From Blackest Darkness is a bit of a mixed bag, but mostly good. For instance, the music is very solid and well-done, especially their adaptation of the "Imperial March" from Star Wars. The sonics are very clear and the mixers did a wonderful job. Unfortunately, because of the lack of budget, the sound is a little thinner than, say, a Mortification album. On the other hand, it appears that one guitar has the high end turned up and the other guitar has the low end turned up. This makes each very distinguishable. Musically Aeturnus is a delightful mix of old and new. There are elements of thrash, speed, death and so on. They conjure up diverse images of things like: early Living Sacrifice and current Pantera. So there is much to recommend itself here. On the other hand, the lyrics are kind of cliche-ish, which doesn't really appeal to me. And the weakest point, in my opinion, are the vocals which are screamed as if they are trying for a Pantera-like sound. Imagine, if you will, Sgt. Carter from Gomer Pyle as a vocalist for a heavy band and you'll know what I mean. Anyway, the vocals here are not intolerable, just not to my taste. -TE
Angelica "Angelica" (10 Tracks. Intense)
Angelica "Walking In Faith" (10 Tracks. Intense)
Angelica "Rock, Stock, and Barrell" (12 Tracks. Intense)
Angelica "Time Is All It Takes" (10 Tracks. Intense)
Angelica "The Best Of Angelica"
Fans of Horde and Kekel pay attention. This new album from Antestor leaves the more Doom oriented style of "Martyrium" for the more shrill and primitive sounds of Black/Forest Metal. From the beginning this disc recalls the sound and style of "Hellig Usvart". Of course, being a full band Antestor sound much better and polished than Horde, but the comparison remains. Also, Martyr's vocals are easier to listen to than Anonymous'. The music is generally fast and accents the high end guitar sound. Unlike Horde, though, this album is much easier to listen to and a bit more diverse. There aren't any totally chaotic tracks which sound like a train wreck. The music is often melodic, even. And, like their music in the past, Antestor is able to evoke powerful emotions. Remember "Mercy, Lord" from "Martyrium" and the "Northern Lights" CD's? "Sorg" (Sorrow) and "Kongsblod" on this disc are equally emotive, powerful.
While comparisons to Horde and Kekel come easily to Christian listeners, it should be noted that this disc sounds a lot like Ulver's "Nattens Madrigal" (Madrigal of the Night) in style. It should also be noted that this disc is on Cacophanous Records, a Black Metal label in England with such bands as Bal Sagoth, early Dimmu Borgir, etc. This should attest to the credibility of this great CD.
One other note, the CD is mostly in Norwegian. I admire that about Norwegian bands; i.e., that they don't cater to the "English speaking world" but do their own thing. If I understand correctly this CD will soon be rare, so, if you think you want it, don't hesitate to get it.
Antic "Flowing Iniquity" (5 Tracks. Demo)
This cool demo from a now extinct Atlanta band was really good. It came out about the time of Sepultura's Chaos A.D. album and was very similar in style. I sure hated to see them break up. Lead guitarist Ken Ross went on to join Covenant. --TE
Ashen Mortality "Sleepless Remorse" (7 Tracks. 57:38. Forsaken)
I eagerly sought this disc because I think Seventh Angel's Lament For The Weary is one of the best Metal albums ever. After the demise of that band I felt a little "sleepless remorse" myself, you know. However, when I heard of the formation of AM by Ian Arkley I had hope again. Usually you expect a new project to progress more towards commercialism than the previous band. That is not the case with Ashen Mortality. What we have here is heavier and rawer than Lament For The Weary, though it is much more like Seventh Angel's first album, The Torment. The best point of musical comparison, however, is the the early musical releases of English Gothic/Death/Doom bands like Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. I am most reminded of Paradise Lost's Gothic album. Many of the same elements exist, namely keyboards and the supplemental female vocals. The songs are also lengthy and cover such issues as lonliness/aging, abortion and spiritual concerns. But let me warn you: this is a "grow on you" kind of disc. You start out liking it okay then it grows on you. After it grows on you it'll be a regular part of your diet. --TE
Australian Metal Compilation I "Godspeed" (17 Tracks. 73:46. Rowe Productions)
These seventeen tracks come from seventeen different Australian bands, several of whom have since been signed to Rowe Productions or already had releases. Normally I don't care for this sort of compilation because of the diversity of music, however, you can't really go wrong with this one. Of course there is a great deal of diversity here, but if you're like me you can handle it. Everything from hard rock to industrial to Death Metal to Holy unblack Metal is found here. --TE
