|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By: Pastor Brad|
|Record Label: Roxx Productions||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2010||Artist Website: Pastor Brad|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: 70%|
|Running Time: 58:12|
I am sure you can agree with me that versatility is one of the attributes needed in order to be a well rounded musician. The job description of a guitarist, for instance, usually requires that you be proficient in several key areas: rhythm guitar, lead guitar and songwriting. Guitarist Rex Carroll best embodies this versatility in question. As a member of Whitecross, he gained notoriety for his virtuoso soloing abilities but stood out equally well for his distinct work on rhythm guitar. Yet, when he brought his “A” game songwriting wise there were few better. Stylistically, he got his start playing eighties influenced metal and hard rock in Whitecross before moving on to the blues heavy rock of his most recent group, The Rex Carroll Band. Now, if that is not versatility then I do not know what is.
Another guitarist worth mentioning for his versatility is Altoona, Pennsylvania native Pastor Brad Windlan. Pastor Brad is best known for the instrumental guitar “shred” albums he has released in recent years: Reshredded (2007), Shredded Sweet (2008) and Heavenly Shred (2008). The three prove in no uncertain terms that not only can he solo with the best of them but write a solid instrumental hard rock number as well.
But what about from a vocal standpoint? Does the artist posses the versatility to put together a full length album of all vocal material? I cannot help but think that is what PB set out to prove on his most recent work, the Roxx Productions and spring of 2010 release Break Out!. On Break Out! PB takes a bit of an “all star” approach by recruiting some of the better known vocalists in the Christian metal scene- both past and present. It works in that the artist does a good job matching the right vocalist to the right song.
If you are interested in eighties melodic metal then look no further than “Turn Up The Light”, which is fronted by Ken Tamplin (Shout), while heavier pieces “Cold Blooded Killer” (classic metal influence) and “We Win” (slight industrial feel) feature Ski (Faith Factor) and Chaz Bond (Jacobs Dream) respectively. An aggressive song with a modern touch, “I Wanna Be”, is matched with Stricken vocalist David Meriwether and the creepy Alice Cooper-ish “He Loves Me” with Les Carslon (Bloodgood).
Some lesser known vocalist make their mark as well, such as Rachel Anne (Iron Majesty) on the albums symphonic title track and groove driven “Gethsemane”. Richie Z (Blind Seven) fronts the swarthy “Beating The Flesh” and Luke Weber (Pastor Brad Band) the catchy “I Live”. The artist lends his gritty vocal abilities to four songs as well.
What does it add up to? That when at the top of his game PB can write a great vocal based song featuring solid melody structures, big grooving bass lines – one of my favorite aspects to Break Out! – and his trademark shredding soloing abilities, as he aptly demonstrates on ”Cold Blooded Killer” and “I Wanna Be”. In the end I cannot help but think PB achieved his goal of proving his versatility as a guitarist in the process.
That said, Break Out! does not come without its drawbacks. The first is consistency in that out of the fourteen tracks here I skip over three: “Treasure Life”, “Choose To Love” and “Tentacles Of Love”, in my opinion, are a step behind the albums better material. “In Your Lovin’ Arms” and “Edge Of Midnight”, songs I rate in the medium to good range, might also be skip buttons if it were not for extended runs of the artists shredding lead guitar work. My overall feeling is that PB might have overdone it by shooting for fourteen songs when narrowing things to his ten best might have worked better.
The second, production, comes across on the thin side of things. The drums receive a particularly bad mix – buried and lacking clarity – while the rhythm guitar could come across with a bit more substance. The reason I find this area so disappointing is that the production to the artist’s three previous instrumental releases was quite solid.
While not included with the albums packaging, lyrics are upfront and forthright as they get. Subjects covered include victory in the life of a Christian, Christ’s victory on the cross and how – as outlined in scripture - in the end “we win”. You will also find celebrations of God’s love and how “God would rather die than live without you”.
Rachel Anne lends an operatic feel to the albums symphonic title track. The song begins to an a cappella vocal opening – that is actually a bit overdone - before kicking into a full blown rocker, highlighting an upbeat tempo and copious melody as PB decorates the luxurious scene with his adept guitar playing.
“In Your Loving Arms”, the first PB fronted track, brings an eighties melodic metal feel. The song showcases some riffs reminiscent to Eternal Ryte but mixed with a funk flavored bass line; when you factor in the artists soulful vocal abilities, it makes for an interesting combination. An extended shred guitar run helps make a good song even better.
