|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1986/2010||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 8||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 44:55|
The first Christian metal band continues to be an age old debate. Stryper, of course, is the first to come to mind. A group that by and large defines the genre, Stryper debuted in 1984 with the six song EP The Yellow And Black Attack. Bloodgood and Barren Cross also deserve mention, but it was not until after Stryper hit the scene that each put out their initial offerings, the demo Metal Missionaries and EP Believe in 1985 and 1986 respectively. In terms of bands that pre-date Stryper, Philadelphia claims that its first album, Tell The Truth, had an earlier release date in 1984 than The Yellow And Black Attack while the early eighties saw Barnabas (Approaching Light Speed - 1983), Stronghold (Fortress Rock - 1982) and Leviticus (I Shall Conquer- 1983) record well received albums. Finally, Saint might have put out the Warriors Of The Son EP in 1984 but can trace its history to 1981, the year a group called The Gentiles, made up of founding Saint members guitarist John Mahan and bassist Richard Lynch, released its first and only demo. Many experts pinpoint this date as the official start of what was later to be known as the “white metal movement”.
Messiah, however, has them all beat. A relatively obscure group that got its start as a “shock rock” act playing tribute to Kiss, Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper, Messiah is best known for its two hard to find mid-eighties releases: the full length effort Final Warning (1984) and EP Going Insane (1986). What most people do not know is that Messiah debuted in 1979 with the release of a three song demo, pre-dating The Gentile’s first effort by a good two years. Also, for those of you who are purists, Resurrection Band and Jerusalem, classic bands that also started in the seventies, are considered straightforward hard rock as opposed to metal. Messiah, on the other hand, is full on metal.
Final Warning and Going Insane have been out of print collector’s items for years, with vinyl copies of Final Warning going for as high as $1000. In the fall of 2010 both were re-mastered and re-issued by Retroactive Records with original album artwork. Going Insane comes with the three 1979 demo tracks in addition to the five that were part of the initial release.
On Going Insane Messiah maintains the musical direction of Final Warning by combining elements of traditional and melodic metal with the occasional doom influence. If you enjoy “old school” Christian metal along the lines of Saint, Philadelphia, Bloodgood, Emerald and Messiah Prophet – not to mention mainstream counterparts Warlord, Uriah Heap and Alice Cooper – then you will find a lot to like in Messiah.
Going Insane features three new songs and re-recorded versions of two others from Final Warning (“Heavenly Metal” and “Where Are You”) while the demo includes one new song and also two from Final Warning (“Lucifer” and “Final Warning”).
Of the new songs, the melodic “Going Insane” brings a slight progressiveness and aptly entitled “We Will Rock” a metal anthem approach. “Evil Eyes”, highlighting a dark but catchy sound approaching doom metal territory, contrasts with the classic melodic metal of “You’d Better Say A Prayer”. The Going Insane versions of “Heavenly Metal” and “Where Are You” stay true to the originals in form – in other words plenty of hooks and hints of the commercial – while the demo versions of “Lucifer” and “Final Warning” are a bit rough in places but otherwise showcase the groups potential.
Vocalist Charles Michael continues to bring a gritty and raspy vocal style that hints at Les Carlson (Bloodgood) singing in a lower key or even Alice Cooper. “Evil Lies” best reflects the courser side to his abilities while “Going Insane” and “Heavenly Metal” find him taking a smoother approach.
Guitarist Scott Wood remains a shredder who, as described in my review of Final Warning, brings the same talent level of contemporaries Oz Fox (Stryper), David Zaffiro (Bloodgood), John Mahan (Saint) and Ray Parris (Barren Cross). Prime examples of his soloing abilities can be found on “We Will Rock” (fluid feel to his playing) and “Evil Lies” (more aggressive touch).
Production is an upgrade (at least for the Going Insane material) in comparison to Final Warning in showcasing the all around crisper and cleaner sound. Yes, the demo tracks are a bit rough around the edges – although still very listenable – but good to hear for their nostalgic value.
