Title: “The Gathering”
Musical Group: “Sovereign Grace Music
Media Type: Audio CD
Release Date: November 2011
Rating: 5/5 (highly recommended)
Purchase: CD from Sovereign Grace Store, MP3 download from Bandcamp or Amazon.com
It’s exciting for me to review this album in part because I love it. I’ve been a fan of Sovereign Grace Music for years. When I first listened to their albums “Psalms” and “Come Weary Saints,” I was impressed by and grateful for how theologically rich their lyrics are. Sovereign Grace has an understanding of the importance of truth and theology in our worship (John 4:24), and they do their best to make sure that their lyrics bring our minds to worship so our hearts can follow. We sing a good number of Sovereign Grace songs at my church, and I love singing them, not only because they are lyrically expressive, but also musically so.
This album, I feel, is the at the apex of Sovereign Grace Music’s production. It was recorded live at the WorshipGod11 conference. Some songs are from other albums, and some songs are unique to this one. All of them are fantastic. One of the things I love most about this album is its maturity in style. Back in their earlier days–“Psalms” is a good example of this–the songs on their albums were unusually varied in musical style. My guess is that this is in part because their songs are written and composed by different people, and I understand that, but nonetheless I wasn’t such a fan of how different the songs on the album were. “The Gathering” has great internal consistency in its musical style. It sounds like the songs belong together on the same album, instead of the album being an collection of works by different writers.
The music itself is phenomenal. It is bright and snappy and not overly dramatic–in that sense, it reminds me of Hillsong United’s “Look to You” album, which I thought was quite strong musically. All the musicians are great; the drums and electric guitar in particular are exceptional. The melodies, the harmonies– everything is executed brilliantly. I admit that the melody and tone of “Isaiah 53” threw me for a loop when I first heard it, but the more I listen to it the more I love it. It doesn’t focus on the suffering of Christ, but rather on our joy at His sacrifice. I think the music uniquely captures the glory that is given to Christ because of His willing sacrifice (Isaiah 52:13, 53:10-12), in a way that no other song about Isaiah 53 that I’ve sung before has done. I dare say there isn’t a weak song, musically speaking, on this album. It is a testament to the musical abilities of Sovereign Grace Music that I listened to this album at least five times in a row when I first got it. It was all I listened to for a couple of weeks. It’s that good.
But this is a worship album, meant to guide our hearts in worshipping God, so the lyrics matter, as well. I am glad to say that the lyrics are just as outstanding as the music. “Come Praise and Glorify” is a wonderful re-working of Ephesians 1 and describes all the things God has done for us, ultimately “to the praise of His glory.” As would be expected, “Isaiah 53” contains the words from that chapter of Scripture, with an unexpected but delightful melody. The lyrics of these two songs are crafted to match Scripture as closely as possible, and I am thankful for that. Other songs on this album have thoughts and ideas equally as biblical, though they are not necessarily transcriptions of specific passages. Lyrics have always been where Sovereign Grace Music has shined, and that continues to be true for this album.
“The Gathering” is an excellent CD for anyone’s personal listening collection, but would also be great for worship leaders looking to add new songs to their worship sets for Sundays. This is because the fundamental basis for every Sovereign Grace song is a foundation of its lyrics in Scripture. The truth draws our heart to sing, as it always has. That’s why I love singing songs by Sovereign Grace Music so much, because it doesn’t simply stir up emotion, it engages me in the deep truths of the gospel and thus calls my spirit to worship God. I am thankful for Sovereign Grace Music for being so careful and Scriptural with their music–it is a joy, and an easy task, for me to recommend this album to you.
(This CD was provided free for review by Sovereign Grace Music, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)