The mission of all.above.north is clear: “By God. For God. All because of God,” and the new solo project from Sydney based musician Jon Tiddy exists to be obedient to God and this call, by sharing life-changing testimony through music. The band name refers to God who “looks down from His holy habitation, from heaven, and blesses His people,” and we see the theme of this divine over-seer throughout all ten tracks of AAN’s debut How Great It Is To Be Broken.
The lead single, “Please Don’t Forget Me” is a melancholy synth driven tune that creates ample space for reflection. The vocals are akin to Nathan Tasker or Downhere, embellishing the song with a laid-back vibe. What makes it unique from your traditional CCM is the indie elements of the track.
Luke Munns (formerly of Hillsong UNITED, LUKAS) has done an incredible job mixing percussion, guitar and backing vocals, which give Tiddy the launch pad to rise above the predictability of pop and engage fully with the lyrics. His repetition of the phrase, “I know you love me,” in falsetto is spine tingling, and communicates an urgency and desperation rarely seen in Christian music.
Combining the guitar driven intensity of modern worship with the track-based sound of up and coming praise bands, “Your Love,” is both cool and intriguing. Starting up-tempo, it slows for Tiddy’s vocals that once again, shine when he is able to unleash in the chorus with his falsetto.
Like all of AAN’s songs, the lyrics are simple. It relies on practical Biblical truths, and repeats them in a personal way, allowing the listener to fully engage with God free of hype. For this reason, the lyrics, “Your love lights up my life, Reanimates my frozen soul,” stands out for their provocative imagery which is needed to drive the song forwards.
“Oh What A Day” is the indie answer to Tim Hughes’ “Happy Day,” broken up by energy-infused guitars, the vocals are low and predictable in the verses. These match the shame-filled lyrics that open the song, honing in on the pride and fall of every human. Higher electric guitar driven chords give the chorus energy, helping the song communicate abundant joy that the vocals can lack. That being said, you’ve never heard a cooler more John Mayer-ish take on God’s redemption.
This ease follows with “Walk On Water,” and we hear the fullness of Tiddy’s voice for the first time. It communicates a sobering reflection of his own limitations, which are broken down when he turns to the chorus and states the promises and call of God on his life. It is a refreshingly honest song, where the vocals, instruments and track mesh beautifully to capture the angst and pain we often go through to finally find a posture of surrender.
The juxtaposition of “Hope,” comes to the fore from the first chord, because the first verse is filled with lamentations about the brokenness of the world separated from God. The Chorus acts as the opposite side of the coin, pointing towards our infinite hope in God and what he holds for us in Heaven. Electric guitar accentuates the higher tones, nearly forcing lightness through the density of the verses. We also see Tiddy’s falseetto shine here, a welcome return in order to contrast the difference between life and death.
The tempo is taken down with “Father,” and listeners will immediately notice the anxiety communicated through minor chords. Urgency builds with drums, and we hear a raw and honest prayer to God asking for deliverance. Reminiscent of King David’s psalms, AAN is unafraid to dive into the darkness of humanity in order to find God there–something we don’t often see in modern worship music.
The musical accompaniment and lyrics don’t always mesh in this song. There is a messy double beat at the start of lines two, five and seven where Tiddy sings, “Father,” in an experiment that didn’t quit work. But don’t let this sway you from reaching the chorus. Launching into the lyrics, “God, you are my father, Up in Heaven you reign,” you are treated to a soaring melody that sounds like U2.
“Your Love Is Unbreakable,” will have you excited from the get-go. It is a guitar driven, pop-infused song that uses track to create a point of difference for the listener. Another point of difference is the layout of the song. Instead of a traditional four lines per verse, followed by a chorus, this tune is more of a free verse poem. Each verse has 16 lines, which are broken up by the traditional chorus. The verses are honest and compelling without much diversity in the vocals, however the song builds with the use of instrumentation. The chorus is then the highlight, and is a victorious proclamation about the strength of God’s love.
An early 00’s synth tone opens “I Worship You Forever,” which will bring OG church kids nostalgia of Delirious? or early Hillsong. Based on Psalm 145, it is a declaration of God’s goodness and eternal power. Half way trough, the song goes to silence, making way for part B, where Tiddy repeats his reasons for worshipping God. The change in tempo and soulful tones nearly makes it an entirely different song, however it does accentuate the importance of the lyrics.
“Desert Heart” follows as the most rock infused song of the album. It is an angst filled delivery of the singer’s desperation for God in the desert seasons of life, where verse one and two are nearly a melodic monologue of the inner turmoil we have when we live separate from God. AAN refers back to scripture throughout this, saying, “I was scattered like seed, With thistles and thorns, The way I’d lived, Meant my heart was torn.”