Australian Metal Compilation II "Music To Raise The Dead" (15 Tracks. 66:34. Rowe Productions)
This was actually the first of the Australian compilations I got liked it enough to go out and get the rest. First is Ethereal Scourge. Four songs of brutal death/groove metal with a grind vocalist reminiscent of D.J. from Living Sacrifice. Really solid. Recommended for fans of Living Sacrifice, Metanoia, Crimson Thorn, Napalm Death. Next is Screams Of Chaos. Now this is worth explaining. It is a concept piece that is based around a really cool Star Wars/Terminator-like theme. It has sort of an industrial feel to it but with shredding' guitars, neat vocal effects. A musical SF experience. Third is Embodiment. Another great death/groove metal band with three songs. Very similar in sound to Ethereal Scourge though distinct. And finally is Metanoia. Again, four great death metal songs originally released as a demo called Akeldema. This is by far the grindingest of the bands on this track. For fans of serious grind. Last of all is one song from a shrill holy unblack metal one man band called Vomoth. This is music in the same vein as Horde and is intended for all those who are into black metal. Like Horde we do not get the author's real name. This person goes by the name of Unsadisticoth, which probably would have been a good name for the band. Not for the weak of heart--or faith. To sum it all up, if you remember all those metal compilation like California Metal, East Coast Metal, etc. you're probably counting on some duds on this disc. Well, stop counting, this is a solid disc and well worth getting. Trust me! --TE
Australian Metal Compilation III "The Extreme Truth" (34 Tracks. 59:48. Rowe Productions)
Compilation III starts out with a really cool band called Callous. Those in the know will notice that drums and vocals are handled by Phil Gibson who played with Mortification for a short while. I think Callous should be classified as a modern Thrash/Punk kind of band which reminds me a lot of the Crucified and somewhat of Six Feet Deep. Their four songs are very groove oriented but also thrash a bit. I wouldn't want to call them hardcore because most of today's hardcore is very boring and monotonous; and Callous is neither boring nor monotonous. Next is Sanhedrin, a death metal band. Their music is pretty much straight ahead, good but not overwhelmingly so. I'm sure that their next project will be even better. They have 3 songs. The third band on the docket is Screams Of Chaos with whom I was so impressed on Music To Raise The Dead. This time there is only one track, but it is divided into two parts. It describes a scene of destruction which makes reference to Germany in WWII. Like the project on MTRTD it is very atmospheric and interesting. Fourth is my favorite, Desolate Eternity, a Gothic Doom band which features piano, mellow instrumentals in between the heavy parts. Aside from the guttural growl of the male vocalist are female operatic vocals which really set the music off well. It brings to mind many of my favorite bands: Paramaecium, Paradise Lost, Believer. Notice, too, that Phil Gibson is in this band. 3 tracks of supreme music. Finally is Vomitorial Corpulance. As the name may suggest this is an extreme band. I personally am not very fond of them for two reasons. One is that the majority of their 22 tracks on this disc are just short little "songs" that last only a few seconds with a total playing time of 10:37. Really all the tracks on VC sound like the same song played over and over. Secondly, I don't like the vocals, which almost sound like someone vomiting through an overdrive. However, the guitars do sound good. If they were to put out an album of real songs and modified the vocals a little I think they might be pretty good. I'm sure there are people out there that like this kind of stuff but I think it lacks something to be desired. --TE
Australian Metal Compilation IV "Falling On Deaf Ears" ( Tracks. . Rowe Productions)
Barnabas "Hear The Light" (9 Tracks. Light. 1984 Re-Issue)
The copy I have of this is a re-issue of a Tunesmith original. I don't know if it has been changed any. It was re-issued, along with the next one reviewed, when the newly reformed band had success with the release of Approaching Light Speed. This first album was probably way ahead of the times as far as CCM is concerned. It features some gritty heavy music which I would describe as hard rock/Metal crossover. Barnabas is probably the first Christian band that let its guitarist have the freedom to play cool guitar solos. These first two albums feature a guy named Mick Donner (I think) who really went to town. There are a lot of blues influences here as well. Don't let me fail to mention Gary Mann on bass. The guy was awesome. And of course, Kris Klingensmith on drums was really good. This band really deserved more. The only difficult part for the band was the singer, Nancy Jo Mann who was a little raw on the first two releases. --TE.
