|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2014||Artist Website: Bride|
|Tracks: 20||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: 66:26|
In the metal and hard rock world, almost every band starts out independent and unsigned. Even the best of them have humble beginnings, including an act from Orange County, California that dressed in yellow and black stripes and that called itself Roxx Regime. A demo said group put together found its way to Enigma Records, with both a recording contract and name change to Stryper (to coincide with its new Christian beliefs) soon to follow. Stryper, however, was only the tip of the iceberg in that other well-known Christian bands of the time such as Barren Cross, Bloodgood, Saint, Deliverance and Guardian all recorded demo tapes that led to label deals.
Another group that went the same route, albeit taking a different approach, is Louisville, Kentucky base Bride. Bride can trace its history to the early eighties, when it formed under the Matrix moniker by brothers Dale (vocals) and Troy (guitars) Thompson and independently released four demo tapes in two years: PG-13 (1983), Monkey See, Monkey Do (1984), Silent Madness (1985) and Studio Junkie (1985). Matrix later changed its name to Bride after signing with Pure Metal Records and went on to become one of the leading players within the burgeoning Christian hard music scene of the time. That, however, is a story for another day.
What separated Matrix from said contemporaries is how it did not making landing a label deal a priority.1 Consider that the four Matrix demos were ambitious, full-length offerings (8 to 10 songs each) as opposed to the typical 4 to 6 song EP many groups of the time were releasing with the goal of a record contract in mind. Matrix, as a result, proved its own band and made music on its own terms - regardless of style, trend or genre - without the pressure of meeting label expectations on its shoulders. Hence, if one were to say that Matrix took some risks musically and came across a bit unpredictable or unconventional in the process (and did not conform to any type of commercial platitudinous) they would not be out of line.
It begins with how the musical direction of Pure Metal eighties era Bride - traditional metal mixed with strong Gothic, thrash and power metal aspects - has its roots in the Matrix material. Matrix, for instance, can deliver dark and low-key moments that remind of Show No Mercy (1986) in addition to a faster and more aggressive side not unlike Live To Die (1988). The joining of melodic metal with a heavier edge and haunting accessibility that characterizes Silence Is Madness (1989) makes its presence felt as well. It goes a step further in that the bluesy hard rock of Kinetic Faith (1991) and straight on acoustic rock flavorings to Drop (1995) also reveals themselves in Matrix. Matrix, in other words, represents all things Bride in that all eras of Bride’s history can ultimately trace themselves to Matrix.
Matrix is widely regarded to be not heavy as Bride but that might be due to production limitations. I do not pretend to know the budget with which Matrix recorded its demos, but the overall sound to PG-13 and Monkey See, Monkey Do is surprisingly clean- at least when factoring the era in which they were recorded. That said, some imperfections are to be expected and overall sound is not on the same level as the Pure Metal releases, albeit in no way does this diminish the listening experience. Of course, the re-mastering of Steinhaus plays no small role here (I never heard the original cassette versions, but if the past work of Steinhaus is any indicator the potential of the Matrix material has been maximized).
The four Matrix demos, of course, are long out of print and impossible to find collectors items. The good news is that in the spring of 2014, PG-13 and Monkey See, Monkey Do were re-mastered and re-issued on Retroactive Records (under the Bride heading) and with the appropriate title Into The Matrix. A band biography and new (eye catching) album artwork are included as part of a 4-panel digi-pak release. Also, note that Into The Matrix is a re-issue of the 2001 M8 release entitled The Matrix Years, which in turn was a re-issue of the 1994 independent band release Matrix: 1983-1984. All three feature the same track listing but different album artwork.
Out of the twenty Into The Matrix tracks, only eight of the original ten from PG-13 appear (missing are “Good Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Missing Children”), while all ten off Monkey See, Monkey Do are included. You will also find two bonus tracks in “I Can Fly Now” and “Melissa”. Former was recorded for Show No Mercy but did not make the final cut and latter is previously unreleased. “Missing Children” was later a bonus track for the 1999 M8 re-issue of Show No Mercy, while “Good Rock ‘N’ Roll” made its way onto the 1994 Lost Reels I compilation.
A career that spanned over thirty years and accounted for 14 studio albums and countless compilation and live releases got its start with the debut Matrix demo. PG-13 features some very solid material and proves brothers Thompson were mature beyond their years musically in literally hitting the ground running from a songwriting standpoint.
Opening cuts “We Got Rhythm” and “Who Killed The Rock Hero” lean towards a high energy and melodic hook and groove based sound. They remind somewhat of the Silence Is Madness track “Fool Me Once” in this capacity. Also of note is the power and vocal range of a soon to hit his prime Dale Thompson.