Track By Track
Album opener “Going Insane” is an atmospheric piece with some progressive flavorings. The song comes across laid back in capacity with a conspicuous bass line and accenting keyboards adding to what amounts a low-key – and very melodic – environs. An extended jam based instrumental excursion is added to a song in which a statement of faith is made:
Carrying that ball and chain
Seems there’s no way out
Gonna carry that cross, Lord
When I reach that fork in the road
My eyes are drowned in tears
You look to the Heavens
You cry for peace
Father set me free
But not my will
Thy will be done
You know what’s best for me
Can’t you see my misery, hear my plea
I’m going insane…
“We Will Rock” brings the same quality despite the clichéd title. This one heads in the more upbeat and heavier direction as a forthright rhythm guitar makes its presence felt along with a flashy run of lead guitar. The chorus almost reflects an anthem-like feel in being backed by abundant vocal melodies. Lyrics are clichéd as well:
Heavy metal – Is the music that we play
Turn it up – Let the message guide the way
Feel the beat – Let the sound within your soul
It’s divine – this message of rock-n-roll
To your town
We bring the Word and we play
Throughout the world
The message goes out each day
Through the music
We can guide your way
Hear the word – Heavenly Metal’s hear to stay
“Heavenly Metal”, the first of two straight from Final Warning, remains a silky, smooth showstopper. Yes, another clichéd title but the words from my Final Warning review hold true: “The song finds the band playing to its strengths- and that is delivering catchy melodic metal oozing with larger than life hooks certain to draw you in time and again.” While lyrics aren’t exactly profound, they drive the point home:
Music is a force that can change your life
Heavenly sent – a message deep within
Heavenly sent – and planted deep within
All you gotta do open your hearts
And let it in – and let the change begin
Now let it in – start the change within
Music is the means to direct your mind
You must beware – Satan can take you unaware
Now beware – Satan tries to get his share
Heavenly Metal music can have an evil curse
And it can blind – Satan wants your mind
Yes it can blind – He’s messin’ with your mind
“Where Are You” maintains the acoustic propensities of the original. Once more, the bands forthright backing vocals play a prominent role in adding to an atmosphere that borders on the commercial in capacity. But it is not all gloss in that rhythm guitar in needed amounts provides a sturdy foundational edge.
The last of the Going Insane tracks is “Evil Lies”. As its title implies, what we have here is a dark and deliberate classic metal slab characterized by its swarthy propensities and solemn use of keyboards. The chorus – brooding, curt and too the point – aligns with the doom-like milieu. “Evil Lies” provides a warning against the world’s oldest profession:
She struts down the street
People stop and stare
Feel electricity in the air
She can mesmerize, even hypnotize
People now you’d better beware
Now that she’s gone
You shouldn’t forget
The morality in that kind of love
Conscience dwells deep within
A warning from heaven above
Yeah, when she’s around
Her eyes speak without a sound
She’s the talk of the town
Watch out or she’ll bring you down
Oww, you better get away
It’s a deadly game she plays
My Final Warning reviews described “Lucifer” as (being) “apocalyptic” and “theatrical”. The same holds true with the demo version in that it also opens to narration from Revelation 12 and 13 while allowing for rhythm guitar storms and time changes galore. If anything, the overall feel is slightly heavier in comparison to that on Final Warning but with traces of piano in the background adding a dramatic effect. Terrific song that I wish somebody would cover.
The demo version of “Final Warning” is a bit longer in being carried out past seven minutes. The same doom-ish milieu is maintained here – quite the low end crunch is delivered in the process – but also stands out with a very memorable chorus (one of the albums finest). Closing out the final couple minutes is an instrumental jam running the gamut from acoustic guitar and keyboards to blistering lead guitar.
“You’d Better Say A Prayer” is good enough to have made its way onto Final Warning (I am surprised it didn’t- it could easily have been the albums tenth track). Musically, it is a classic melodic metal piece highlighted by some slow and driving riffs and a hauntingly catchy chorus aligning with the tenacious scene. The soloing here borders on the bluesy in being played with great feel.
If you purchased the Final Warning re-issue and liked what you heard then it only makes sense to also pick up Going Insane. In addition to four new tracks and solid re-makes of four others, you also get improved production values and the bands trademark strengths in the areas of lead guitar and vocals. Similar to Final Warning, thanks goes to Retroactive for making this available after being impossible to find for literally decades.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Going Insane” (6:30), “We Will Rock” (3:57), “Heavenly Metal” (5:27), “Where Are You” (4:09), “Evil Lies” (5:00), “Lucifer” (6:34), “Final Warning” (7:07), “You’d Better Say A Prayer” (6:02)
Charles Michael – Lead Vocals
J. Scott Wood – Guitars
Dave Johnson – Bassist
Kieth Behnke - Drums