If Hillsong United’s stratospheric success over the last few years has changed the band at all, it has made them bow lower and with even greater humility. Their latest release Empires could have easily been any other fist-pumping, anthemic romp, rather—from the lyrical content to overall production and performance—this album was meticulously constructed to usher listeners into holy dialogue. From the seven-minute opener “Here Now,” to the single “Touch the Sky,” on through to the title track—their spacious, celestial arrangements are more than beautiful, they intentionally allow a needed space for the listener to engage.
Sonically, the project’s heavy use of synthesized elements is juxtaposed with an unaffected vocal delivery, striking a balance of intrigue and invitation. Vacillating dynamics and tempo variance create subtle, but powerful nuances that are evocative and stirring. Deliberate, but not boring; intense, but not frantic; Empires is a stunning display of universally relevant themes such as doubt, wonder, fear, joy, triumph and the ultimate victory of surrender.