Hillsong United “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” EP Review

Timothy YapSep 15, 2013 07:03 PM EDT



The ocean is simultaneously both a place of love and hate.  By its shores is where lovers have farmed the bidding seeds of their romance.  It is by the gentle crashes of its amorous sounding waves, romance first joggle its head.  But also by the same sandy embankment is where the widow has stood weeping with big gallops of mournful tears, knowing that same splashes of water have swallowed up their husband in the latest boating accident.  The same body of water which is so promising to one spells hopelessness to another.  Likewise, the Bible speaks of the ocean in the same contrasting way.  On one hand, it is by the ocean's shores God promised Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as its sandy grains.  On the other hand, the ocean is often personified as evil incarnate ready to devour the Israelites as they were about to pass the Red (Reed) Sea.  Heaven likewise is spoken of in Rev. 21:1 as a place without sea because the "sea" is symbolic of everything that is evil.  The multi-variegated complexity of such a metaphor is not bypass in Hillsong United's latest EP "Oceans."

Following the Biblical narrative of how God called Abraham out of the ocean of people so that his descendants could be as numerous as the sand in the sea, "Oceans" starts off with worship leader Taya Smith singing about how God calls us out upon the water.  Then moving on to describe how the sea can be a place of promise as well as danger, Smith then assures us that our only hope of battling such perilous waters is to call upon God.  So she sings:  "And I will call upon Your name/And keep my eyes above the waves/When oceans rise/My soul will rest in Your embrace/For I am Yours and You are mine." Her cry for God's presence gets more and more intense as the song progresses.  Instead of just asking for protection from the ocean's treacherous waters, she asks to walk upon the waters like what Jesus did in his earthly ministry:  "And I will call upon Your name/And keep my eyes above the waves/When oceans rise/My soul will rest in Your embrace/For I am Yours and You are mine." Such a progression of faith within the unfolding of the song moving from fear to faith to triumphantly walking upon our "oceans" is what makes this song such a stellar example of the craft of song writing.  Thus to this end, songsmiths Matt Crocker, Joel Houston & Salomon Ligthelm are to be heartily congratulated.

This newly released EP comes with four versions of "Oceans."  The first is the original version taken from their latest "Zion" release.  The second is a radio edit version of the same song.  While the original runs for over eight minutes, the radio edit version only has a four minutes plus running time.  The latter version strips away a little of the cinematic strings effect as well as the extended bridge of the original.  Rather, imbued with a acerbic drumming pattern and heftier production, it certainly has the package Christian radio is looking for.  The Lark Remix which is third on the EP accelerates the tempo morphing this ballad into a club-like anthem with pacey dance beats, yet without destroying the reverential mode of the song.  The concluding version is United's live take at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado.  It is the most worshipful version of the four though a tad indulgent by the end of the song which runs over nine minutes.  "Oceans" is a highlight of Hillsong United's "Zion" album, a track that also made it to BreatheCast's Half Yearly Favourite Worship song list.  And thank God now it is serviced for even greater circulation with the release of this EP.



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