Here Be Lions is a self-described “ministry collective focused on discipleship, music and community" and is making their major label debut with Only A Holy God. The 12 tracks were recorded in front of a live audience and features songs written by the band with co-writes from Stu G (delirious?), Chris Quilala (Jesus Culture), and others. The songs swirl around the greatness of God and also His love for us in saving us from our sins, buoyed by a slow-burn rock worship sound that gives the guitar and keys equal opportunity to deliver a tune's hook.
Lyrically, there are plenty of cliche phrases and concepts. Overheard are mentions of mountains, oceans, power, several calls for the Spirit to "fall" on the worshipers, a song called "Wildfire" (you can guess what it's about), and, in case "Reckless Love" wasn't edgy enough for you, Here Be Lions gives you "chaotic love" on the closing track, "The One That Really Matters." The songs also suffer from following the same structure for most of the set; quiet verse, slowly building chorus, louder verse, louder chorus, rock out for the bridge and final chorus. It probably works fine if you're there in the room, but as a listening experience it gets repetitive after awhile.
However, despite the presence of these overused ideas and song structures, the majority of the lyrics feel fresh or at least fit well within their context. They may not blow the listener away with their poetic beauty, but they are sincere, and passion is this album's biggest strength. The energy of Here Be Lions is infectious and something about their delivery feels personal. It helps that the songs jump between individualistic to congregational, or pure emotional worship of God for salvation to honoring God for who He is. Plenty of other worship bands tend to focus on the individualistic and emotional aspect, but it's good to see Here Be Lions look beyond that. There's also plenty of fodder for a praise leader to draw out. "Arise and Shine" would make a great call to worship while "God Would You Forgive Us," convicting in its own right, would be a good song of confession. But the main highlight here, and one that has cross-denominational appeal, is the title track. With lyrics like, "What other beauty demands such praises?/What other splendor outshines the sun?/What other majesty rules with justice?/Only a holy God" and a dramatic melody, the track stands out as one of the best new praise songs I've heard recently.
Here Be Lions takes their name from markings on old maps that warned of danger in certain areas. This collective turns the phrase on its head to explore the untapped possibilities of life. Only A Holy God lyrically explores the power of God and the gospel, noting how "Completely Overwhelmed" it can make us. A few more risks could have been taken with the music, and certain cliches could have been left at base camp, but overall this is a worship album worth giving some time to out in the wild.- Review date: 6/20/18, written by John Underdown of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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