Barnabas "Find Your Heart A Home" (6 Tracks. Light. 1984 Re-Issue)
This second Barnabas release was also re-issued on Light. It was even more satisfying than the first. Check out the scathing lyrics on "The Conflict Of Desire" and "Boogie Tyme". Whoa! Despite its shortness this was an awesome album. It should be re-re-issued. --TE.
Barnabas "Approaching Light Speed" (10 Tracks. Light)
This is actually the first Barnabas album I ever bought. I found it at a Christian store where they knew if they turned up their nose at it I would buy it. Anyway, this album featured the newly reformed Barnabas with a new guitarist: Brian Bellew. Bellew, I believe, is probably the closest a Christian guitarist has ever come to Randy Rhodes. In fact, he may have been an equal. So this album continued Barnabas' prophetic critique of society lyrically and upgraded their music to more of a Classic Metal style. One other thing, on this album Barnabas also introduces their first radio friendly ballad, "If Love Brings Love". But I doubt it was ever on the radio in those days. Here's another for the re-issue department. --TE
Barnabas "Feel The Fire" (8 Tracks. Light. 1984)
This next album continued an excellent tradition. Note too the three song epic at the beginning: "Prelude", "The Dream", "Breathless Wonderment". It was awesome. The last track "Suite For The Souls Of Our Enemies (Part I: Hammer And Sickle)" was also epic and had a follow up on the next album. This is probably my favorite of all the Barnabas albums. --TE
Barnabas "Little Foxes" (8 Tracks. Light. 1986)
Nowhere more than here did Barnabas' lyrical cleverness show itself. From the title track to the "Suite For The Souls Of Our Enemies (Part II: Lover)" your mind is challenged and taunted. Musically this album is a bit grittier and heavier than the previous two but also marked the end of Barnabas. --TE.
Barnabas "The Gospel According To Barnabas" (15 Tracks. 70:35. 1992)
I sincerely wish I had this one but I cannot afford it ($65 from RadRockers). Anyway, it contains all but two tracks from Approaching Light Speed and Feel The Fire. It was remixed by John and Dino Elephante. --TE
Barren Cross "Rock For The King" (10 Tracks. Starsong)
I discovered BC the same day I discovered Bloodgood. I thought they were cool. Now as I look back the blue and white spandex was a little corny. All the songs were cool, though; except I never liked the title song. The big appeal for BC was that Mike Lee sounded a lot like Bruce Dickenson of Iron Maiden (Maiden was really big back then). All in all this disc garnered them enough attention to get signed to Enigma Records (Stryper, Guardian, Trouble, etc.). Produced by John and Dino Elephante--TE
Barren Cross "Atomic Arena" (10 Tracks. Enigma)
I think this album is even stronger than the last one. And the opening track, "Imaginary Music" had a video that was played on MTV late at night. Also produced by the Elephantes --TE
Barren Cross "State Of Control" (10 Tracks. Enigma)
This was the last studio album by BC before they broke up. It was probably their best and strongest album. The cassette and CD had different closing tracks. Also produced by the Elephantes. --TE
Barren Cross "Hotter Than Hell Live" (14 Tracks. 73:35. Medusa)
About this time Enigma Records folded and Medusa Records picked up Barren Cross. To my knowledge this disc and the original Rock For The King are the only releases for Medusa. This long CD sounds good for a live album but I began to get bored with BC and didn't listen to it much. --TE.
