|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website: The Crimson Bridge Ministry|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 75%|
There is no denying that The Crimson Bridge Ministry is a force to be reckoned within hard music circles. Nowhere does the San Diego, California based five piece better serve as an example of this than on the joining of classic to traditional metal and good old fashioned blues based hard rock of its January of 2016 debut full length Remnant Rock. The gist is the manner in which TCBM musically pays tribute to many of the better known metal and hard rock names of the past, including The Cult, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Michael Schenker, Kamelot, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Rez Band, Barren Cross and others. Lyrically, the groups goal (as taken from its press material) is to reach “the prodigal sons and daughters whom have come back to accept God's word but still need to crank up some tasty hard rock! And for those still sitting on the fence, a safe haven of positive influence to make the choice easier.”
Whereas TCBM is officially (again) a five piece, it is actually the project of founding member Norm Campbell, whom provides all music and lyrics, lead vocals and all instrumentation with the exception of drums (performed by engineer Jeff Forest) and lead guitar on one song. Rounding out TCBM line up (but not performing on the album) are guitarists Steve Langdon and Dave Nichols and bassist Mat Busike. Remnant Rock is actually the first project in which Campbell handles lead vocals, and quite well at that with a raspy and soulful blues soaked style perfectly aligned with the assertive nature to the music at hand.
Campbell has quite the musical history prior to forming TCBM, having formerly played bass with Sledd, guitarist for Robotwife in addition to co-founding Hard Echo, with whom he recorded two albums. When Campbell made the “decision to accept the un-earned gift of salvation paid for by Jesus on the Cross” (again, referencing the groups press material) TCBM came into being. Once more, the groups press material puts things in proper perspective:
“The music (Campbell) had been writing and performing for so many years now reminded him how lost, empty and unfulfilling his efforts had been. From that day forward, he would take all he had learned from his strong Bible teachers, Pastor Joe Schiavone and Pastor Mike Mills and relate it into the music he still loved, hard rock.”
Powerhouse opener “Break The Chains” exhibits in no uncertain terms how much a force TCBM truly is. The song proves galvanic with its mid-paced impetus, plunging through its verses to a bruising bass line as heavy-set guitars peal in and out of the mix. The backing vocals that align with the melodic refrain lend a lighter touch to the vibrant scene.
The groups The Cult influences reveal themselves on “Ruthless”. The song comes across mirthful in capacity, lending underlining touches of up-tempo groove as albums best catchy hook aligns with Campbell’s front to back tight as it gets guitar harmonies. The signature TCBM energy makes its presence felt in exclaiming, “you say you’re ruthless / I say you’re chasing down a tragedy / Only God’s truth will set you free”.
“Two Wolves” proves straight on hard rock manifest- Rez Band would be done proud! One of my albums choice tracks revels in its raw and bare bones feel, rumbling as Campbell provides some gruff and lower register angst vocally but every bit bluesy from the shuffling bass line presence throughout. A victorious element manifests itself as the vibrant refrain shouts, “the Holy Spirit inside you is a gift to guide you!”
“Cut You Loose” plays up the smoother melodic metal based feel. Starting to several seconds of airy guitars, the song picks up at once to the fast paced momentum that carries its distance to (what sounds like) piano rollicking in the backdrop. Vocally, this one finds Campbell refining things as he reflects a more even side to his delivery.
The upbeat heading continues on “Venom”, a punch driven Maiden-esque classic metal slab sustained by extensive guitar harmonies and Jeff Forrest’s technical timekeeping abilities. Campbell bestows albums finest stretch of flashy lead guitar that brings to mind Randy Rhoads. Barren Cross is another name that comes to mind in regards to this one, as there is an underlining progressiveness to the song.
Classic metal fans are certain to embrace “Deaf Revolution”. Infused with a dogged guitar based impetus, the song advances relentlessly to another earnest bass line as the pointed refrain challenges the listener from how it asserts ‘revolution, revelation, submission, salvation’. Of equal note is the gruff breakdown at the halfway point by guest vocalist Fernando Ramirez not to mention narration at the end from Revelation 14:9-11.
Albums heaviest might be “Weight Of The World” with its doom-ish Black Sabbath accents. Obviously not for the faint of heart, this one toils with its fateful low end, profound riffing and darker signatures that give rise to the somber. Chorus plows like a freight train with its contentious ‘I’m carrying the weight of the world’ demeanor. The extended stretch of soloing reflects a bluesy allure.