Finishing up with the title track, “How Great It Is To Be Broken,” cuts back from the long melodic introduction to hone in on the greater message of the album. A synth and strings heavy ballad, it compares being set free from sin with having a bone broken and reset. It is here that Tidd sings, “In the same way God’s hand breaks us, So that our sin can be gently carved away.”
While I’m hesitant to endorse the idea of God perpetuating or creating pain which he died to set us free from, the premise that God graciously leads us through pain so we are drawn closer to him is beautiful.
Overall, How Great It Is To Be Broken is a lovingly crafted debut from all.above.north. It combines classic and upcoming trends of contemporary worship, all the while cultivating a unique alternative sound that fans of the top 40 will be drawn to. With a mission to encourage others through personal testimony, it will be exciting to see what stories AAN shares in the future as Tiddy delves into scripture and comes out with honest and worshipful retellings of the faithfulness of God.
All.Above.North, a Christian indie rock band from Sydney, Australia, have released their new album ‘How Great It Is To Be Broken’.
For me personally on first listen, especially on first track ‘Please Don’t Forget Me’,the bands I compared the sound to was The Smiths, U2 and Delirious. The band members might be inspired by those bands over the years, but this guitar band doesn’t just want to sound like those big 80’s and 90’s bands. They want to sound like themselves.
‘Please Don’t Forget Me’ is about being open and honest with God when we face trials and hardship, in the same way that King David was in the Psalms that he wrote. The song is about a faithful crying out to God for help, and having a trust in Him that He will lead us through and not let go of us. And there are a lot of songs about trials and hardship here which adds to the underlying tension on the album.
This tension can very much be heard on tracks like ‘Father’ and ‘Your Love Is Unbreakable’. You can feel the hardship and honesty in the songs and as the album continues the sound grows more modern indie rock. Yet what flows through the lyrics is a strong Christian message that isn’t hidden in poetic imagery. This album is full of honest words straight from the songwriters heart into music, not scared to say how they feel.
If you’re looking for big dance, pop, worship anthems this is not the place to be. Yet if you are looking for creative, arty music and inspiring and honest lyrics then this is the place to be. Tracks like ‘Walk on Water’ are up there with some of the best songs I have heard in the last few years. Hopefully All Above North will go from strength to strength and keep on making amazing music that will be heard by a wider audience.
Review By Jono Davies
LTTM Rating 4.5 Out of 5 Stars
Please Don’t Forget Me
Walk On Water
How Great Is The Broken
Posted on http://www.louderthanthemusic.com/product.php?id=3341
Jesusfreakhideout.com: All Above North “How Great It Is To Be Broken” Review
The early 2000’s was an amazing time for music: rock had evolved into so many denominations and expressions that it collided with pop, hip-hop, country, etc. Furthermore, worship music started to grow and change into a more mainstream sound leading to the explosion of Hillsong, Passion and Crowder, among other progressive pioneers. These incredible trailblazers have led to an ever-growing number of worship artists and bands. Adding to that growing fold is Australian based indie band All Above North with their debut album, How Great It Is to Be Broken.
The album is a collection of worship and inspirational songs for the Christian life, however, those lines tend to be blurred as humanity always has an object of affection and worship. Songs like “Your Love” and “Hope” and “Your Love is Unbreakable” reflect on the depravity that is ingrained in the human condition and the separation that it causes between God and His creation. Furthermore, these tracks are balanced out with an honest and heartfelt plea for God to draw the believer closer to himself. While these tracks and others like “Oh What a Day,” “My Desert Heart,” and “Please Don’t Forget Me” sing to the Lord, they are more introspective and not necessarily worship songs, per se.
On the contrary, “I Worship You Forever (Psalm 145)” is a pure song of worship and could even be used in gatherings of the church. As lead singer Jon Tiddy sings, “I exalt you God and Father, you’re compassionate, slow to anger, great in faithful love,” he pulls from scripture while utilizing U2 style instrumentation to create a beautiful track. The title track, “How Great It Is to Be Broken,” continues this same style but with a bit more epic arrangement, concluding the album in a solid fashion.
Overall, All Above North makes a great effort and has a lot to offer listeners. There are some incredible moments of genius, but with 90% of the songs on the album topping out at over 5 minutes each, listeners may not have the stamina or time to digest the album in its entirety. In addition, musically, the album is very reminiscent of U2 or early works from Coldplay, which may draw or repel listeners, but for this reviewer it is extremely intriguing. As AAN continues to grow and mature in songwriting, we may see some excellent music coming from the band. Make no mistake, How Great It Is to Be Broken is a good album–the instrumentation and production are top notch–it just needs to be honed in a little more to make it a great album. Nevertheless, we should all look forward to seeing the future of All Above North as the band evolves.
– Review date: 11/11/17, written by Ryan Barbee of Jesusfreakhideout.com