Barren Cross "Rattle Your Cage" (10 Tracks. .Rugged)
This release on Rugged Records marked the short lived reformation of BC. Unfortunately, the music here, like the label it was on, was too dated and could not survive the 90's. --TE
Believer "Extraction From Mortality" (9 Tracks. . R.E.X.)
One of the first True Metal Christian bands to garner respect and attention from the secular world. This release is still satisfying. It came out in the heydey of Thrash and caught the attention of many, including Roadrunner records (their two subsequent albums were simultaneously realeased on REX and Roadrunner). On this album, the title song, "Extraction From Mortality" introduced orchestration into Christian Metal. This is something they did again on Sanity Obscure and brought to perfection on Dimensions.
Believer "Sanity Obscure" (8 Tracks. 39:23. R.E.X.)
Believer's second album wowed us with more of their intense technical Speed Metal. This album has a very European flavor reminding one much of Kreator and especially Destruction. Once again the lyrics are strong and scriptural, but the music does the talking. Of special interest is the epic "Dies Irae" complete with violins, and soprano vocals singing in Latin. Another point of interest here is the final tune, a heavy version of U2's "Like A Song", which I didn't really care for. However, this is a blistering classic which deserves great accolades. Only one problem: it's way too short--TE
Believer "Dimensions" (10 Tracks. 52:37. R.E.X)
Believer's third and final release could rightly be called their magnum opus. The intensity of the music, the intellect of the lyrics, and the complexity of the arrangements have made this one of the absolute greatest Metal albums of all time Christian or otherwise. Many theological and philosophical issues are tackled credibly and are accented by a more progressive sound. The music on this album is more rightly described as Progressive Metal than Thrash. I'm sure going to miss them. --TE
Betrayal "Renaissance By Death" ( Tracks. Wonderland)
The best song on this disc is the opening/title track. It was a neat gothic instrumental which began with harpsichord and bled into guitar. The rest of the disc lacked something for me, particularly in the vocals and lyrics. It is significant to note, though, that band leader Marcus Colin was an ex-Satanist. Produced by Caesar Kalinowsky. --TE.
Betrayal "The Passing" (Tracks. Wonderland)
This second album was a little more interesting and featured guest vocalists Jimmy P. Brown and Chris Ackerman on one song. This was the last release of Betrayal. --TE
The Blamed "21" (. . Tooth & Nail)
I don't have this one and the only thing I know about it is that the title 21 refers to the number of hours it took to record this disc and that it is not as heavy as Frail. --TE
The Blamed "Frail" (12 Tracks. . Tooth & Nail)
Bloodgood "Bloodgood" (10 Tracks. . Intense)
This I believe was the first ever release on Intense Records. What an awesome release it was too. It was produced by Darrell Mansfield and featured a shredding guitarist in David Zaffiro and a Steve Perry sound alike on vocals. Aside from the goofy stage clothes and make up this is a great album including the classic, "Black Snake" which was later covered by Mortification. Named after the bassist, Michael Bloodgood. --TE
Bloodgood "Detonation" (10 Tracks. . Intense) This second album by Bloodgood was even more awesome than the first. Also, the artwork was incredible showing a cartoon of the band running out of an exploding castle shaped like an evil character playing guitar. --TE
Bloodgood "Rock In A Hard Place" (Tracks. Intense)
Bloodgood's attempt to validate themselves and be musically correct lost me, but it got them a lot of attention. This album, aside from the opening track, is more subdued and, like I said, more musically correct. --TE
