|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: Randy Thomas|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 44:52|
Kingdom Come, the full length debut of Southern California based His Witness, can best be described as a classic eighties melodic metal album that almost never happened. Originally recorded in 1988 but never previously released, the album “sat in the can” the past several decades until the original 2-inch tapes were discovered several years ago collecting dust in a garage. The brother-in-law of vocalist Ken Redding, wisely, took the tapes home before they were thrown out, preventing a very nostalgic – and very high quality – piece of metal history from being lost forever. The album, after being remixed by guitarist Bill Menchen (Titanic, The Seventh Power), was officially released for the first time in the summer of 2008 by Retroactive Records under the title Kingdom Come.
Musically, Kingdom Come is like opening a “time vault” from another era. Delivering a blend of melodic metal and hard rock heavily rooted in the decade it came out of, His Witness is certain to appeal to fans of Bloodgood, Whitecross, Barren Cross, Stryper and Holy Soldier. Those whose musical tastes stray towards the classic metal side of things, (think Saint or Judas Priest) should find a lot to like in His Witness as well.
The group is at its best on up-tempo numbers such as “Everlasting Life” (huge hook on this one), melodic hard rock of “Call On Him” (featuring vocal harmonies in abundance) and boogie flavored “Party’s In Heaven” (non-stop energy here). “His Witness”, however, can give us a quality mid-tempo piece as well, reflected in the heavier direction taken on “Guard Your Heart” and “Pick Up Your Cross” in addition to the blues influenced metal of “Jesus Died For You”. The mid-tempo leanings are maintained on “Kingdom Come”, a power metal laced track, and the bottom heavy plodder “Jesus Heals”. Finally, an eighties melodic metal album would not be complete without a customary ballad, and such is what we have in the classy “Love Of God”.
To say that vocalist Ken Redding is talented would be an understatement. Blessed with quite the powerful set of pipes, Ken brings a deep and rich mid-ranged vocal style hinting at Jeff Fenholt (Joshua), David Coverdale (Whitesnake) and Tom Collete (ex-Letter 7). Other vocalist worth mentioning include Robert Valdes (Regime), Ken Tamplin (Shout) and Matt Harding (Apostle). Without a doubt very good company indeed.
Guitarist Ronee Pena also proves capable. If you are interested in lightning-like lead work in the vein of Oz Fox (Stryper) or David Zaffiro (Bloodgood), then look no further than “Everlasting Life”, “Call On Him” and “Guard Your Heart”.
Kingdom Come, originally recorded by Randy Thomas (Sweet Comfort Band, Allies) and mixed at Pakaderm Studios (of Elefante brothers fame), features a crisp and clean sounding production job. Yes, there are some slight elements of thinness here (please keep in mind this is a self-financed project recorded using late eighties technology) but nothing that will distract from your listening experience.
Lyrically, Kingdom Come – with song titles such as “Jesus Died For You” and “Pick Up Your Cross” – represents as bold and forthright effort as you will find.
The album opens strongly with the catchy, melodic metal of “Everlasting Life”. The key word is “catchy” in that the song features one of those immediately infectious chorus hooks (almost radio friendly in feel)- not to mention abundance of upbeat momentum and lead guitar work on the radiant side of things. “Everlasting Life” finds the band firing on all cylinders both musically and lyrically:
But God so loved the world
That He gave His Son
And whosoever believes
Will not perish
But will have everlasting life
If you believe in Him
You will have everlasting life…
“Kingdom Come” brings a slight touch of power metal (kind of like Sacred Warrior or Apostle). Moving at the slower tempo in comparison to “Everlasting Life”, the song gives prominence to the same kind of gripping chorus hook – you will be challenged to keep this one out of your head - while exuding a heavier if not all around more symphonic feel. “Kingdom Come” draws its lyrics from Matthew 6:9-13:
Our Father in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy Kingdom come
Thy will be done
Give us this day
Our daily bread
Forgive our debt
As we forgive our debtor
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
“Last Days” delivers some guitar riffs that remind me of Whitecross. A three and a half minute mid-tempo romp, the song drives its distance to a hammering guitar riff in amalgamating a decisively delivered chorus with a vocal performance from Redding that finds him adding a touch of grit to his delivery. More blazing lead guitar is added to a composition dealing with end time themes:
In the last days
False Christ’s will appear
Wars and rumors of war
Nation shall rise up against nation
Kingdom against kingdom
It’s just a sign of the times
In the last days…
“Jesus Heals” slows the pace to a near standstill with its plodding, bass heavy ambience. Almost bluesy in capacity, the song might not be one of the albums heavier pieces but its laid back tempo and sweeping chorus help put it over the top. I can easily see Bloodgood doing something like this. Lyrically, “Jesus Heals” presents a straightforward but direct message:
I hope that you can see
That you can be set free
Righteousness is imparted
When you let Him in
He forgives your sin
Jesus heals the broken hearted
Stryper is the first thing that comes to mind when listening to “Call On Him”. The song proves a commercial hard rocker, standing out with its front to back spirited impetus and slickly delivered chorus driven by polished vocal harmonies. Put “Call On Him” on To Hell With The Devil and it would sound right at home. As a matter of fact, the fast fingered lead guitar work here would turn the head of Oz Fox.