“Turn Up The Light” continues the eighties melodic metal penchant. Ken Tamplin shows he has not lost anything over the years, his warm vocal tinctures bringing out the best in the songs catchy chorus while helping to add to the high energy milieu (things get underway at a near speed metal clip). Put this on either Shout album and it would sound right at home.
The aggressive “Cold Blooded Killer” perfectly suits the high pitched flavorings of Faith Factor vocalist Ski. The song almost takes a classic metal approach, driven its length by a jagged edge rhythm guitar – this one is by far the albums heaviest – in putting in place an environs bordering on the portent. Ski’s falsettos throughout add the fitting touch.
“We Win” represents this reviewers choice track. Chaz Bond literally steals the show with his downcast and doomy vocal sensibilities. Similar to “Cold Blooded Killer” this one is heavy as it gets but still prevails with a melodic propensity – the chorus here is huge – guaranteed to remain in your head for some time. PB almost takes a bluesy approach with his soloing here.
“I Live”, a gritty and dirty straightforward hard rocker, is up-tempo all the way. With an abundant bass line playing a prevailing role, the song grooves its distance as Luke Weber highlights things with his gravelly vocal leanings. Once again, what we have here is a hook that is all compassing.
Eerie and creepy might be the best way to describe the Les Carlson fronted “He Loves Me”. The song slowly moves through its verses in ominous fashion as Les sings in a lower register, impetus not picking up until a chorus backed by an edgy rhythm guitar is obtained. What else can you say except this one reflects a more diverse side to the artist’s songwriting abilities.
“Gethsemane” features Rachel Anne’s cameo appearance. This one proves dramatic with its variances in time and tempo, reflecting a forceful feel for its verses and more emotional touch as Rachel shows the full range to her voice during its passion filled chorus. Another groove driven bass line makes its presence felt.
PB fronts “Edge Of Midnight”, an eighties style hard rocker that – similar to “In Your Loving Arms” – delivers a big dose of instrumental oomph: the final two and a half minutes bring a virtual jam session as PB lets loose with another lengthy guitar run that finds him descending into hammer-on territory.
“Beating The Flesh” is a monster track. The first of two to feature the gritty vocal style of Richie Z, the song stands out with a resounding chorus that reminds me of Bloodgood’s “Killing The Beast” as a result of the heavy duty manner in which it is delivered. Otherwise, the song brings a slower tempo while mixing in more jam flavorings and occasional galloping riff.
Break Out! gets a bit thin as it approaches its end. As already referended, I have never been able to warm up to “Treasure Life”, “Tentacles Of Love” and “Choose To Love”. The notable chorus hook that might pull me in with repeated listen is missing. I like to think of the three as “unnecessary filler”. In other words, why throw in a couple of average songs when your album already includes ten good ones?
“I Wanna Be”, fortunately, brings things to a strong close. This one allows David Meriwether to flex his vocal muscles in adding some backbone to quite the weighty (and catchy) track: a rumbling low end holds sway its full length with the rhythm guitar slicing in and out of the mix. An almost modern feel is conveyed in the process.
I would like to encourage the artist to build upon the strengths to Break Out! on any full length vocal album he might record in the future. While it is without a doubt PB can put together a high quality song, stick to your ten or eleven best while discarding all “throwaways”. The “vocalist by committee” route works well in that, again, a commendable job was done matching the right vocalist to the right song. Those familiar with the instrumental solo work of PB know that he can put forth a better effort from a production standpoint. My expectations are that the next vocal release from PB will display marked improvement.
Review by Andrew Rockwell.
Track Listing: “Break Out” (4:50), “In Your Lovin Arms” (4:20), “Turn Up The Light” (3:59), “Cold Blooded Killer” (3:31), “We Win” (4:01), “I Live” (3:59), “He Loves Me” (3:52), “Gethsemane” (4:06), “Edge Of Midnight” (5:25), “Beating The Flesh” (4:00), “Treasure Life” (3:52), “Choose To Love” (4:12), ‘Tentacles Of Love” (3:55), “I Wanna Be” (4:20)
Pastor Brad – Guitars, Bass & Lead Vocals
Rachel Anne, Ken Tamplin, Ski, Chaz Bond, Luke Weber, Les Carlson, Richie Z and David Meriwether – Lead Vocals