Bloodgood "Out Of The Darkness" (Tracks. Intense)
After the departure of David Zaffiro to make even more boring music the band made a worthy attempt to recover their original splendor. It was short lived, though. --TE
Bloodgood "Alive In America"
Bloodgood "All Stand Together" (Tracks. Broken)
Bloodgood's first and only release on Broken Records proved to be their last. This is the calmest, most radio friendly of all their albums. I don't think I ever listened to it all. Sometime later Michael Bloodgood decided to "pull the plug" on the band. --TE
Bride "Show No Mercy" (10 Tracks. Pure Metal)
Looking back I see how far ahead Bride were for their time. This hard rock/Metal crossover album was a lot of things that were lacking at the time in CCM. For one thing, Bride incorporated violins (played by Troy) and both gruff vocals and high pitched wails. This release is really good. Previous to choosing the name Bride they were known as Matrix --TE
Bride "Live To Die" (10 Tracks. . Pure Metal)
This second release from Bride featured an additional guitarist for a dual guitar attack. Also, it is on this album that Dale Thompson brought to form his raspy singing. Note, too, the thank you in the liner notes to Ronny James Dio. This album, though, also brought to the fore Brides tendancy for cliche-ish lyrics. It was good but not as good as the debut. --TE
Bride "Silence Is Madness" (9 Tracks. Pure Metal. 1989)
This is my second favorite Bride album (Snakes is number one). I would say that this is the truly transitional album for these guys. If you listen to it carefully you can hear two kinds of songs. One kind is like you find on the first two albums. Songs like "All Hallows Eve". The other kind of song is the kind that Bride were developing for later albums. Songs like, "Hot Down South Tonight" (probably inspired by the movie Angelheart) and the song, "Rock Those Blues Away". --TE
Bride "Kinetic Faith" (10 Tracks. . Starsong)
Bride "Snakes In The Playground" (10 Tracks. . Starsong)
Bride "Scarecrow Messiah" (10 Tracks. . Starsong)
Bride "Drop" (12 Tracks. . Rugged)
Bride "Lost Reels I" (12 Tracks. 42:01. Bride Publishing)
Bride "Lost Reels II" (12 Tracks. 42:01. Bride Publishing)
Bride "The Jesus Experience" (10 Tracks. . )
Bride "Lost Reels III" (12 Tracks. 42:01. Bride Publishing)
CHATTERbOX "Despite" (10 Tracks. . Tooth & Nail)
Circle Of Dust (Original Release) "Circle Of Dust" (10 Tracks. 51:25. R.E.X.)
This original release of COD came out in 1992. It was, and still is, one of the best Industrial releases in Christian music. Unlike other Industrial bands, COD really focused on heavy guitars. However, the programmed drums, keyboard parts, samples and all were still a major part. Also, the guitars on this original release were a bit too subdued, and I assume that's one of the reasons Scott Albert re-recorded it (see next entry). Everything on this album is better than average. The musicianship is staggering, especially when you learn that practically all guitars, bass, drums, programming, keyboards, piano, samples were all done by Scott Albert himself. This is topped off by the deeply insightful and often irony-tinged lyrics. Don't miss the scathing condemnation of sin, immorality, and injustice. Truly prophetic. Three songs appear on this disc that are not on the re-issue: "Exploration", "Technological Disguise", and, my favorite, "Senseless Abandon." I know not why they were deleted from the re-issue because they are great songs. (Maybe "Senseless Abandon" was left off because it appeared on the Immortal demo). Anyway, this disc set a new and very high standard.--TE
Circle Of Dust (re-Issue) "Circle Of Dust" (10 Tracks. 53:41. R.E.X.)
