As always the music buying market here in America is saturated with pop and alternative music. Saturated with American pop and alternative, that is. Here, with this compilation CD, 1340 Records in collaboration with Sarepta (Norway) and Plankton (U.K.) are trying to bring some great Christian alternative and pop bands from outside the U.S. to our attention; several of which have some noticeable talent. I can’t say that I’m acquainted with all the buzz bands right now as I am primarily occupied with METAL! But there are some tunes here which I have enjoyed listening to. The majority of the groups are pretty straight ahead alterna-rock with lyrics that border on worshipful. The CD starts off with a great track by Maybe June called “dedicated to . . .”. They sort of have that post-punk alternative sound that Mike Knott is known for. It is gritty but melodic. Right after it comes Fields of Harvest which have a very modern alternative sound. Perhaps they bear a resemblance to Counting Crows or maybe Caedmon’s Call. I could be wrong. Wonderboy PHD appear here with “Absorb”, a bonus track which I’m sure would please fans of Poor Old Lu. Also interesting is The North Sixty’s “Let it Be”. I expect to hear more good music from them in the future. Next to last is Woodencross with a somewhat ska-like track called “Ghandi”. It is interesting to hear ska sung in German. But the best song is last, “How Many Times” by Blue Planet. It is a very moving, emotional, and yes, bluesy song. Check it out.
Here’s a CD that seeks to right a wrong. The “wrong” is another CD by another label (now defunct) which was an insult to one of the greatest bands of all time (okay, there were a few good tracks—very few!). I did review that other CD. It was a very scathing review and I decided not to print it. I will, however, print this review for it is a real “tribute”. This CD, “Isaiah 53:5: A Tribute to Stryper” is a “right”. The songs covered here are done by competent musicians who don’t seek to parody Stryper but to honor them.
Some of the songs here are modern reinterpretations of Stryper classics. Examples are: “Lonely” by Fringe, an alterna-grungy tune which takes that song seriously, “The World of You and I” by Dinner Mint who also appeared on the other “tribute”. This version has a very 1960/70’s sound but sounds really good in this song, though it brings back memories of the Monkees and the Partridge Family. Another reinterpretation comes from Augenkristall which is one-half Nathan Morris of EnGrave/Nova Sphere, and one-half Warren Wheeler of Cradle->Grave in Australia. Their contribution is a darkwave version of “Abyss” which is really cool and should be used if Stryper ever does a reunion tour. Honeymooner does an unplugged sort of version of “Calling On You” similar to the songs on the original Browbeats album. Aimee Clark sounds like the singer from Sixpence None the Richer on “I Believe in You”, the music sounds like Lilith Fair material. Estes P@rc sounds like Luxury on “It’s Up to You”, the only song I don’t care for on this disc. Finally, Wonderboy PHD makes “Makes Me Wanna Sing” sound like modern alterna-rock like Rose Blossum Punch or Poor Old Lu. These are the songs that reinterpret Stryper into other forms of music. Now for the metal bands . . .
The other tracks on this CD can be described thus: they are Hard Rock/Heavy Metal renderings of Stryper songs which are clearly recognizable but bear the marks of the individual bands playing them. So, you have Disciple doing “More Than a Man” in their style, Blood N’ Fire play “Surrender” and assist Racing Elijah with “Loving You”. Nailed does a very impressive version of “To Hell With the Devil” as does Derron’s Tuba with “Soldiers Under Command”. One Bad Apple does a very Hardcore sounding “You Know What to Do”. And, “Free” is done by Antioch. One thing that must be said about these particular tracks is that each band is able to play the songs competently unlike many of the bands on the other “tribute”. Mark Fisher is to be complimented on his project and on his choice of bands.
. Wonderboy PHD seems to bridge the gaps of 80’s and 90’s rock. Certainly rock couldn’t be this heavy or grungy in the 80’s unless it was called “metal”, but in the 90’s this is called alternative. The album starts out heavy with “Absorb” and grooves and rocks until track 4, “Which One.” This song is smoother, almost a ballad, with clean vocals and piano. The next song is called, “Song for Jason,” but it could also be called, “Song for Curt Cobain” as it starts out with a line which, I think, is a commentary on the song covered by Nirvana called, “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me to be a Sunbeam.” I may be wrong, but that’s what I think. The light tunes continue with “Sleep Tight” which reminds me a lot of the sound from U2’s “Unforgettable Fire” album, especially a song like, “Elvis Presley and America”. Then things heat up again with “Unchained,” a lively tune for sure. A light-hearted change of pace is the song “Gina the Buffalo Princess.” I think the title says it all. Next, “Fifty One” displays some impressive bass guitar. And finally, “Viewmaster Part 1” has an almost Styx-like sound. You can almost hear Dennis DeYoung singing. The overall sound of all these tracks is one of a band that plays well together and are obviously very familiar with each other. One is especially impressed with the tight drumming. And most important of all, the lyrics speak of the Gospel and criticize worldliness.
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