|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By: Pastor Brad|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website: Pastor Brad|
|Tracks: 15||Rating: 75%|
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, says Bay City, Michigan minister and veteran guitarist ‘Pastor Brad’ Windlan. Hence, the self-explanatory title to the artists independently released thirteenth full-length album (download only) from the spring of 2015, Lemonade. Pastor Brad draws upon the adage in question, used to encourage optimism and a can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune, as a direct result of recent experience. Following his performance at Cornerstone Festival 2009, Pastor Brad suffered nerve damage in his fret hand that resulted in loss of motion in his index and middle fingers. Physical therapy failed to help, while elective surgery was not financially viable. He summarizes his situation as receiving it as a 2 Corinthians 12:9 opportunity:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Pastor Brad had been quite prolific up to the point of his Cornerstone 2009 performance, with two solo albums released in 2003 (Get Real & Rock You Up), one in 2004 (Out Of The Hellhole) and three more from 2005 (Telecaster, The King Has Come and the first in his instrumental ‘shred’ series, Shred). Reshredded followed in 2006, as did the 2007 offering Shredded Sweet and 2009 releases Heavenly Shred and Christmas Shred. The artist regrouped in 2010 with his ‘all star’ vocal project Break Out prior to revisiting his instrumental way the ensuing year with the final album in his ‘shred’ series, Back To The Shredder.
After the passing of four long years, Pastor Brad returns with an offering in Lemonade comprising old (pre-injury) recordings and several new compositions created with his new ‘instruments’. Note how the artist sold much of his gear and reinvested the money in software (Pre Sonus Studio One Professional) that allows him via midi programming to continue to create music. The upshot being a best of both worlds scenario in terms of how Lemonade features a choice selection of ‘shred’ instrumental cuts and vocal tracks. The album finds Pastor Brad staying true to his past in this regard by bringing in several guest musicians – referencing how his ‘shred’ series releases went under the title Pastor Brad AND Friends (emphasis added) - in guitarists Derek Corzine (Whisper From Heaven), Jeff Garner and Mario Barisic.
The Lemonade vocal material proves similar to previous Pastor Brad release from how it leans towards an eighties influenced melodic metal and hard rock direction. “Heaven’s Comin’ Down” proves becoming in this regard, with a crash of thunder at the start giving way to the hard charging guitar riffs that lead the way through its darkly tinctured verses and rumbling refrain of an incisive quality. The extended instrumental section opens to ethereal keyboards before Mario Barisic takes over with what is nothing less a jaw dropping stretch of soloing. Lyrically, this one leaves little doubt as to how Lemonade is a Christian project:
Heaven’s comin’ down
With a mighty sound
Comin’ to the ground
He’s comin’ back for us all
Lord I’m gonna see your shining face on that day
Every knee shall bow before the King of Kings
Lord I’m gonna shout hallelujah on that day
Every knee shall bow before the Lord of Lords
“Light Of The World” highlights a classic ballad touch. Opening to several seconds of atmospheric keyboards, the song slowly builds impetus until a thickset rhythm section and light rhythm guitars kick in and carry things forward in emotional fashion. A worshipful feel comes to the forefront in the process. The Great Commission is the subject at hand:
So God so loved the world
That He gave us His only Son
So that all who believe could be set free
And Jesus entrusted us
Gave us the Great Commission
Told us to go and share Him with all the world
We’re called to serve and care
We’re called to be light in a dark, dark world
“Ready 422” makes a melodic hard rock statement, uplifting and upbeat (for its smoothly ascending verses) but also tempered and focused (upon procuring the decisively done chorus). Understated bluesy qualities manifest themselves in the exquisite lead guitar performed with a great deal of feeling. “Ready 422” is in reference to the last chapter in the Bible (Revelation 22):
Look up, what do you see?
Are you ready for the return of the King?
Look in, look at your heart
Is it filled up with light or is it filled up with dark?
Are you ready for 22?
For the coming of the Lord - 22
Some will sink, some will soar – 22
Are you ready for 22?
I describe Pastor Brad in past reviews as specializing in ‘song oriented instrumental hard rock’ and the Lemonade instrumental material proves no exception. Specifically, he proves adept at striking a near perfect balance between quality musicianship and memorable songwriting- the point being he stays true to the song while allowing the musicianship to stand out but not to a fault (or to the extent that it detracts from the song).
“Fix” manifests this either way, with melody highlighted throughout from its mirthfully done mentality but also encompassing several stretches of expeditious (and skillfully done) soloing. Keyboards in the backdrop almost lend an industrial touch. “Stuck In The Mud” maintains the up-tempo (and catchy) leanings but rawer in a more straightforward hard rock package (the artist provides the flashy lead guitar), while “Outer Limits’ almost approaches speed metal with its all out pointed milieu (Corzine, Barisic and Pastor Brad combine for the triple lead guitar attack!). “Grind” is another barnburner, setting a frenetic tempo in playing up a slight neo-classical flair as soaring guitars and albums best bass line set the scintillating tone.
Taking the heavier and more mid-paced slant is “Splash”, as larger than life bass underpins hulking passages carried by stout rhythm guitars and others acoustic laced. Soloing is of a fusion-based nature. “Holy Lynch”, as its namesake implies written in tribute to guitarist George Lynch, represents this reviewer’s choice track. Riffs impart a corresponding eighties quality in playing up a similar heaviness as tight guitar harmonies - one of Pastor Brad’s trademarks - and Jeff Garner’s impassioned lead guitar carry the momentous scene front to back. I cannot help but think Lynch would have been done proud!
Constructive commentary comes in the form of suggestions as opposed to outright critique. Pastor Brad, as always, does a good job with his mid-ranged touched with raw grit and heartfelt soul vocal abilities- noting how I always have identified with him as a guitarist who also happens to sing on the side. With this in mind, on any project he records in the future I would like to see him recruit a name vocalist or two in similar fashion as his Break Out release, which featured appearances from Ken Tamplin (Shout), Les Carlsen (Bloodgood), Chaz Bond (Jacobs Dream), Ski (Faith Factor) and others. In also staying true to the Pastor Brad and Friends theme, I similarly encourage the artist to work with a professional drummer as well.
Long term Pastor Brad fans - not to mention those into all forms of instrumental hard rock and eighties metal in general - would be well served by checking out Lemonade. With its delectable selection of vocal and instrumental cuts, the album showcases good variety while placing equal emphasis on musicianship and the song. The guest appearances add to said strengths in question. All around it is good to hear again from Pastor Brad following an all too long four-year hiatus.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Prelude” (:58), “Heavens Comin’ Down” (6:23), “Fix” (2:48), “Splash” (4:12), “Stuck In The Mud” (4:16), “Light Of The World” (4:22), “Outer Limits” (3:35), “Grind” (3:47), “Holy Lynch” (3:32), “Ready 422” (4:30)
Pastor Brad - Lead Vocals & Guitars
Derek Corzine, Jeff Garner & Mario Barisic - Guitars