sharing of your life/In holy communion/One God."
But the grandness more or less stops there. Just as we begin to decrease and God begins to increase—through music, lyric, and otherwise—Doerksen takes a slight detour and gets communal. God's holiness gives way to his liaison with his people—how we relate to an infinite God. A noble theme, and Doerksen unsurprisingly explores it with excellence in the tender God-to-man theme of "Song for the Bride," or his musical adaptation of the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father in Heaven."
It's not just the poetic direction of Holy God that changes though. The overall vibe alters as well. Things remain reverent, but it's a different type of reverent—it's part country-flavored ("I Don't Need Anything but You"), part soft rock ("Change Me on the Inside"), part inspirational ("He Is Here"), part acoustic ("Show Me Your Way"), part AC pop ("Your Love Will Find Me"). Many of these are good songs, but the widespread eclecticism feels somewhat out of place in the "holy" context of everything else.
Whether these two disparate concepts were intentional on Doerksen's part is unclear, but they do make for an interesting (if somewhat irregular) listen. Even so, it's hard to fault Doerksen, a gifted songwriter and artist who possesses such an attention to detail with everything else on Holy God, that even the album's least engaging moments can become another worshipper's point of connection with the Holy of Holies. And if that's the case, then the album is surely a winner.
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