Top 10 Christian Albums of My Last Year

With the past year being so challenging for myself and many others I know and with the heaviness of spiritual warfare increasing as time goes on, I believe it's really important to be continually surrounded by godly music that ultimately glorifies and shares Christ. Now, I don't just mean worship music, because what is that really, I'm also talking about rock, folk, country, pop, metal, and many other styles of music that can still have the goal of honoring Jesus. These are my top ten favorite albums that I have discovered this past year, some of them are newer, some are older, but either way I believe they get that job done.

I did not include "Best of..." CD's because I would have included "7: Best of Stryper" and the "Best of Disciple 2005-2013" and I also didn't include albums that I had listened to in year's past such as "Awake" by Skillet or "To Hell with the Devil" by Stryper, otherwise those would've been high on this list as well. These are merely my discoveries in the past year...

1. Mirror of Souls - Theocracy
One of my best friends introduced me to this one around this time last year, if not a little bit later, during a time where I was overcome with fear. Fear of man, fear of death, fear of Hell, it wasn't looking good for me. But when I heard the titular track ("Mirror of Souls"), I was very encouraged by the good news presented in the 22 minute song. Not only is "Mirror of Souls" one of my favorite pieces of art (the song itself, not just the album), but this album is one of the most solid albums I have heard all the way through. "A Tower of Ashes", "Laying the Demon to Rest", and "Bethlehem" are probably my favorite tracks after the titular track itself and really the whole album is solid. Although I'm not a huge "power-metal" fan, Theocracy has not only grown on me but quickly become one of my favorites in the metal genre as well as the Christian music scene.

2. I Am They - I Am They
Vastly different from power-metal, I Am They takes Jesus' prayer from John 17, where He refers to His disciples as "they", and turns the saving power of the Gospel into catchy and joyful folk rock tunes for the whole family! I Am They is an extremely new band with their first album "I Am They" only having been released earlier this year. These guys can be fast-paced and catchy as in their #1 hit "From the Day" and "We Are Yours" but they can also slow down and just make you think about the words you're singing as in "Here's My Heart" and "Amen". "I Am They" is one of the most encouraging albums I've ever listened to and really helps you to be reassured in what, and who, Truth really is.

3. God - Johnny Cash
One of my personal favorites in all of the music industry, Johnny Cash does it again in "God". I had never heard this album until a few months ago, but these country, gospel, folk, worship, and just good ol' Cash-classics really bring out the good truths of Scripture. "Man in White" (in contrast to Cash's famous "Man in Black") is about Paul's journey to redemption where he meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, "Belshazzar" talks about Belshazzar's role in the Book of Daniel, "My God Is Real" - Cash's proclamation that the Lord is in fact real, and "The Old Account" which describes the transition from being under the Law to being under Grace. However, my favorite and the most powerful track is that of "Redemption" which pains a picture of the blood shed for us on Calvary by Christ Himself. This album is great for fans of hymns, gospel classics, and the Man in Black himself!

4. As the World Bleeds - Theocracy
Another Theocracy album, "As the World Bleeds" is not as good as "Mirror of Souls", but it certainly holds up as some great work by this Spirit-filled group! "I Am" is an 11 minute epic which declares the names, roles, and goodness of God; this is the song that makes this whole album worth a shot! Some other greats on this album include "Light of the World" which convicts believers for not sharing the Gospel, "30 Pieces of Silver", "Hide in the Fairytale", "The Master Storyteller", and "Drown", all powerful additions to the Theocracy library. Check this one out!

5. Attack - Disciple
I literally only discovered Disciple three weeks ago when I was hanging out with a friend of mine who is a big fan of them himself (we're actually potentially going to see them next week!). After listening to the "Best of Disciple" compilation album (which is great by the way, go get it!) I decided to try out their latest album from 2014 entitled "Attack", and boy is it great! "Radical", "The Name", "Unbroken", "Angels and Demons", "Attack", and "Yesterday Is Over" are all incredibly powerful tracks that shake you down the the core in truth. In fact, all twelve songs are worth a couple listens! Disciple is one of those Christian bands that you can just tell live for Christ both on and off the stage, and "Attack" inspires you to be like that too!

