Prime Cuts: Hymn of Heaven, Battle Belongs, Heart Full of Praise
Overall Grade: 3.75/5
Though Phil Wickham has had been releasing music since 2003, he wasn't propelled to superstardom until "This is Amazing Grace" hit #1 on the Billboard's Christian Airplay chart in 2014. "Grace" not only became a RIAA-certified platinum single, but it also became a worship staple across many churches. "Living Hope" and this album's lead single "Battle Belongs" have become worthy successors, both of them have topped the chart and they have found a place among the worship song set of countless churches.
After a three year wait in between albums, Wickham is back with his eighth career album Hymn of Heaven. Teaming up with Bethel's Brian Johnson, Kalley Kelligenthal, and Brandon Lake, Hillsong's Chris Davenport, Passion's Sean Curran and Melodie Malone as co-songwriters, Wickham doesn't seem to be able to do any wrong (at least not on paper). Sure enough, there are some future classics here. The title cut "Hymn of Heaven" lives up to its titular: it has a strong hymnic structure with well-crafted words that speak of the day we will meet Christ face to face. The bombastic "Battle Belongs" boasts some thought-provoking lines, gorgeously illustrating our submission and Christ's active involvement in our lives: "So when I fight, I'll fight on my knees/With my hands lifted high/On the battle belongs to You."
Brian Johnson (who has a hand in co-writing 5 out of the 13 cuts) join forces with Brandon Lake and Wickham to co-write "Where I'm Standing Now." The before and after scenarios of how Christ has changed our lives is set in such a beautiful contrast that makes this worship ballad a highlight. Speaking of ballads, album closer "Heart Full of Praise" is a tender and heartfelt testimony to the transforming power of Jesus. "3:16," as you may have guessed, is an exposition of John 3:16. The song is earmarked as a spontaneous worship piece. If this is really a spontaneous worship moment, how can six songwriters be credited to the song? Did all six of them blurt out the song together in the spur of the moment?
The album is by no means perfect. "Falling in Love," with lots of pedantic lines, is a schmaltzy piece that treats Jesus as some glorified boyfriend. Wickham, like many singer-songwriters of the CCM genre, have not freed himself from the trappings of cliches. "Look to Jesus" is a re-write of Wickham's "Living Hope." While "1,000 Names" is a thesaurus of some of the most used-cliches in worship music today. Nevertheless, the record is redeemed by Wickham's take of Bethel's "God of Revival" (which Wickham co-wrote) and the current single "It's Always Been You." Hymn of Heaven may not be perfect, but it does have its celestial moments.