Hillsong UNITED wanted to make a statement when announcing the release date of their album, EMPIRES. Following the global success of their previous album Zion, the band stemming from Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, have had fans eagerly awaiting new music which will undoubtedly flood its way into many churches across the globe.
Dropping the first song off the album on March 24th of last year, people who pre-ordered EMPIRES also got an early download of track 4 titled “Touch The Sky.” So what’s the best way to announce to the world the release of the track and the album? By filming the announcement in space of course; that’s right, in space. On March 7th, 2015, they stuck a camera on a space craft and filmed the ascent of a flag resplendent in the cover of EMPIRES into the sky. Get it, “touch the sky?” Yep, pretty clever. And aside from being funny, it’s also a great way to get us hyped about the album that came out on May 26th.
So does EMPIRES live up to its phenomenal launch? On hearing the sounds of “Touch The Sky,” my instincts say yes it does, and the catchy and ethereal tones capture people just like the anthems of their past. Opening with heavy synth, the melody walks the fine line between a mellow riff on the keys and the electronic sounds which perpetuate the other worldliness of the track. A happy medium between the sound of Young and Free and the music of Hillsong Church, there is a vibrancy and currency in the sound of the song which exercises an understanding of synthesized tones, but doesn’t stray from the importance of a well-established melody and instrumental section.
Taya Smith’s vocals cut through the music, joining the spiritual message of the lyrics with the musicianship and layering them to form a beautiful and entrancing sound. Steady percussion builds the tempo, and the focus remains on the ethereal nature of the song. Singing, “My heart beating/ My soul breathing/ I found my life /When I laid it down,” every aspect of the track from the production and instrumental to the lyrics points the listener sky ward. A celebration of the majesty of God, it moves you to worship and become entrenched in another world.
“Touch The Sky,” feels more studio and performance based than the corporate hits of UNITED’s past. While it is catchy, it won’t hook you in like “Relentless” or “Oceans (Where Feet May Fall);” and from the perspective of someone who is a member of a church band, I wonder at the ease which a congregation could sing it due to the melody and the ‘wordiness’ of the lyrics. That being said, it is still a brilliant studio track that will no doubt lead thousands of people into a place of worship, and which the UNITED team will perform with world class quality.