6. The Art of Celebration - Rend Collective
One of my favorite bands, Rend Collectives' "The Art of Celebration" has some of my all-time favorite songs, ever. "My Lighthouse" is a fantastic picture of how God will always be there, no matter what doubt, pain, or tribulations you're going through. "More than Conquerors" empowers us to live like Christ and gives us the "Resurrection power" we need to change the world, "Burn Like a Star" is a prayer asking for our hearts to be changed in order to fulfil the Lord's will, and "Joy" is just a simple encouraging song grafted into the hope of Jesus Christ. Rend Collective does it again here with "The Art of Celebration" and continues to be one of the most truthful and energetic Christian, worship, and folk bands out there!

7. Fallen - Stryper
Ah Stryper. You've got to love Stryper. From Michael Sweet's vocals to Oz Fox's guitar, Stryper just loves to "rock out for Jesus" and it's great! Having only released "No More Hell to Pay" two years or so ago, "Fallen" picks up right where this classic rock/metal group left off. "Yahweh" declares the glory of God and Jesus Christ through a powerful opening act that will blow you away, "Fallen" continues that tradition when talking about Satan's fall as well as that of humanity, "Pride" is all about our own sinful-pride, "Big Screen Lies" discusses the lies that Hollywood and the mainstream media puts out about Christians, and then you've got some other great songs like "After Forever", "King of Kings", "Let There Be Light", "The Calling", and "Heaven". "Fallen" is a great album that takes Stryper back to their glory days of "Soldiers Under Command" and "To Hell with the Devil". Plus, isn't that album cover super-cool!

8. of Beauty and Rage - RED
RED has always kinda tread the line when it comes to being a Christian band, but I believe that "of Beauty and Rage" should solidify their stance as being a believing band (if it wasn't already with "Release the Panic"...). This album has great tracks that really make you feel their words, such as "Darkest Part", "Of These Chains", and "Yours Again" (which is especially powerful and probably my favorite track). "Falling Sky", "The Ever", "Part That's Holding On" and "Shadow and Soul" stand out as great songs here as well. RED continues to deliver and improve each album! This is also one of the few albums on the list that actually came out this year after "I Am They" and "Fallen". 

9. Restart - Newsboys
At the end of my first semester in college, about a year ago, I really got into Newsboys. I really love the group now that Michael Tait is the lead singer (did not like that other guy's voice...) and I really do believe that their music is extremely beneficial to believers. For those struggling with faith, I recommend my favorite song on this album, "We Believe". It's essentially the "Christian manifesto" in terms of what the basic beliefs of believers are. "That's How You Change The World" is an encouragement that every little thing, little prayer, little action, matters. "Live with Abandon" is a prayer, declaring your desire to live for Christ alone. And "Fishers of Men" and "Restart" challenge you to to change your life for Christ and allow Him to flow through you.

10. Extremist/Extremist (Deluxe Edition) - Demon Hunter
Probably the most "sketchy" band I listen to. Demon Hunter is like hard core metal (a lot of "screamo"-type stuff, but I don't listen to those songs generally) and my buddy and I continue to wonder "is this even Christian?" Well, they are, and they're reaching a crowd that neither Newsboys or I Am They could ever reach through music. "Extremist" goes all out on this album. With their usual heavy music aside, tracks like "Last One Alive", "I Will Fail You", and "Hell Don't Need Me" are all songs that relate to the mentality of a believer with "Heart of a Graveyard" (probably my favorite one on this album) begging people not to put their hope in death, that there is something afterwards. "Artificial Light" is also a cool one. 

Honorable Mentions:
As Family We Go - Rend Collective
No More Hell to Pay - Stryper
Lead Us Back - Third Day
God's Not Dead - Newsboys
Time's End - Saint

Well, these are the songs and albums that have really been an encouragement to me the past year, I hope they all help you all to grow in Christ. I really believe that the music we listen to both helps reflect and shape who we are, and as believers we need to be intentionally listening to music that glorifies God. I find that when I'm out on my own, I'm generally listening to Christian music, whether something on this list or not, but when I'm around others I'm tempted not to because of "peer pressure". We need to remember who we live our lives for and that it's a 24/7 commitment. There are no breaks, no pauses, and no surrenders, we are His and He is ours. Live for the glory of Christ and continue to represent Him and obey Him daily!



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