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Music Review: Explosions of Light by John Waller

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Updated March 13, 2019
Explosions Of Light
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Recording artist and songwriter John Waller, known for such inspiring hit singles as “Crazy Faith” (featured in the hit box office film, War Room), “While I'm Waiting” (featured in 2008’s No.1 independent film, Fireproof), “As For Me and My House,” “The Blessing” and many more, releases his first new album in three years, Explosions of Light, on Radiate Music Jan. 25.

Produced by GRAMMY-nominated, two-time Dove Award-winning “Producer of the Year,” Ian Eskelin, the new album comes after a season of renewal for Waller.

“After touring extensively for 10 years straight, I settled into a rut. I began to survive instead of thrive. Everything I said from the stage was something God did in the past, but hardly ever what God was doing NOW,” John admits.

Following this period of exhaustion, isolation and even depression, Waller had the opportunity to return to his roots as a worship leader. At the beginning of 2018, he moved with his wife and nine kids (including three adopted children) to Yuba City, CA, accepting a position as worship pastor for the congregation at Hope Point Nazarene.

“This has been a huge change for us, but we could not be more happy,” reflects Waller. “‘Explosions of Light’ was the first song birthed here in California. It was written on my worship team’s first writers’ retreat. Inspired by something I heard Louie Giglio say once, ‘Whenever we say things like ‘hallelujah’ there is literally an explosion of light into the spirit realm!’ I hope this song, somehow through the hand of God, might explode into the church and prepare the way for many worship songs to come!

“I don't take for granted the privilege of getting to make music,” continues Waller. “After every album I do, I wonder if it could be the last, so I really make sure I put it all out there, investing my whole heart. This is by far the most upbeat and best album I've ever done.”

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Explosions of Light by John Waller
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If you have watched the Christian movies "War Room" or "Fireproof" then you have heard John Waller's music before as he had tracks on both of the soundtracks of those independent films. This album is John's eighth studio album since going solo, but it's also his first release in 3 years. Some of the tracks from this album have been recorded for a while but John had an extensive touring schedule and then a change of life circumstances when he, his wife and 9 kids relocated to Yuba City where he accepted the position of Worship Pastor. Amid all this was also the question of whether music was something he would continue to pursue. With some prompting from friends, including producer Ian Eskelin, he decided to continue with the project.

The album opens with "Who You Say" which deals directly with some of this internal struggle. It's not often the first word of an album is 'worthless'! This was how John was feeling during some of this time, but this song is a reminder that we are God's chosen people, adopted children, because He is who He says He is and we are who God says we are. This does echo something similar to the Hillsong track "Who You Say I Am" but definitely gives a more personal outlook on why he needed to know and remember it. This first opening track is quite upbeat, it's not breaking any ground musically though and much of the album continues in this fairly standard Christian pop style. "Explosions of Light" continues a very similar style musically, this is more of a worship song which speaks of Jesus as explosions of light in the darkness. This is taking the idea of Jesus as being the "Light of the World" and praising him for it, but also that we should reflect that and also be explosions of light in the darkness that we are often surrounded by.

The next track is one that seems a little odd to me, it's called "Awakening" and struck a chord with a lot of people when it was released as a single back in 2017. This is about waking up and spending time with Jesus, but also about a love of coffee. Now maybe I find this odd because I don't drink coffee, but surely we can't equate Jesus with caffeine can we? Moving onward we have the track "Epic" which is solid worship number about the greatness of God, summed up in the phrase "epic and glorious". Many of the phrases used in this track are highly overused and there is nothing that seems particularly new or original about this track apart from the word 'Epic' being used to describe God. This is a track that has featured on other albums from John Waller including his "Crazy Faith" album. After this we move onto a slow-moving ballad about his Mums faithful prayers for her children, no matter what they are doing she keeps on praying that God will look after them.

"Mine" is not about the seagulls from "Finding Nemo", it's a half-spoken story song and the verses give flashes into events of the Waller family. It's about a Father's protection, but also about our Heavenly Father's protection and love for us and how we have to let go and trust God even with the most important things in life. Initially listening to the song before the chorus the style reminded me of Johnny Cash's "Boy Named Sue" in it's structure but then it bursts into a catchy chorus which changes the feel of the song entirely. "Comeback" feels like a song written for this album, after the time wondering, not knowing if he was going to continue making music, this song reminds us that God is a God of comebacks, with Jesus resurrection being the ultimate comeback. "When God Says No" is a reminder that God doesn't always answer our prayers in the way that we expect, sometimes in the hardest seasons, about the most important things, God's answer seems to be 'No', but this song is about looking for the bigger 'Yes' that God is allowing because of that 'No'. This is a song that will encourage a number of people who have not got the answer that they have expected from God.

The album rounds out with the catchy, if a little simple, "Good News", "I Choose You" a track about choosing to worship God over any other choices and the piano backed "Here's My Yes". It is this last song that stands out more than the previous ones, possibly because the simpler backing is a stark contrast to the other pop-based tracks from the album. There is more depth in this track both in the lyrics and the emotion being poured out through the song. With a light backing from a female vocal this song actually works really well as a heartfelt worship song.

This album as a whole didn't really hit the mark for me. Although there are some good tracks in this collection there isn't anything that really stands out. If you like John Waller's early albums then you may find that some of that style is here, but some of the depth and substance is missing. The album mixes worship songs in with other tracks meaning that you can never really get into the right place to get something out of the worship contained here. As John is now working in a full time worship role this may mean in the future we see more worship material from him, or he may channel his writing away from his day to day role and we find a whole album of more life-inspired truth-filled songs. This half and half mix doesn't really work very well!

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