|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Pure Metal||Country Of Origin: Australia|
|Year Released: 1989||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 8||Rating: 70%|
|Running Time: 43:06|
The origin of the Australian based Christian metal outfit Lightforce can be traced back to the mid-eighties to the garage bands, Rugged Cross, Axis and King’s Image, that featured a talented bass guitarist by the name of Steve Rowe. Rowe did not put together the first official line up of Lightforce until 1985, but the band disbanded a year later after playing only one show and recording a two song self-titled demo tape. Undaunted, in 1987 Rowe joined forces with drummer Errol Willemburg, vocalist Steve Johnson and guitarist Cameron Hall to form the second incarnation of Lightforce, an 80’s influenced heavy metal outfit that won the Melbourne Heavy Metal battle of the bands competition in addition to releasing a critically acclaimed seven song cassette entitled Battlezone. After Murray Adams replaced Cameron Hall on guitar in 1988, Lightforce went on to record its Pure Metal Records debut Mystical Thieves a year later and proceeded to tour extensively, landing support tours with well known Christian metal acts such as Stryper, White Cross and Leviticus.
At this point it must be noted that Mystical Thieves was re-issued in 2004 by Rowe Production under the new title Lightforce – 1986 to 1989 with the material from the bands 1987 cassette Battlezone and the 1986 self-titled demo as bonus tracks.
Mystical Thieves finds Lightforce continuing to move in straightforward heavy metal direction but with an occasional thrash element thrown in. Comparisons to old Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saint and Barren Cross would not be unfounded but not as good in any case. The albums compositions, for example, are well constructed but often lack hooks with the lasting power to pull you in and refuse to let go. While “City Streets” and “Children Of Sorrow” are examples of Lightforce at its best, others such as “Metal Missionary” and “Fast Lane” cannot help but force you to hit the skip button. One of the problems with the bands performance revolves around the average to good lead vocal abilities of Steve Johnson. With a vocal delivery lacking in range and that can come across with a flat and almost punk-like feel to it, he fails to generate the aggression and energy that the Mike Lee’s (Barren Cross) and Josh Kramer’s (Saint) of the world bring to the table. The musicianship here, on the other hand, is of very fine quality. Murray Adams proves himself a particularly able guitarist, best displaying his abilities on lead guitar on “City Streets” and “Searching”. Steve Rowe combines his substantial bass lines with the technical drumming of Errol Willemburg.
Production values give rise to a thin and muddy sounding feel. The lead guitar and bass often get lost in the instrumentation, while the rhythm guitar tones deserve to be beefed up. A more than above average amount of improvement is needed here.
The albums eight minute title track opens to a drum solo that gives way to a lengthy stretch of bass guitar. Taking off hard and heavy once the rhythm guitar kicks in, “Mystical Thieves” immediately launches into a powerful chorus that conveys a no-nonsense message:
Mystical thieves steal your identity
Don’t’ be deceived demonic enemies
Prowl around to steal your soul
Trying to gain mind control
After the song slows to a near doom-like riff for its first verse, it marches on to its second chorus prior to culminating for a sweeping instrumental section allowing Adams to display his abilities on rhythm and lead guitar.
“Crossfire” fades in to several seconds of guitar feedback before a crunchy rhythm guitar urges it ahead in a good forceful manner. Maintaining a strong upbeat tempo during its first and second verse, “Crossfire” tapers off as it attains a driving chorus that almost comes across heavy handed in its capacity. The song attempts to deal with the issue of double-mindedness but its lyrics are not particularly well written:
You’re following darkness but you say you live for the light
You’ve got one foot in both camps, for who do you fight
You’re caught in the crossfire, in the sights of both guns
And you think you can be nobody’s son
“City Streets” is by far the albums fastest and most upbeat track. Beginning to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar, a pounding riff briefly takes over before the song rushes forward at breakneck speed to an aggressively delivered chorus with a good catchy hook. Slowing to a near crawl upon reaching its bridge, “City Streets” dives into an instrumental section carried by a lightning fast guitar solo.
“Metal Missionary” gets underway to an edgy rhythm guitar backed by a punchy bass line, the two evenly leading the way to a chorus reinforced by shouted vocal harmonies that create an effect I cannot help but describe as cheesy. A very well done instrumental section closing out the songs final minute is not enough to put it over the top. While “Metal Missionaries” has a sound message based around not getting caught up in outward trappings and that what really matters is on the intside, its lyrics, for a lack of better words, also come across cheesy:
You got saved last year but your pastor say’s
you wear your hair
Lookin’ like the world you left
Take off the acid jeans put on something
Nice and neat
You can’t look like the streets you love
The open air rhythm guitar at the start of “Children Of Sorrow” soon gives way to a driving mid-tempo paced riff that steadily pushes it to a catchy chorus conveyed in strong hard hitting fashion. Adams comes through once again, his lead guitar work starting out bluesy before he cuts loose in a fast paced manner. The lyrics to “Children Of Sorrow” more than make up for those on “Metal Missionary”:
I hear you cryin’, you think no one understands
All your heartache, which never seems to end
And you remain, trapped inside your empty shell
Your dreams broken, with nothing to live for again
Searching for identity has led you astray
You look for love in all the wrong places
and in all the wrong ways
But nothing seems to satisfy, will you ever gain
The greater loved offered, you’ll never search again
Opening to a slowly moving riff fortified by double bass, “Searching” briefly takes off at breakneck speed before tapering off upon reaching its first verse. Abruptly picking up in pace, the song moves on to a frenzied chorus carried at an upbeat tempo by pounding double bass. Adams steps forward with several seconds of the albums best blistering lead guitar work.
“Fast Lane” proves one of the albums least compelling compositions. Progressing through its first and second verse at a slower more mid-tempo pace, “Fast Lane” gains momentum as it attains a lackluster chorus held back by its all around pedestrian feel. The lead guitar work gracing a thirty second instrumental section fails to stand out in the mix as it should.
“Babylon” is a monster of a seven minute track that slowly fades in before keyboards stand in support of narration from Revelation 17:1-5. After gradually building and gaining momentum, a driving riff cuts in and aggressively drives the song ahead until it culminates for a sweeping chorus resonating a dark and heavy ambience. “Babylon” peaks for narration from Luke 6:24-25 prior to moving on to an instrumental section carried by a nice extended run of fluid lead guitar work.
Following the departure of Steve Johnson and Murray Adams, Rowe joined forces again with guitarist Cameron Hall and a talented new drummer by the name of Jayson Sherlock, the three recording in 1990 a demo entitled Break The Curse that moved in a heavier and more thrash influenced musical direction. In time the band changed its name from Lightforce to Mortification, a moniker which better suited its new more extreme and thrash metal orientated sound. The rest, as they say, is history.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Mystical Thieves” (8:08), “Crossfire” (4:20), “City Streets” (4:38), “Metal Missionary” (5:28), “Children Of Sorrow” (3:56), “Searching” (5:32), “Fast Lane” (3:58), “Babylon” (7:02)
Steve Johnson – Lead Vocals
Murray Adams – Guitars
Steve Rowe – Bass
Errol Willemburg - Drums