“Stand Up And Shout” brings an upbeat and rousing mentality - with the big guitars and pumping bass to match - that would not sound out of place on Live To Die. Likewise, “To Make You Think Its Real” reaches for speed metal with its equal joining of mercurial tempo and forthright demeanor.
Gritty rhythm guitars that reek of bluesy hard rock characterize “Get Away” and “West Of The Moon”. Former hits hard with its aggressive chorus and powering riff action, while latter features slower and faster moments mixed with lower register vocals. Kinetic Faith comes to mind either way. The hammer-on driven soloing on “West Of The Moon” leads one to believe this is the first appearance of the late Steve Osbourne.
The lighter guitar touches and tempered feel to “What’s The Point” prove Matrix can also take a laid-back approach and still sound at home. This one would fit perfectly on Drop.
Lone track not to do it for me is “Spell House” from its awkwardly phrased chorus and offbeat R2D2 sound effects in the background. One skip button out of eight is nothing to be ashamed of for such a young group.
PG-13 includes a lot of good material. It is a shame none of it was later re-recorded in that several of its tracks could easily have been the tenth (or eleventh) song on Live To Die or Silence Is Madness.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Monkey See, Monkey Do is the better-produced and over overall heavier of the two demos. It brings a sound more akin to what would come out of Bride during its eighties releases with Pure Metal, not the least of which being that half its songs ended up being re-recorded for said albums.
Opener “Heroes” (later re-done for Live To Die) is a good representation of the outside the box Matrix sound with its sublime cinematic elements. Of course, I favor the Live To Die version with its voice over opening and extended instrumental run. “Now He Is Gone” and “All Hallows Eve” better align with their counterparts from Show No Mercy and Silence Is Madness in giving rise to a swarthy (almost Gothic) metal approach.
Of the two other Show No Mercy tracks, I prefer the MSMD rendering of “Follow Your Heart” due to its slower tempo and more restrained feel to the vocals. Things get a bit offbeat on “Forever In Darkness” from the bizarre narration at the start talking of “an old graveyard that held many secrets” including a “tome in which a warm body remained” that would cause the “icy white snow to melt”. The effect is cheesy to the point of humorous that I kind of like it.
“Slippin’ Into The Light” proves ripping and upbeat with a strong a commercial hook you will hear. One of the finer tracks Bride never re-recorded. It also includes a thrash-heavy instrumental section, which would later find its way onto the Silence Is Madness version of “All Hallows Eve”. “Remember Me” is another standout cut, starting slow and reserved before building to a crescendo of every bit as engaging hooks and decisive impetus. “He’s The Flyer” also shines with its minute long instrumental opening and too the point and curtly driven mentality (not to mention Troy’s incredible guitar work throughout).
Also good are “Now You See Me Now You Don’t”, delivering a laid back and blues influenced sound with more hammer-on soloing and “We Are Going To Make It’, a basic but fast paced track making use of prodigious bass.
“I Can Fly Now” comes across as a semi-ballad with its slower and acoustic laced bluesy flavorings. Nice song, but it does not quite fit in with the darker edges to the Show No Mercy material (I can see how it was left off). “Melissa”, on the other hand, is a classic Bride ballad with acoustic guitar all the way and bluesy guitar solo. It invites comparison to “Sweet Louis” (from Kinetic Faith) or “I Miss The Rain” (Snakes In The Playground”).
Into The Matrix proves there is much more to early Bride than traditional heavy metal. As already noted, all eras of Bride’s history reveal themselves in the Matrix material, which also encompasses bluesy hard rock and straight on acoustic rock. The group, at the same time, left a high volume of quality songs on the table which if failed to record in later years. This helps make Into The Matrix that much more a valuable release from allowing said material to be available in such an upgraded and re-mastered format. The next step, obviously, would be re-mastered re-releases of other demos Silent Madness and Studio Junkie.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “We Got Rhythm” (3:18), “Who Killed The Rock Hero” (3:23), “Get Away” (3:08), “What’s The Point” (4:37), “Stand Up And Shout” (2:59), “West Of The Moon” (2:11), “Spell House” 3:11), “To Make You Think It’s Real” (2:57), “Heroes” (3:26), “Now He Is Gone” (3:15), “Remember Me” 4:17), “Now You See Me Now You Don’t” (3:03), “All Hallows Eve” (2:33), “Slippin’ Into The Light” 2:54), “We Are Going To Make It” (3:35), “Forever In Darkness” (2:48), “He’s The Flyer” (3:40), “Follow Your Heart” (4:19), “I Can Fly Now” (3:35), “Melissa (3:38)
Dale Thompson - Lead Vocals & Bass
Troy Thompson - Guitars & Bass
Steve Childress - Drums
Joey Johnson - Drums
Stephan Rolland - Drums
1: “Bride The Book - Chapter 1.” Online article available at: www.bridepub.com/chap1.htm