First full length from the creators of “Surrounded (Fight My Battles)”

To The One
Label: Independent
Length: One hour, five minutes

To The One by UPPERROOM reminds me of what C. S. Lewis wrote in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe:

Aslan is a lionthe Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

Those who favor conservative, quiet worship might be nervous about listening to this. Is it safe? It’s not safe if you want to avoid guitars that roar, bass that pounds and drums that herald.

Moments of spontaneity are found throughout this live recording, mostly at the end of songs or as a brief interlude. Sometimes they fall flat but it’s part of being a less polished, less tame experience.

This is not to say that it’s all wild and loud. It’s modern rock applied in a worship setting. Crescendos are balanced by quieter moments. Songs ebb and flow for five minutes and upwards. It does make for some repetition that can be a little monotonous. The opening track at over 10 minutes is a prime example.

There is, however, some depth to the lyrics, which are intimate expressions that are traceable to this collective’s prayer room. Though they are not necessarily the best songs on this release, I give them credit for touching on themes that may not be addressed as often like gratitude, the Holy Spirit and healing.

The promotional material boasts that “Surrounded (Fight My Battles)” includes new verses. Michael W. Smith includes the song on his new live recording, Awaken: The Surrounded Experience. It’s a highlight with verses that reference Psalm 23 while making connections with New Testament practices. It’s beautifully sung here by a female lead.

One application I make is that being in Christ is the foundation on which we take our stand. Scripture makes it clear that we don’t fight as those in the world do. Our weapons are spiritual, even praise and worship. It’s thoughts like this combined with captivating music that make this appealing.

Another personal favorite is “Washed,” an anthem with a simple, steady rhythm that boldly declares, “I am washed by the blood of the lamb.” Appropriately the guitars are anything but passive on the chorus. It’s a celebration of a prodigal being made clean. The Lamb who is also a Lion makes the difference. Is He safe? No, but He is good. He makes it as though one had never sinned!

This has a loose slightly Charismatic feel, which may appeal to those who like something more fluid.

The technical prowess is evident in the instrumentation. In particular, I enjoy the guitar work but all of the playing is competent and well-produced. You can clearly hear the audience participating and responding with enthusiasm, which makes it more exciting.

I put this in the forefront of modern worship recordings even though I favor something less given to excess. Even though it might not be safe for some like me, it is benevolent in heart like the object of its worship. It’s worth checking out for those who like something on the edges of the frontier.

UPPERROOM is a church founded in 2010 in the creative Design District of Dallas. More than 100 vocalists, songwriters and musicians are involved in leading worship three times a day, six days a week. This is their first full length release, which follows their Moments (2018) EP.

Michael Dalton