Music review by Luchae Williams
Christian rock artist and pastor, Zach Williams, shares his grace story on new album, Chain Breaker, released in January 2017. The all-American rocker is no newbie to the music industry, spending most of his life travelling with various secular bands, more notably Zach Williams and The Reformation Band. It was while on the road, in 2012, that Williams had an encounter with the Lord catapulting him into a series of events that eventually landed him at the Refuge Campus of Central Baptist Church in Arkansas, where he still serves as worship leader.
The singer describes his life, before Christ, as one of struggle and addiction. “I was a rock-star, and with that attitude and that lifestyle came a lot of bad things,” he says. “I was miserable, everybody about me could see it, I was so lost.” The GRAMMY nominated artist shares that when he felt the presence of God, in a tour bus while listening to a song by Christian superstar, Big Daddy Weave, his life was radically altered. He cancelled the whole tour, quit the band, and never looked back.
The contemporary Christian singer released his first solo single, signed under Essential Records, in June 2016. The single, titled Chain Breaker, was met with roaring success, earning him a GRAMMY nod at the 2016 GRAMMY awards. The song reached number 1 on the Hot Christian Songs Chart and made Top 10 on Christian radio. It speaks about the redeeming grace found in Jesus – our ‘pain taker, way maker, prison-shaking savior and chain breaker.’ If this track serves as your introduction to Williams and his passion-filled gravelly vocal, it is a good start!
Williams released his full-length album, with the same title, digitally in December 2016. Although released earlier than anticipated, the collection of songs do not fail to impress, all holding a level of depth and profoundness.
If you enjoyed the title track, you’ll relish other similar tracks such as the uptempo offerings, Survivor and Old Church Choir. Williams’ gospel-infused rasp has been likened to that of Brian Adams and Johnny Cash. Their influence can be heard as he delivers a powerful vocal performance in both tracks. The latter is one of my favorites on the album and I appreciate the moving choral backing and catchy melody as he sings: “I’ve got an old church choir singing in my soul/I’ve got a sweet salvation and it’s beautiful/I’ve got a heart overflowing cause I’ve been restored/No there aint nothing gonna steal me joy!”
I was especially impressed with the singer’s songwriting prowess and his ability to tell the story of his testimony with each song. This theme can be found in emotive tracks such as To The Table, a guitar-driven, country-infused offering that encourages you to bring all your pain and shame to the table of the Lord. Williams adds a sweetness to his gruff as he croons “Come on in and take your place/There’s no one who’s turned away!”
Other beautiful redemption songs are the mid tempo Everything Changed and the melodic Revival. Both speak about finding God after living life as a “dead man walking”.
I quite enjoyed the Southern rock inspired, My Liberty, that speaks about finding freedom in Jesus. The blues-infused Song of Deliverance really impressed me too. This song packs a punch with Williams’s powerhouse vocals bringing listeners to a place of freedom, as he sings about lifting his hands and dropping chains of bondage in Jesus’ name!
Album closer, So Good To Me, is a fitting addition with a striking guitar intro and Williams’ moving vocal singing about the goodness of God. This song is an ode to a perfect God and one can sense that it holds a much deeper meaning to the singer.
This album has been dubbed ‘universally appealing’ and I could not agree more! Besides for the country-swag that would hook any heart, whether that’s your taste in music or not, I loved the honest lyric and the fact that the artist chose to share his comeback story through the penning of each song. Zach Williams is a songwriting mastermind with a heart after God and I am excited to hear what else he has in the pipeline!