As the groundswell of independent Adventist musicians and bands continues to gain more notice, Anthem Worship stands out as one of the leaders of the pack. The electro-worship collective resident at the Loma Linda University Church continues to clear a high bar for songwriting and production quality, all while breaking new ground for in-person Adventist worship experiences.
On November 11, 2022, Anthem Worship dropped their second major release. The six-track EP titled Human is a hook-laden sonic adventure that augments some of the standard conventions of contemporary praise music with hearty doses of the digital percussion, swelling synth basses, and chopped-up vocal samples typical of modern electronic dance music.
The “EDM” description may be somewhat misleading. The majority of this release is fairly mellow and low-tempo. Even the most high-energy track on the EP—the title track and opener “Human”—probes quite deeply into questions of Christ’s incarnation, theological anthropology, and at least indirectly the priesthood of Christ. Hebrews 4:14–16 feels like it’s lurking just behind the lyrics, and the song almost feels like it was deliberately crafted to contradict the tired cliché that all modern Christian lyrics are shallow.
Songs like “Save The Day” may be punctuated with dubstep-adjacent beat drops, but the overall tenor is reflective and subdued. “Here To Stay” is a waltzy ballad celebrating the constancy and enduring faithfulness of God, while “Arms Wide Open” is a stirring song of invitation—solemnly ushering in people who feel pushed to the margins by stiff religiosity.
To that last point, the three aforementioned songs share a recurring motif: resistance against religious bigotry and transcendence of superficially-imposed religious norms. The theme is most prominently articulated in “Arms Wide Open,” but “Save The Day” and “Here To Stay” have at least momentary allusions to it as well. This never comes across polemically; if anything, it is a simple acknowledgment that this kind of harm does, in fact, happen, and it warrants being brought before God in worship as much as any other concern.
Lest anyone should say that such lyrical themes and electro-pop sonic textures must be a sign of “cheap grace” at work, “Response Song” is a bold anthem of motivation, a cohortative urge for the church to rise up in service to God and humanity. Whatever image of God is conjured by this collection of songs, Anthem Worship seems to think that it warrants a response of missional servanthood.
This record immediately comes across as a very natural follow-up to their debut Universal Hearts. The group has managed to maintain a consistent sonic identity while also breaking new ground. It’s a fine balance but a necessary one to avoid the dreaded “sophomore slump.” This, by all accounts, is evidence of a continued upward trajectory for Anthem Worship.
Maxwell Aka is a Canadian musician and writer. He performs and records with many musicians and works as a fundraising writer for ADRA Canada.
Images courtesy of Anthem Worship
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