Returning the album to a commercial heading, “Trashman” frolics animatedly in aligning with eighties melodic metal territory while playing up an every bit blues based hard rock aptitude. A best of both worlds scenario ranging from the accessible to the cogent is the impression left. Do I detect a faint hint of AC/DC as a result? No matter what you call it you cannot say the song is not good.
Remnant Rock unravels for me somewhat on its mellower next two songs. “Glorify You” is short (2:19) but upbeat with light rhythm guitars and piano as its basis, while “The Crimson Bridge” takes an acoustic heading in reflecting a laid back and reticent focus. Former draws upon worship rock and latter folk rock. Yes, the two allow for another dimension to TCBM sound and prove that it is not a one trick pony, but they also create a continuity problem (in my opinion) due to interrupting the momentum of the eight heavier cuts that precede them. Am I out of line to suggest such an abrupt transition between heavier and lighter tracks is distracting? Perhaps it might have worked better if the group had included an additional hard rocker or two and placed one of the mellower songs at the end.
Closing the album is a minute and a half long reprise of “Break The Chains” entitled “All You Need”.
Production might be slightly raw but otherwise it holds its own for an independent release. On one hand, I would like to have heard a touch more polish; on the other, mix is clean enough to allow the primary instrumentation (particularly bass and rhythm and lead guitar) to stand out as it should.
Lyrically, The Crimson Bridge Ministry leaves little doubt as to how it truly is a ministry (note that lyrics are available at the bands website and come with accompanying scripture verses). “Break The Chains” is about how our sins are forgiven through Christ:
Your life is spinning like a whirlwind
You claim it’s out of your control
You learn to love that wicked tail-spin
Despite the pain you can’t let go
Break the chains and wash your sins away
In Jesus’ name you are forever saved
Break the chains and wash your sins away
Since Jesus paid, you are forever saved
The verses to “Venom” detail the history of Satan (his choice to challenge his maker and his fall):
A choice made out of madness, an avalanche of sin.
The Guardian of Angels set the mutiny begin
So discontent and arrogant, blinded by the mirrors curse
The bright star of the morning comes crashing down to earth
The chorus is a prayer, asking protection from his evil snares and for direction under duress”
Protect me from the venom of our enemy
Direct me to walk in Your will
Wake me when they try to re-write history
They won't take the truth from me
“Ruthless” describes someone who is trying to impress others instead of concentrating on his spiritual growth:
You carry around all your insecurities
The past is the past, it's got nothing to do with me
Your tales and your braggadocio ring empty
Sounds more like a guilt trip from the guilty
Supplying all the lying to meet their demands
You say you're ruthless, you say you're ruthless
I say you're chasing down a tragedy
Only God's truth will set you free
Lyrics to “Glorify You” are a vow to glorify Jesus in all we do:
I will Glorify You in everything I do
Through my thoughts and words and deeds
For I know Your love is true
I will put you Christ at the center of my life
I will put my faith in your living grace
You're the Way, the Truth, the Life
TCBM has gotten off to a strong start on Remnant Rock. Fact is, the album features some material that just plain kicks, with “Ruthless”, “Two Wolves”, “Venom”, “Deaf Revolution” and “Weight Of The World” ranking among my favorites. Norm Campbell proves a solid multi-dimensional performer on vocals, bass and guitar; that said I look forward to hearing what the other TCBM players bring to the table on any subsequent album it records. Any problems associated with production and continuity - no matter how slight they might be - I see working themselves out as the group continues to mature musically and garners further experience in the studio. A force in which to be reckoned? TCBM is by all means, especially for those into any forms of traditional heavy metal and straightforward hard rock!
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Break The Chains” (4:13), “Ruthless” (3:05), “Two Wolves” (4:06), “Cut You Loose” (4:40), “Venom” (4:18), “Deaf Revolution” (3:55), “Weight Of The World” (5:41), “Trashman” (3:03), “Glorify You” (2:19), “The Crimson Bridge” (3:14), “All You Need (Reprise)” (1:31)
Norm Campbell - Lead Vocals, Guitars & Bass
Jeff Forrest - Drums
Fernando Ramirez - Vocals
Tony Jenkins - Guitars