|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By: Pastor Brad|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2011||Artist Website: Pastor Brad|
|Tracks: 21||Rating: No Quote|
Yes, production is a bit raw and a few skip buttons will be found amidst its 21 tracks, but Trinity, the 2011 compilation release of Bay City, Michigan guitarist “Pastor Brad” Windlan, is not to be taken lightly. Most identity with Pastor Brad for his instrumental “shred series” hard rock solo albums, encompassing Shred (2005), Reshredded (2006), Shredded Sweet (2007), Heavenly Shred (2009) and Back To The Shredder (2011). The artist, however, actually got his start by lending his vocal abilities to a pair of demo projects from 2003, Get Real and Rock You Up, while maintaining the vocal penchant for the three full length albums that followed, Out Of The Hellhole (2004), Telecaster (2005) and The King Has Come (2005).
It is from the latter three in which Trinity draws its material, specifically featuring six songs each from Out Of The Hellhole and The King Has Come and eight off Telecaster. A bonus track can be found in “More Love”, a live worship rock recording from the artist’s performance at the 2009 Cornerstone Festival.
The three prove to be solo albums in the truest sense of the word in that PB handled all aspects of the writing and recording process, including vocals, guitars, bass, mix and mastering. I would not be out of line, as a result, to compare his efforts to other “one man band” projects such as Theocracy (first album), FG, Phantom Serenade and Babylon Mystery Orchestra. This contrasts with his instrumental material, which often goes under the heading ‘Pastor Brad AND Friends’ due to the plethora of talented musicians making guest appearances.
Musically, Trinity trends towards eighties based melodic metal and straightforward hard rock but intermingled with a few traditional and power metal overtones. Hence, the likes of Whitecross, Bride, Stryper, Sacred Warrior and Rez Band are mentioned throughout the review as basis for comparison.
Trinity proves quite consistent as a compilation, at least when factoring it is exclusive to 21 tracks. As already noted, you might occasionally hit the skip button- repeat listen reveals a couple of songs on the repetitive or plain side of things. That being said, how many 10 song albums in your collection can you listen to without skipping ahead at least once? So it is by no means a fault to come across a clunker or two on one featuring 21. Otherwise, Trinity is predominantly made up of songs in the good to very good range with a handful in the standout category.
Any complaint does not necessarily revolve around quality but rather quantity in that 21 songs can be a bit much to digest. Perhaps the artist could have paired things down to the best 15 or 16 instead- at the very least this would allow him to release the project on a single CD if deciding to go that route (Trinity is currently available as a download only).
Regardless, the advantage to any PB release is his delectable guitar playing. Always the underrated performer, Trinity is chock full of his amazing guitar pyrotechnics, with soloing ranging from the blistering and radiant to the slower and driving to some jazz-jam-fusion tendencies. At a moments notice he can also take things into bluesy territory or transition into a stretch of scintillating guitar harmonies and melodies. The resulting lengthy guitar runs leave little doubt that instrumental hard rock is the artist’s specialty.
It also cannot be underestimated the heaviness to the material here, at least in comparison to his instrumental work (observation and not critique) and his 2010 vocal solo album Break Out! In no way is this to fault Break Out!, which proves a solid release due to featuring talented guest vocal appearances from Ken Tamplin (Shout), Les Carlson (Bloodgood), Chaz Bond (Jacobs Dream), Ski (Faith Factor) and others.
Vocally, PB does a more than commendable job with his mid-ranged sensibilities touched with elements of fortitude and raw edged grit. If anything, he effectively melds with the eighties based sounds at hand, keeping in mind I have always identified with him as a guitarist first who also happens to sing on the side- sort of like Ian Keith Hafner (Jaguar Blaze) or Izzy Stradlin (GNR).
Production, as already noted, is raw but not to a fault. If anything, the album brings the type of rawness that cannot help but accentuate the animated energy and vigor characterizing the material here. Also, when placed alongside each other, one can see the improvements in production - in terms of clarity and definition - the artist has made from one album to the next.
Lyrics are forthright and direct in leaving little doubt as to the artist’s faith and heart for ministry.
Due to the volume of material at hand I thought it would be best to forgo one of my standard track by tracks in favor of breaking things down by album instead.
Out Of The Hellhole
The six Out Of The Hellhole tracks stand out for their consistency in that none invite the skip button treatment.
Opener “City Streets” leans towards straightforward hard rock, pile driving with its plugging bass line and aggressive gut level milieu. A lengthy stretch of ripping guitar leads round things out. “Well Done” can best be described as a companion track in maintaining the angst with chugging riffs galore (it sounds like an old Rez Band outtake) and a touch of low end groove.
