Bethel Album Review

Phill Mellstrom reviews ‘We Will Not Be Shaken’ from Bethel Music.

Bethel album coverThe Story Behind "We Will Not Be Shaken"

On a mountaintop north of Redding, CA, the Bethel Music community gathered for an unforgettable evening of worship. The resulting live album and film portrays breathtaking visuals and resounds with hope.

We Will Not Be Shaken presents 11 new songs led by Bethel Music's artist collective, including several debut artists. The accompanying film chronicles the full evening of worship interwoven with honest stories told by Bethel Music leaders about pursuing authentic community amidst an ever-growing and changing culture.

Birthed in a spontaneous moment of worship, the album's title track "We Will Not Be Shaken" hails a message of promise in adversity and proclaims the victory we have in Jesus. The live film powerfully captures the energy and declarations that echoed into the night and invites listeners to join in praise.

I stumbled upon this album through my interest in Jonathan David-Helser (see the Cageless Bird’s album review by Willie Hamilton). He and his wife Melissa contribute to this album with their rousing anthem ‘No longer Slaves’. My interest was piqued by not only hearing this song, but seeing the video of the time of worship that was recorded and resulted in this album and DVD being released. 

Some of the earlier Bethel recordings have passed me by. I wasn’t really interested in what seemed like an American version of Hillsongs. In recent years I have tried to find material and artists that were as far away from the mainstream of the christian music industry as possible.

We will not be shakenThe backdrop is a stunning mountain range somewhere in the hills of Redding, California. ‘We Shall Not Be Shaken’ features 11 songs written by a team of worship leaders who form the music collective from Bethel Church. I suppose that this is another reason for my interest in the songs. The idea of collaboration in their writing is more appealing to me than a single artist. Songs written within the heart of a worshipping community feel more authentic and capture the sense of community that they were written for in the first place. Importing worship songs and material direct from the marketplace into our churches has tended to leave me feeling more than a little uneasy. I am not sure how well these songs would translate into a culture thousands of miles away from where it was filmed anyway, even if we do have the breath-taking mountain backdrops to rival theirs. That said I found these songs uplifting and inspiring and at times while watching the videos, desperately wanted to be there on the mountainside with them.

We Will Not Be Shaken is the first track. It opens with a piano hook that haunts the rest of the song. Building into rich layered vocals declaring ‘For We Trust In Our God’

Ever Be reminds me of the modern folk pop of bands like The Paper Kites. The verses speak of God’s faithfulness and move the songwriters to sing out ‘Your praise will ever be on my lips’ in the chorus.

Jesus, We Love You starts with a rich male vocal which woos us throughout this 6/8 feel song and invites us into the beautiful melody of the chorus. Verse 2 has some nice imagery and again ‘We’ are invited to sing out rather than the obligatory ‘I’ that we tend to find in many modern worship songs.

No Longer Slaves starts with the gravely sound of Jonathan David-Helser passionately crying out that he is ‘No longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God’. The build in this song is not for the feint hearted, but I suppose it gives you an indication of the passion in which they led this time of worship on the mountainside in California.

You Don’t Miss A Thing starts with sparse pads underneath a female vocal. There are hints of dance with synths ping-ponging around. The song settles and continues with strings and piano underpinning the haunting vocals that eventually crescendo into a psalm like declaration of God’s all-encompassing love.

Seas of Crimson reminds me of Matt Redman or early Martin Smith, as its hymn like melodies build over pounding drums.

With its acoustic guitar and string backdrop Home, invites us into a deeply personal moment centred on making a home for Jesus in our hearts.

Nearness continues these themes with the acoustic guitars and strings continuing to lend their support to a song that has a familiar ‘Vineyard music’ quality to it.

The pace picks up with Who Can Compare and after a Sigur Ros style intro we race towards a powerful end section, before calmly tailing off.

In Over My Head closes the album. Beautifully crafted vocal harmonies that Bon Iver would be proud of, move into a single female vocal singing of being out of our depth in God’s presence. We are caught up in the lyric even more with the swell of the music as it ebbs and flows.

Bethel have invested a lot in this album. This is especially evident in the fact that this is a live recording, captured beautifully both in audio and video. They have also invested a lot in their musicians and songwriters and made a real effort to make their material accessible through excellent websites and easy to download resources. We do not all have the funds available to make these types of recordings, but nevertheless,  I hope that these songs will not only inspire your faith journey, but will inspire you to write songs in your own communities. Perhaps like me you can sing them out whether on mountaintops, in valleys or (to the horror of innocent bystanders) in my car!

Phill Mellstrom is the Worship Development Worker for the Church of Scotland’s Mission and Discipleship Council. If you have any queries about resources or training options then you can contact him on 0131 225 5722 or by email.