“Guard Your Heart”, with its edgy, metal-laced sound, represents quite the contrast to “Call On Him”. One of the heavier pieces on Kingdom Come, the song moves in a robust mid-tempo direction allowing for a driving – almost technical – environs that has old school Barren Cross written all over it. “Guard Your Heart” is aptly named:
Don’t be foolish
Don’t be deceived
What this world has to offer
Won’t last for eternity
Store your riches in heaven
Where it really counts
Not in this world
Where murderers and thieves run about
“Pick Up Your Cross” maintains the guitar driven heading. The song almost borders on classic metal with its weighty mix of rhythm guitar and hard hitting chorus backed by harshly driven backing vocals. No, this one does not quite rank with the albums catchiest numbers but the end result is a backdrop hinting at early Saint (think Time’s End era). “Pick Up Your Cross” talks about doing exactly that:
What does it profit a man
If he gains the whole world
And loses his own soul
For the Son of God
He comes in the glory of the Father
Surely I say to you
There are some standing here
Who will not see death until they see Him
Pick up your cross
And follow me…
Slow, stalwart and driving, “Jesus Died For You” is a no-nonsense piece that joins a pronounced (almost groove flavored) low end with a toiling chorus in which larger than life vocal harmonies make their presence felt. If anything, the laid back atmosphere here – think blues but with a metal edge – reminds me of the old Joshua Perahia track “Walk Into The Light” (from Chapter One).
Rarely do I have much patience with long winded ballads in the six or seven minute range (or longer). Occasionally you will find an artist capable of getting it right – think Bloodgood with “Top Of The Mountain” and “Changing Me” (both from Out Of The Darkness) or just about any ballad by Shadow Gallery – but more often than not I end up hitting the skip button. His Witness, fortunately, proves the exception to the rule with “Love Of God”. Seven minutes of inspiration and creativity, the song brings just the right amount of acoustic based moments, complementary touches of rhythm guitar, emotionally charged soloing and moving lead vocals that would allow it to rank with the finest ballads this reviewer has heard. “Love Of God” is a song of victory:
We are more than conquerors
Through Christ Jesus our Lord
We are more than conquerors
Because He loves us
Really loves us
And He for us
I am convinced that nothing
Can separate us from the love of God
Not principalities, not the powers of the air
Not anything to His love can compare
And am convinced that nothing
I separate us from the love of God
Not an angel of light
Not the present or the past
Closing things out is “Party’s In Heaven”, a boogie flavored hard rocker in the vein of “Good Enough” (Whitecross) or “Can’t Stop The Rock” (Stryper). Energy-laden metal in its purest form, the song races its length in bestowing a catchy chorus (the hook here is prevalent) along with an environs bordering on the boisterous (another stretch of killer lead guitar). Of note, “Party’s In Heaven” breaks just past its halfway point for an interlude featuring the sinner’s prayer.
His Witness would easily rate with contemporaries such as Bloodgood, Whitecross, Barren Cross, Stryper and Guardian if Kingdom Come had been released in the late eighties. Yes, the vocals, musicianship and songwriting are that good. Speaking of the songs, there is not a bad track here – the album smoothly flows its extent while showcasing an ample amount of variety (all the while rooted in the melodic metal and hard rock genres). Give Retroactive Records credit for making available another hard to find and long lost classic of the past.
Track Listing: “Everlasting Life” (4:09), “Kingdom Come” (4:26), “Last Days” (3:37), “Jesus Heals” (5:35), “Call On Him” (4:14), “Guard Your Heart” (3:42), “Pick Up Your Cross” (4:22), “Jesus Died For You” (3:32), “Love Of God” (7:13), “Party’s In Heaven” (4:18)
Ken Redding – Lead Vocals
Ronnee Pena – Guitars
Ray Kilsdonk – Bass
Jimmy Pena – Drums
Bill Menchen – Guitars & Drums