“The Invitation”, contrastingly, plays up the more upbeat heading with its inspirational lyrical direction - “Christ will lift you up. He can turn your life around - and beautiful guitar harmonies adding to the majestic scene. I could have done without the “whoa-yeah-woo” vocal intro, but “No Turning Back” proves every bit as high energy in upholding a spirited mentality and huge anthem-like chorus.
“Crazy” comes across darker and swarthier from its bottom heavy feel and thick as it gets low-end. Likewise, “The Way” mauls and plows with its intense riff action and decisive feel to choir-based chorus. The harmonies and melodies decorating its instrumental interlude border on the mesmerizing.
Telecaster might not be quite as heavy as Out Of The Hellhole but finds PB building and expanding upon his songwriting repertoire. In other words, whereas Out Of The Hellhole delivers a good old-fashioned kick to the side of the head, Telecaster is content to jab and counterpunch in achieving the same results.
Take “Cut Down To Size” with its relaxed and bluesy groove and flowing vocal melodies backing its laid back chorus (sort of like something mid-period Bride might come up with). In similar fashion brilliant stunner “Old Bones New Life” builds upon the bluesy themes but invites some bottom heavy groove not unlike prime Whitecross. One of the albums better tracks.
“Roller Coaster” represents a return to a face melting straight on hard rock direction, with Rez Band style riffs galore and dogged projection filled chorus. “Smak Dab” proves just as aggressive, highlighting a hulking, classic metal feel as a result of its staunchly driven guitar emphasis. The song, interestingly, takes a bluesy left turn for its instrumental moments.
“Red” proves an exercise in creativity. A mostly instrumental piece (you will find one short verse in the middle), this one combines catchy riff action with periodic emotional vocal melodies and open air soloing and harmonies in abundance.
There are a few down moments to the Telecaster material, including “Surrender” (starting to a cool saxophone solo but falling somewhat flat as it morphs into a full bore rocker) and “Justified” and “Heaven” (also delivering their share of heaviness but in the end coming across on the plain side of things- at least in comparison to the better Telecaster material).
The King Has Come
The King Has Come finds the PB songwriting skills continuing to mature in featuring by far the best Trinity material.
The combative “Bring It On” does just that with its front to back up-tempo guitars walls and faith based lyrics: We take captive every thought. And make it obedient to Christ. We’ve got the power of God. Were more than conquerors. “Running For The Prize”, along similar lines, oozes of spirited energy as fleet riff action and flashy lead guitar aligns with an immaculately done chorus.
“Exalted One”, “How The West Was Won” and “Fatal Attraction” represent quintessential examples of the PB songwriting skills:
“Exalted One” gradually builds from its acoustic start, slowly drifting through tempered verses but breaking out in full form for a pointed chorus backed by double bass. Soloing descends takes a bluesy turn. Some power metal touches come to the forefront in the process, almost lending to a Sacred Warrior like vibe.
Guitar feedback gets “How The West Was Won” underway. Pure inspiration prevails as the song moves forward, with weighty bass guitar driven verses and classy chorus approaching the commercial putting in place a breathtaking scene. Stryper could not have done it any better.
The pristine “Fatal Attraction” highlights some tempo changes. Verses start swarthy and churning, slowly increasing impetus until things break out for the merging of the metal and jazzy that is its elegant chorus. Instrumentally, things begin in doom-ish fashion before taking a radiant soloing direction.
“It’s Just Faith”, the lone The King Has Come track to fall short, suffers from a disjointed feel with backing vocals placed a bit to forward in the mix for my taste.
Out Of The Hellhole presents with the most constant heaviness of the Trinity material, while Telecaster finds PB tempering things just enough to branch out stylistically. The King Has Come allows for a fitting best of both worlds scenario in featuring the artist’s finest songwriting examples. The lesson learned? Underestimate the artist’s compositional and guitar abilities at your great loss in that Trinity, as stated previously, adds up to a release that by no means deserves to be taken lightly.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track-listing: “City Streets”, “Bring It On”, “Cut Down To Size”, “It’s Just Faith”, “Smack Dab”, “No Turning Back”, “Exalted One”, “Running For The Prize”, “Surrender”, “How The West Was One”, “The Way”, “Fatal Attraction”, “The Invitation”, “Justified”, “Heaven”, “Crazy”, “Well Done”, “Old Bones New Life”, “Red”, “Roller Coaster”, “More Love”
Pastor Brad - Lead Vocals, Guitars & Bass