There are at least three good things about this re-issue. The main thing is the crisper guitar production. Secondly, are the new songs, "Onenemy", "Self Inflict" (which did appear on Metamorphosis) "Parasite" and the hidden track "Bed Of Nails", each of which is excellent. A third thing is that this disc is a little over 2 minutes longer than the original. --TE
Circle Of Dust/Brainchild "Mindwarp"/"Brainchild" (10 Tracks. 51:24. R.E.X. 1994)
This project was originally titled Mindwarp under the band name of Brainchild. It was later re-issued as a COD album and titled Brainchild. I'm not certain, but the re-issue may be remixed. In any event, this album is rightly called a COD album since it is the brainchild of COD man, Scott Albert. Musically this disc is much more aggressive and heavier than the self-titled debut. Once again the lyrics are direct, scathing, and deep. This remains my favorite.---TE
For more info on Scott Albert see: CHATTERbOX, Argyle Park (not included in this publication), Immortal, Metamorphosis, and Klank. --TE
Covenant "Covenant" (4 Tracks. Demo)
Covenant plays a really diverse set of styles which really comes through on this demo. Many styles come through, I say, but I'm most reminded of the hey day of good Thrash like: early Deliverance, early Anthrax, Testament, Death Angel, etc. They also incorporate modern groove into the mix to create a best of the past and the present. This four song demo was Covenant's first recording project, so it isn't pristine but, it is very good and shows that the band has a lot of potential. Most impressive on this demo is the lyrics, which are really insightful and Scriptural. Particularly good is "Lack Of Wisdom". There is a lot here for the thinking person. Also good are the samples which do not have the Industrial feel that many samples do. Over all, despite a little too much low end, this is a great tape for a demo. --TE
Creed "Sign Of Victory" ( Pure Metal)
Crimson Thorn "Unearthed" (11 Tracks. 37:38. Atomic/R.E.X.)
Brace yourselves for a mega-ton blast of pure brutality! Fans of early Living Sacrifice and Mortification will love this one. Vocals? This singer sounds like a genuine death metal vocalist in the line of Cannibal Corpse. Really good, comparable to Scrolls era Mortification. This debut from Crimson Thorn is really, really good if you're into death metal. It contains all the enthusiasm of a young band with an attitude--a good one!--and promises to be a real treasure in the history of Christian metal. -TE
CRIMSON THORN "Dissection" (Morphine)
Crimson Thorn has always been a favorite of mine. I was surprised when Morphine decided to re-release their first album and followup with the sophomore project "Dissection." What you will find here is the closest thing to Cannibal Corpse or older Napalm Death. Napalm Death released a live bootleg album and video back in 1992 called "live corruption." I have always been on the lookout for a couple of bands that could give those guys some competition. When I first pressed the play button on my stereo with "Dissection" in, I felt a nice grin on my face. Suddenly I found myself in a make believe mosh pit in my head. One element that has certainly increased their sound is the addition of another guitarist. Back in the old days, most bands featured two guitarists in their lineup. I don't usually notice many bands with this type of lineup. Mortification and Tourniquet are not using additional guitarists at this time. Living Sacrifice and GROMS were two bands that included that element however, Ultimatum has two as well. Crimson Thorn is back and they are the masters of grindcore according to Morphine. I would have to agree with this description. Some interesting features include a violin solo, a cover of a Stryper song and more importantly more songs than the first release. I'm proud to say that I would feel very comfortable sharing Crimson Thorn with an unsaved person. This could be a great witnessing opportunity.
Cronic "Living To Die" (6 Tracks. 25:10. Cronic Faith) USA available from Cronic Faith Ministries
Listening to this disc I am reminded of my adolescence. Back in those days are when real Heavy Metal was emerging in bands like Metallica, Exciter, Moterhead, Trauma, and a whole host of bands that no longer exist. Anyway, this disc really does sound like some of those early releases. Cronic sounds like they could've appeared on one of the early Metal Massacre compilation albums by Metal Blade. It is raw and probably recorded "live" in the studio. It is a demo basically. So, if you are into the old school of Metal you'll dig this. They even have a Mob Rules sort of front cover. If you are into grunge, ska, or Pantera you will not like this album-although the vocals occasionally sound punkish, but that's where early metal came from. Don't expect musical perfection on this disc. Expect to hear a band in development. Lyrically, this disc is very straight forward. I would compare their lyrics and approach similar to other "mission" bands like Ultimatum and Eternal Decision. They are aimed at trying to reach non-Christians. At times they are cliché-ish, but again, I think we are seeing a band in development. For those who need a Christian comparison I would loosely compare them to Saint's Warriors Of The Son EP. Not so much in style as in impression. Now let me see, both bands are from Washington State and make their debut with a six song retro-Metal style. What do you think?
For more information, contact: Cronic 27005 NE 103rd Ave Battleground, WA 98604 Email: email@example.com.
Cry Mercy "Cry Mercy" ( . . Rowe Productions)