Prime Cuts: Honestly, City on a Hill, Benediction
Overall Grade: 5/5
You can't fault the City Harmonic for not leaving a dent in Christian music. As big as lead vocalist Eric Drummer's high soaring tenor is, so are the songs. Many of this Canadian worship team's songs have a vision that is far bigger than the notes, the melody, and the execution of these songs combined. They paint for us larger than life's vestiges of what God's kingdom looks like that is often astoundingly more beautiful than our imaginations. On issues where some songwriters fear to tread, there are no lyrical boundaries to circumscribe this quartet. Without any hedges, they sing, for instance, of the great and glanderous second coming of the Lord that you don't hear anywhere else ("Maranatha" and "Holy (Wedding Day)"). And when they sing of their love for the Lord, they also present it in an extra-large size too ("Yours" and "Honestly").
Grievous to say "Benediction (Live)" is the team's swan song. After 8 years of indenting Christian music with their theologically hefty tunes, they are disbanding with each team member being called into other ministries. Born out of a church unity movement in the blue-collar steel town of Hamilton, Ontario, The City Harmonic formed in 2009 after leading worship for inter-denominational student events. By 2011, the band had become the best-selling new artist, won its first Gospel Music Canada Covenant Award. Altogether, the band released four critically acclaimed albums I Have A Dream (It Feels Like Home), Heart and We Are. And they have given radio and the church worship staples such as "Manifesto," "Praise the Lord," "Holy (Wedding Day)," "Mountaintop" and "A City On A Hill."
"Benediction (Live)," their first independently release after a long tenure with Integrity Music, finds the team returning back to their home tuff of Hamilton to record these 14 songs live. This album, therefore, is a "greatest hits" of sorts, where the team revisits some of their biggest songs from all their four previously released albums. Most of their biggest songs are represented saved for "We Are One" and "I Have a Dream." The crowning moment of this swan song of an album is the sole new cut and last single "Honestly." You can feel the plaintive vulnerability in Elias Drummer's voice as he stands at the threshold of a new chapter in life asking God for nothing but to be broken before Him. The words itself express a desperate cry for surrender that all of us ought to pray as they "Honestly I need to be broken/Honestly I need to bow down/Go ahead and shake my foundation..."
When it comes to tackling their older songs, the City Harmonic doesn't just sing them note for note live. Rather, they literally re-imagined the songs. While the original "City on a Hill" is an upbeat anthem, here Drummer is only backed by a piano. Without any scaffolds, you can feel every fibre of our being crying out in worship as Drummer sings repeatedly without an iota of reservation "for the glory of the Lord." Then they deliver a thoughtful (and almost) goodbye with the gorgeous craft blessing to their fans on the title cut "Benediction." With "Yours," when the team invites the audience to sing the chorus with them, you can hear the awesome roar of worship.
Sad to say, this is their first and final live album. Elias Drummer indeed has a voice that not only holds its own, but he has the ability to soar to heavenly heights, the way that can cause our hearts to flutter in worship. Let's hope and pray, he doesn't give up on gracing the church in the near future with more of his voice and fresh new tunes. For the sake of the church's holiness, we are in a desperate need for songs such as these.