While the overall tone of the album doesn't overtly advertise it, City of God readily leans into urban gospel and even some country elements. This shouldn't be too surprising for those familiar with Mooring's other works, but it serves the album well in bringing originality to an often-stale and oversaturated genre.
Listeners can expect several welcome guest features and extra long tracks (a few approach the 10-minute mark). There are a number of album highlights sprinkled throughout, but all of the tracks are "good." "Still Mighty" and "Heart and Flesh" both showcase some of the more gospel-driven underpinnings, while "Ark" (featuring Vanessa Hill) sees a contemporary country flair. "You're Not Done" features Charity Gayle and offers some of the best of contemporary worship, containing accessibility, sincerity, emotion, and depth.
"Midnight" is an honest and contemplative offering, and "Fall of Dagon" is perhaps one of the most original worship songs recently released. The upbeat "Jacob's Ladder" (feat. Rita Springer) is reminiscent of The Great Awakening era of Leeland and ties in smoothly with the calm "Wonderfully Made," a heartfelt, emotive and personal offering of worship.
"If I Don't Have Love" is another album highlight and features Lauren Strahm (many readers will recognize her as performing artist Fleurie). Its simple lyrics are a plain retelling of the well-known I Corinthians 13 passage: "Love is patient, love is kind / doesn't envy or walk in pride / if I speak in tongues of angels, prophecy mysteries / have the faith to move the mountains and split every sea / If I give all my possessions to the poor and the least / even lay my life down as a burnt offering / if I don't have love I got nothing at all."
The album concludes with title track, "City of God," a lyrical and melodic highlight: "I pray for every dream inside your heart / I pray for hope to always light the dark / oh, the times they may rough, they may be hard / but let us not forget who we are / we are the City of God, every tribe and every tongue / every daughter every son, we are the City of God." Leeland has always focused on the son/daughter aspect of the Kingdom, so this ending is both apt and reflective.
In all honesty, City of God is likely to be polarizing for some fans. As mentioned earlier, the band has come a long way from Sound of Melodies and Opposite Way. I won't claim that the band's current iteration is as good as their offerings from the 2000's, but rather that listeners are experiencing an "apples and oranges" scenario. The music isn't the same. The songwriting serves a different purpose. The melodies are cut from a different cloth. What has remained the same is Leeland's heart for worshipping our Creator. Even those of us who still hope for another melodic pop/rock album in the future will find much to enjoy and celebrate in the City of God.- Review date: 6/11/23, written by David Craft of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Integrity Music
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