To borrow the title from one of the songs, Planetshakers' "Endless Praise" is "made for (congregational) worship." While many worship songs are keyed with Mount Everest reaching notes that require the pipes of Whitney Houston, they are by no means conducive for the average person in the pew to sing. This is never so with Planetshakers' "Endless Praise;" each of these 14 newly recorded live songs is arranged in octaves comfortable enough for the average Joe and Jane to croon without having to mimic an American idol wannabe. And while many current worship offerings tend to utilize the same recycled anthemic rock template where every song sounds like a high rush of adrenaline, Planetshakers realize that such form of worship doesn't appeal to every member of the congregation. Thus, you will find worship in its variegated sonic guises of shoegazing rock, electronic dance, adult contemporary balladry and even some of the more ethereal flair.
Planetshakers is the worship team that comes out of one Australia's largest churches, the Planetshakers Church. "Endless Praise," released under the Integrity Music imprint, is this Australian church's 26th live recording of their worship sessions at their annual Awakenings conference. In many ways lead single and title track "Endless Praise" is the least interesting song of the bunch. It is by no means ropey; it's just the standard bombastic worship opener with crisp clapping drums and a cascading display of keyboard riffs over some banal lyrics of never ceasing to worship God. Much more creative and appealing is "Dance." Incorporating Brit synth-driven grooves and some shoegaze fuzz laden guitar strides, "Dance" sounds like Martin Smith drenched in reverb. This is a song, as the press release rightly puts, that gives us carte-blanche permission to leave our inhibitions behind to dance in freedom before God.
Yet, the album's heartbeat is the gorgeous worship ballad "Made for Worship." In a culture where Sunday worship is often secondary to our kids' soccer practices and our need to sleep-in, "Made for Worship" rightly situates worship back to the raison d'être of our existence. To assist in driving such a truth into our hearts are the beautifully crafted words: "I was made for worship/I was made for your embrace/I was made for worship/I was made to bless your name." Somehow reminding us of their big worship staple "Healer," "No Other Name" brings out a beauty of Jesus that can only be experienced when we empty our hearts before Him. "Unto You" has an attractive wrinkle of 90s Hillsong worship style to it. It's impacting God-centered lyrics coupled by its carefully crafted melody that progressively moves us closer and closer to God are definitive of what every worship song needs to strive for.
"Leave Me Astonished" is not just the title of the album's closing song but it's an apt way of describing how one would feel after hearing this paean. Starting off with an ethereal Brooke Fraser-like simplicity, the song delves into God's majesty slow but surely, leaving us gasping in holy awe. Unlike many worship albums these days which function more like individual tracks stringed together, here on "Endless Praise" the songs are cohered together with lots of spontaneous worship moments for us to respond to God (to this end, check out "Kiss Towards" and "Set Me Ablaze"). In short, there are records containing worship songs and then there are moments of worship contained on records. "Endless Praise" thankfully belongs to the latter.