Chris McClarney of worship group Jesus Culture is set to release his sophomore live worship album Breakthrough on June 15th. The first single “Hallelujah for the Cross” introduces the album. Released around Easter, the anthemic bridge is by far the highlight of the song: “By your stripes I’m healed/ by Your death I live/ the power of sin is overcome/ it is finished it is done”.
The lead guitar paints a soundscape behind the vocals in the verses of “Crazy Love”. The 2-part chorus is a powerful declaration in the lyrics, “There’s nothing that can change it Your love, Your love/ There’s no one that can tame it, this crazy love/ oh what could separate us from Your love, Your love, this crazy love// What can break addiction? Your love, Your love/ and what can heal diseases? This crazy love/ What could separate us from Your love, Your love? This crazy love”. Held up by a thick snare, the bridge’s lyrics testify and support the message of the rest of the song. Along with the theme of God’s love, “Love that Saves” has a simple but sweet synth riff beneath the vocals that remains consistent throughout the song. Not too overbearing musically, this track has several moments of well- done harmonizing, and a lyrically impactful bridge.
“At the Mention” has a steady instrumental track in the verses, and a passionately sung chorus. A slow, faint piano underlies “Worth It All”, but percussion swells in at the bridge for impact. The final chorus, however, seems to have some flaws in production, as the synth riff, base beat, and lyrical rhythm conflict with each other.
An inviting drum track and guitar riff welcome listeners into “Hiding Place”, where “My anchor and my fortress/ When I’m in Your presence I am unafraid/ You are my hiding place” are lyrics sung confidently. Track 6, the title track, leads in with a quiet piano chord progression. McClarney gives his all in the vocals of the chorus. This song is meant to be sung out of a dark place, and with hope the bridge rings out, “You’re making all things new/ You’re making all things new/ It’s what You always do/ You are my breakthrough”.
The nice thing about live worship albums is that the songs often are accompanied by spontaneous moments of worship. This is the case in track 4. “Over and Over” runs close to 7 minutes, and McClarney and a female vocalist sing of the faithfulness of God’s love. The same vocalist, Hollyn, is featured on “I’m Listening”. Her voice blends so well with McClarney’s in the agreeable chorus. Adding Hollyn’s voice to this song brings a pitch and range that McClarney can’t offer, and the bridge, led by her powerful vocals make this track a unique one.
“You Reign” closes the album appropriately with the message that God is in control of it all, despite the circumstances. Several moments of heart- stirring worship saturate the song and leave listeners with a hopeful outlook on life.
Being a live worship album, there are bound to be some flaws in instrumental balance, as there are in a couple tracks, and there is no substantial creative vocal performance. However, the addition of a female vocalist singing harmonies adds touches of color to many of the tracks, along with the varied instrumentation used. The lyrics are far from generic, as emotion and passion are permeated within them, making them relatable to just about anyone.
If worship is a way of life, the artist’s purpose is well- achieved in this album. Chris McClarney intends for these songs to meet people where they are, whatever they’re facing in life to remind them that there is hope, love, and shelter in Christ. Breakthrough is a collection of songs to be sung in the storms of life, offering truths and reminders that God is faithful in and through difficult times.
Check out the live video of “Breakthrough”:
Pre-order Breakthrough (June 15)