Review: 'Our God He reigns' featuring 29th Chapter
Making a good thing better is probably one of the hardest things to do that's exactly what has happened with this track. Simon Brading's 'Our God He reigns' was already a magnificent song, proclaiming essential truth simply and thrillingly. Then at Newday this year he took it up a level by inviting 29th Chapter to collaborate on it, as they have also done at Soul Survivor. There are two related reasons that make this version an improvement of something that was already wonderful.
The first is the diversity it now contains. All Christian movements run the risk of being culturally homogenous as they are built around shared convictions that can become shared preferences. The songs we sing are a key part of this. The most simple (though by no means simple, just in comparison) way to counter this is to use music from other nations: Newfrontiers conferences and my church do this and it's wonderful to realise that you're part of an international, multinational family. But a greater challenge, I suspect, is to speak to the many UK cultures. No-one really has a handle on what "British" is because there are so many classes, races, cultures here - so how do you recognise and celebrate this in worship? One way is through collaborations like this one in which a guitar-led song is punctuated and accented by rapping. It's not patronising or tokenism, it can speak effectively to people from different British cultures.
Which leads on to its second strength: the musical depth and its eschatological implications. This happens throughout - instruments, whoops, song lyrics, rapping all at the same time - but perhaps best as the song climaxes. Brading's vocals call out the long-notes of the chorus whilst "Jesus rocks" is shouted in bursts. Aurally so many things are happening at once but theologically there is just one thing occuring. Every sound is distinct but it is all going in the same direction: the throne of heaven. In Revelation there is one cry of worship but it is not one note: the same is true here. Oh for more tastes on this on earth!
The Newday team have made a great decision to release this as a single; given that the original version was on last year's album I was concerned that a great moment would have been missed. They made a good call, you can too by buying it here.
And if you fancy a much less edifying rock/hip-hop collaboration, let's go back to where it all began...