Album Review :
Ascend The Hill - s/t

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Band: Ascend The Hill
Title: Ascend The Hill
Label: Come & Live!
Release Date: June 21, 2009
Review By: Scott L


01. Sing
02. Spend It All
03. Joy
04. Love
05. Fall
06. Come Like You Promised
07. Return To Us
08. Wind Of God
09. Awake
10. The Reform
11. Blow Me Away

We live in a world of takers. Rare it is to find a true giver. But I think I may be on to something here. Ascend The Hill’s new self-titled full-length release clocks in at an amazing 77 minutes and 59 seconds. Add to that the fact that it’s put out through Come& Live! which is all about integrity in music. I’m convinced that someone, somewhere that has a hand in this has embraced the spiritual truth that it is in fact more blessed to give than to receive. I mean, hey… Jesus said it, we might as well believe it. He’s not one to lie. Ever.

Ascend The Hill is a 4-piece out of Tampa, Florida that plays a refined style of indie-worship. And man, it’s sure nice to come across a band that not only plays great music, but is also so obviously awestruck by the greatness of the God we serve. My guess is that they take their name from Psalm 24:3-5 which says, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Judson Cornwall actually wrote a really good book based on those verses as well as the parallel passage, Psalm 15. Powerful words indeed… and verses to live by. Ascend The Hill tailor their music for maximum impact. The melodies flow seamlessly along and pull you into them with ease. The only real downside to this CD was that the music wasn’t quite as accessible as some of the other indie/alt-worship bands out there like The Glorious Unseen or Aaron Shust. And while I realize that stylistically that’s comparing apples to oranges, my assumption is that the market will naturally group these bands together. And in an age of formula-driven markets, different isn’t always appreciated. Additionally, some of the songs were a bit redundant. “Joy” and “Love” are prime examples. But I wouldn’t let that weigh too heavily on your mind… chances are good that you’ll hardly notice. And if you do notice, chances are good that you won’t care because their all just great songs. So one great song sounds a bit like another great song, who’s gonna complain about that?

Not only is the music great but the lyrics shine as well. Ascend The Hill pulls out the stops and lays their collective heart bare before the listener. Let me rephrase that, they lay their collective heart before God and they invite the you to listen in. They know that this isn’t about them. This isn’t about a band or a job or even the pursuit of a dream. This is about God. The maker of Heaven and Earth. He who was and is and is to come. And He is worthy of our praise. The opening track sets the pace immediately with the words, “this we know, the Lord is God…”. And from there it builds and breathes and truly becomes worship. Consider the song “Spend It All”, which says, “I open up my eyes oh Lord, to see all the things You’ve done / I open up my heart oh Lord, to feel Your unfailing love / I open up my all to You, all my life for Your glory shown / I open up my soul to You alone, come make Yourself at home / and I’ll give all I have left to give / cause it’s everything I am Lord / and this life I’ll spend it all for You / I’ll waste it all on You / I offer up my mind to You, I long for the truth You know / I offer up my feet to You, they’ll walk straight on the path You show / I offer up my time to You, so keep me and hold me still / I offer up my hands to You, Lord use them to do Your will / let Your Spirit take me over”. Or how about “Awake” a song of thanksgiving which says, “I see You in the simplest things / and I feel You in me / I know You from the words You spoke / but I find You on my knees / and I get caught up in the mystery / still I refuse to miss the forest for the trees / so come reveal Your heart for all to see / the beauty and the majesty / awake, awake my soul to the Son / and sing praises to the Holy One / His name is Jesus, He has saved us / and given us His Spirit for the day / we’ll sing praises to Your name”.

The standout track was “Wind Of God”, an almost brooding 15-minute plea for God’s Spirit to fall that quite literally blew me away. Bad pun, amazing song. This song is awe inspiring and makes you just want to lift your hands and praise God. It’s not the catchiest track on the disc, but it certainly packs a spiritual punch. Believe it or not, the song “Blow Me Away” was a close second. There’s just something about a mighty rushing wind… if you know what I mean.

These guys know where it’s at and they know how to accomplish what they set out to accomplish. And hearing them do it is a pretty wonderful thing. The liner notes in the CD jacket give a glimpse into the heart of the band… “with our own hearts yearning to see the Kingdom of God established on Earth as it is in Heaven, Ascend The Hill desires to impact the body of Christ through bringing the reality of the Father’s presence, life, and love to every gathering, while promoting a genuine relationship with God in the midst of our worship. Our heart is that through these songs, the lost might fall in love with Jesus, and those who do have a relationship with Him fall deeper in love. This is our worship, this is our offering, this is all we have to give.” And you can tell that this is so much more than empty words.

Overall: Come & Live! has done it again. Ascend The Hill’s self-titled CD is a stellar release. There’s a lot to love here, literally… it’s 78 minutes of music that’ll sooth your spirit and stir your soul. And, hey, the copy I received came with a CD full of John Piper sermons. I’m not sure if that’s standard operating procedure, but I sure won’t complain; my wife and I love John Piper. Powerful worship and a convicting sermon… wow, I feel like I’ve just had church. So my advice… pick this CD up. Sooner rather than later.