In his first solo studio recording since 2011, Aaron Gillespie returns with the worship album, Grace Through The Wandering. Pulling from his metal and alternative rock roots as a member of Underoath and the lead singer of The Almost, his album contains all the grittiness and catchy hooks we are used to, but also gives us a raw transparency that makes it one of the most unique worship records I have heard in a while.
An insatiable guitar hook opens the record, and “Wake Us Up” welcomes us into Gillespie’s latest venture filled with hope and power. With a voice that cuts through the excellent instrumentation, there is a fine balance between all aspects of this song. Ultimately, while it possesses the quality you’d hear from a secular album, it goes beyond this and has Gillespie crying out to God for renewal. Shouts of “Hallelujah,” move this from the traditional, ‘churchy’ song, to a personal and riveting track that perfectly captures the heart of Grace Through The Wandering.
“Praise Him,” is electrifying, and Gillespie’s vocal control matches the guitar driven melody that rises and soars in the chorus. Using the same lyrics that seem to appear in every worship song, he instead mixes them with riffs and a drum beat that lifts the whole song. In this, he refreshes something worn and old, and revitalizes the passion you have for Christ as you worship with him.
Keys give the next track, “A Love Like Yours,” an ethereal sound, and it is taken to the next level when it cuts to the chorus of “None But Jesus” midway through. His voice heightens the intensity of the lyrics, and strings build to make this breathtaking. “Meet Me” has a complicated, acoustic melody that displays Gillespie’s vast experience. Using both high and low tones in his vocals; he shows a willingness to explore the depths of our relationship with God. By no means is this song perfect; there is an occasional harshness to the vocals, and the lyrics are humble and honest as he says, “Just need you right as I am,” but this makes the track all the more powerful as it explores our desperation for God’s grace.
The intimacy of “All That He Says I Am” will grab you immediately as Gillespie says, “He whispers in my ear, tells me that I’m fearless.” The personal reflection found in this song is refreshing, and it mixes Biblical truths about freedom and our righteousness in Christ, bridging the oft found gap between religion and relationship. Rather, as the guitar crescendos and Gillespie declares, “I am all that He says I am,” you know innately that Christ is close to you, and the doubts and fears of inadequacy we experience are wiped clean. In this, it is one of the most beautiful and powerful tracks found on the album.
Continuing to push the boundaries of modern worship music, “Keep Me In” is a melancholic and foreboding track that uses base chords and strings to create a palpable tension. This song is challenging if only for the fact it explores of our brokenness, as Gillespie says, “Meet me in my pain.” Using his desperation and need for Christ as a prompt for worship, the depth and volume of this track are vastly unique.
“You Alone Are God” will lighten your spirit with its combination of synth, clapping and acoustic guitar. A catchy take on well-known truths, I found this one replaying in my head and opening the door to my own personal worship time. “In You There’s Hope” uses a quirky synth and beat to cultivate a sincerity and honesty rarely found in worship music. A prayer sung from the depths of despair and humility, Gillespie asks the question, “Can I come to you like this…broken, tired of it all?” Falling into the freedom we have in Christ, space is created for worship through the instrumentation and recounting of God’s mercy in the bridge.
The following track “Hold Me Close” contains an eeriness that compels honest reflection within you. Heavy in synths and back beat, the vocals are pure and straightforward until the earnestness of the lyrics rises and we hear Gillespie nearly yelling the repetitious lyrics “Hold me close.” This transition is well executed with a well-placed cut, which continues to make this album a standout.
“Give Us Your Heart” is another humble prayer. Simple in instrumentation, it uses the bare minimum of guitar and keys early on to establish a place for worship. It is bold lyrically, daring us to join in the plea to literally possess God’s heart and all this entails. At one point, Gillespie even says, “Jesus, forgive us for shutting the door on those you love,” and the absolute desperation for himself and Christ’s church to authentically live for God is driven home.
Finishing up with a bluesy and organic rock sounding version of the traditional hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” the laid back tempo and lyrics match the album perfectly, and ultimately reflect just how talented Gillespie is when it comes to musicianship.
In an industry resplendent with a new worship release every week, Aaron Gillespie has done something different with Grace Through the Wandering. Moving and powerful due to the breathtaking honesty of the lyrics, it is a humbling collection of songs that will challenge you to worship in every circumstance. Hopeful because it dares to ponder our desperation, and with a musicality that the best-selling artists often possess, this is one of the strongest worship releases you’ll likely hear this year.