Here’s the quick musical genealogy of Phil Joel: He fronted local New Zealand band Drinkwater, moved on to a storied career with Newsboys, then solo work, before he gradually developed Zealand Worship, a band whose 2015 EP was reissued with a hit cover of “Good Good Father.” Zealand might have dropped the “Worship” surname, but the music is still decidedly worshipful. Because it therefore sits in a saturated genre, it would be easy for the band’s debut full-length album to get lost. Fortunately, Zealand is a vibrant, fresh voice, and Liberated (buy) is further evidence of the band’s tremendous potential. In fact, Liberated is a symbol of both the tired tropes of modern worship music and the genre’s latent power. There are overused metaphors—“You take us to the deeper water”—but for every familiar refrain there is a thought-provoking lyric or moment of musical creativity that makes this such a bright offering. Production is excellent. The title track is a delightful romp that doesn’t care that it dances all over the formula of vertical, corporate worship. And when the bass on “Garden’s On Fire” grinds to a perfect rude halt, the listener knows this is something quite different, and quite wonderful.
> SAMPLE ALBUM on AmazonMP3.com