posted by Steven
Even though this was a randomly chosen CD, I have actually heard it before. My first encounter with Mars Hill Worship 1 was back when I was in college. That would have been the extremely late 90s and early 2000s. I was at a campus ministry student leadership conference and overheard a couple of worship leaders discussing this CD, which was made by a church that was engaging with the artistic world in a new way. This church was Mars Hill, the one in Seattle with Mark Driscoll, not the one with Rob Bell. This artistic engagement was one of the factors that led to the early success of Mars Hill. Even now, if you visit the Mars Hill web site, you will notice a great deal of thought has gone in to web and graphic design. Truly, Mars Hill is on the cutting edge of Christian artistic engagement. Mars Hill Worship 1 was getting quite a bit of early buzz. I’m not sure how influential their music became (nor do I know if they released a Mars Hill Worship 2), but Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll continue to be influential among evangelicals, especially those in the Reformed movement.
I think I was initially mislead by both the name of the CD and the fact that we had categorized the album as “praise and worship”. Now technically, this is correct, but it is also misleading. This album doesn’t fall into the praise and worship movement that gave rise to artists such as Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman, or even the works of Vineyard or Maranatha. Mars Hill Worship seems to be a project that allowed the musicians and singers in the Mars Hill community to direct their gifts toward God. They recorded an album where they praised God through music and styles that they enjoyed. This is definitely an act of worship, making the CD a worship effort on the parts of the musicians, even if it isn’t an album that lends itself to congregational singing.
With this distinction in place, the variety of styles presented on this album go from being initially confusing to engaging. And variety is the spice of this album. It opens with a grunge-influenced rock piece (not surprising from musicians living in Seattle), meandering through Depeche Mode influenced electronica, flirting with shoegazing, and even hitting the points of jazz and soul before the album is complete. Due to this variety, the album is can be difficult to engage with. You genuinely don’t know what you are going to get from track to track. This may be the album’s greatest weakness. If you find a track with a style you enjoy, you can be assured that there are no other tracks that are similar. But if you enjoy a wide-variety of musical styles, this can be a fun album.
As for the lyrics, many of the songs are based directly on scripture, hymns, or church writings. The songs don’t always lend themselves for a sing-along, but they are thought-provoking and refreshing.
So, if you are looking for something a little different with a wide-variety of sounds, this may be an album you want to check out. The review copy will be available at the front register at Redeemed Music and Books for the amazingly low price of ONE DOLLAR!! This is on a first come, first serve basis (in store only, no holds please). Once it is gone, it is gone.