Thursday, August 15, 2013

My 5 essential Christian Metal albums

Heavy Metal music started in the 1970's when a few band started to experiment with heavier sounds and really hit it's peak in the 1980's. Metal bands were all over MTV, playing arenas, and selling millions of copies. All of that came to an abrupt halt when Nirvana released their Nevermind album in 1991. Metal became uncool almost overnight. Bands that played arenas suddenly had trouble filling a club and their albums stopped selling. They either had to change their sound, break up, or soldier on as best as they could. From that wonderful time period, I give you my five essential Christian albums.

Stryper - To Hell with the Devil. These guys were the first and biggest of the bunch. They did stuff no Christian metal band had ever done, like touring with mainstream bands and having their albums sold in large music stores. Their energetic live show, that included tossing Bibles out into the crowd, grew their fan base. To explain their cultural reach, even my stoner lab partner in 10th grade Biology class loved Stryper. To Hell with the Devil was their best selling album and probably the peak of their career. Their Against the Law album, which might have been their best album musically, came after Metal fell out of favor and did not sell well. The band broke up shortly after but reformed 10 years later and still tours today.

Mastedon - Lofcaudio. Mastedon was the brainchild of John and Dino Elephante, who are mostly known for their work with Kansas and as music producers. The band, which was mostly studio musicians and special guests, released two albums, It's a Jungle Out There and Lofcaudio. Both were brilliant. As far as I know, they only played one live show, at the Cornerstone music festival in 1991. Almost everyone that I knew who liked Christian Metal had those two albums in their collection.

Tourniquet - Psycho Surgery. This was Tourniquet's second album and probably their best. They combined heavy music with melodic vocals in a unique way while also having a lead singer that actually enunciated his words. In their lyrics they tackled social issues that a lot of other bands did not want to touch yet somehow managed to not come across as preachy or controversial. Ted, their amazing drummer, wrote intense medical terminology into many of the lyrics but did not come across as pretentious. The band has continued to make great music but none as good as can be found on Psycho Surgery.

Holy Soldier - Holy Soldier. The debut album from this Southern California band was amazing. Their live show, anchored by their incredible drummer and his solos, was so much fun. They followed their self titled album with Last Train, which was also excellent but they soon fell victim to the musical trends of the day. After touring to support Last Train, they disappeared for a couple of years. Without much warning, they burst back onto the scene with a new album, Promise Man, that was pretty much grunge. Somehow it was also awesome. Their original lead singer, Stephen, had moved on and he was replaced by Eric, who had filled in for Stephen on the band's first tour. A couple of years after Promise Man they released a live album featuring both lead singers on the same stage. That album also had new songs featuring each singer and a re-recorded version of a song from their first album with Pat Boone (yes, that Pat Boone) on lead vocals. It was a fitting end to the band's career.

Rage of Angels - Rage of Angels. This group recorded one album, promptly broke up, and saw the album sit on a shelf for two years before it was released and became a cult classic. When people like myself finally heard them for the first time, the band had been disbanded for years, and these songs were never played live after they were recorded. The story goes that only the lead singer of the band was a Christian and an outspoken uber conservative pastor decided that Rage of Angels was going to be the focal point of all his pious rage. The band broke up and two of the members joined Steelheart, leaving their fans to wonder what might have been.

Honorable Mention goes to Whitecross - In the Kingdom, Bloodgood - Out of the Darkness, and Guardian - Fire and Love. It was really hard to leave any of them off of this list.

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