|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Pastor Brad|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2017||Artist Website: Pastor Brad|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: No Quote|
Forget the comeback talk. Pastor Brad is back. Bay City, Michigan full time minister and part time guitarist ‘Pastor Brad’ Windlan leaves little doubt with the April of 2017 release of Storm The Gates 2, his fourth album in two years following a four year hiatus. After a 2009 injury that resulted in nerve damage to his fret hand and corresponding loss of motion in his index and middle fingers, the artist had remained on the sidelines until he sold much of his gear in favor of Pre Sonus Studio One Professional software that allows him via midi programming to create new music. Lemonade, his first album of original music since Back To The Shredder from 2011, arrived in 2015 and encompassed older pre-injury recordings and new compositions that run the gamut from shred instrumentals to vocal cuts. Returning in January of 2017 with his first worship album entitled UP, the artist recorded eight rocked ‘UP’ traditional praise and worship songs in addition to two original worship compositions.
In between Lemonade and UP, Pastor Brad released in July of 2016 Storm The Gates, a parody covers album in which he pays tribute to the bands that inspired him to become a musician by re-imagining nine mainstream metal and hard rock songs that honor ‘Jesus Christ and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel loud and proud!’ In the words of the artist, ‘My desire is to redeem these classic songs and breath into them new purpose via a Christ-honoring message’. The Storm The Gates title proportionately captures the spirit that inspired the project in drawing upon the words of Christ from Matthew 16: ‘I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it’. Again, the artist sums things up best: ‘As God's people, we are called to crash through the gates - into dark places - with the power, love and grace of God.’
Songs covered on Storm The Gates include covers of such classics as Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City” (“Jesus Rock Solid”), Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” (“Son Of Man”), Judas Priest’s “Living After Midnight” (“Rockin’ For The Good News”) and Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” (“The Dragon’s Slain”). Storm The Gates 2 follows suit in featuring 10 mainstream covers that represent a who’s who in the eighties metal and hard rock scenes with songs from Dokken, Iron Maiden, Armored Saint, Accept, WASP and others. Genres represented mirror those on Storm The Gates in ranging from melodic metal to traditional metal to hair metal to hard rock, but with the main difference being the presence of thrash metal. What I said in my review of Storm The Gates holds true in that credit the artist for not watering things down in that the Storm The Gates 2 material proves every bit bold musically as it is lyrically!
Getting things underway is “Storming Hell”, a kicked up version to Dokken’s “Tooth & Nail”. Pastor Brad stays true to the fiery heavy metal bearing to the original with piercing rhythm guitars adorning the front of the mix and hard charging chorus making every bit the decisive statement. The artist proves he has not lost his touch with a boisterous lead guitar run that would turn the head of George Lynch. Vocally, his gritty middle register flavorings complement a song that exhorts the believer to fight the good fight:
Demons from hell dressed as angels of light
I must find strength to win this fight
On my knees, I find the power
The power of God’s holy might
His head has been crushed-
All is well!
So fight the good fight-
Similar to STG, Pastor Brad has brought in several guest vocalists to round out the STG2 line up. First is multifarious vocalist Luke Richard Webber (Razorigami), whom on Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” (re-titled “The Prophet”) lowers his timbre to align with that of Bruce Dickinson. It works to perfection in that the song maintaining its anthem like qualities, revealing a light progressiveness in terms of its strategic time signatures but equally relentless with the same type of catchy front to back guitar riffs. Pastor Brad and Matt Eltringham duel on lead guitar- and quite well at that.
Second guest vocalist Maciej Podsiadlo successfully captures the at times hoarse and others high pitched shrieking vocal penchant of Accept front man Udo Dirkschneider on “Rock For The Rock”, better known as “Balls To The Wall”. This one embodies the raw and impassioned intensity to the original, rumbling front to back to hulking guitar signatures while sidestepping the repetitive in terms of its distinctive ‘rock for the Rock!’ refrain.
“You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”, second Pastor Brad cover of a Judas Priest song, has been re-imagined as “You Know Messiah Is Coming”. Much to his credit, the artist mirrors the songs inherent full on energy and up-tempo proclivity with its equal joining of catchy riffs and melodies- refrain reflects the same type of pull you in once flair. I particularly enjoy the haunting ‘coming back’ backing vocals that close the song out. Subject matter is self-explanatory:
If you think I’ll sit around
And never use the Sword
You do not understand me
Because I must obey the Lord
Out there is a big world dying everyday
I have to open and say…
You know Messiah is coming!
Everywhere around us
There is heartache pain and sorrow
We know Jesus is our hope
A better life tomorrow
Scorpions fans will take great pleasure in the reworked version to “Rock You Like A Hurricane” under the new title “Knocking On Your Heart Again”. What we have here is melodic metal paradise, as wonderful guitar harmonies rule alongside the songs recognizable start and stop momentum- all done with a ton of class and style either way. The artists heated soloing proves he has not lost his touch over the years, while vocally his lower register style represents a contrast with the higher end penchant to Klaus Meine. “Knocking On Your Heart Again” please for the need for salvation:
There are no excuses
You know it well, for all have sinned and deserve hell
But my grace is much bigger than all of your sins
Stop resisting and let me in
Your flesh is so hungry it wants its fill
But your not able to pay that bill
So make a change now, lift up your head
Let my grace bring you back from the dead
He I am knocking on your heart again…
WASP’s “I Wanna Be Somebody” has been re-titled “Brand New Body”. The song delivers the goods one expects: prodigious underpinning groove, shouted backing vocals and freight train momentum, but… it also falls a bit flat. It is difficult to put a finger on, but it could be a slight awkwardness to the phrasing of the lyrics or from how the artist reaches down low to align his vocal delivery with that of Blackie Lawless (as opposed to using his natural register). All things added up, this is the lone STG2 track in which I tend to pass, although I see WASP aficionados embracing it.
On “He’s The Way” Pastor Brad pumps up Loudness’ “Crazy Nights” with a literal tsunami of energy and muscle. From the opening guitar hooks, to the bludgeoning bass and blinding all over the place leads, “He’s The Way” sets the standard for metal that aligns the heavy and melodic (think Impellitteri, Stryper and Whitecross at their best). The convincing “He’s the Way!” refrain helps it to rate with my albums favorite tracks. What we have here is another treatise on salvation:
My friend open up your heart come on
Let His love come pouring in
Well, they pierced His hands and feet, alright
Yeah, they lifted Him up in plane site
He gave all of this for you
Nothing you’ve ever done is too big for His grace and love
So fall on your knees today and let His love lift you up
He’s the Way!
Pastor Brad gives Megadeth a serious run for its money on “God’s Good”, his interpretation of thrash metal slugger “Peace Sells”. Of course, the song delivers the hit like a ton of bricks goods - and takes momentum to the highest gear possible - but also proves surprisingly melodic, as found in several scintillating guitar runs. I find it pure brilliance the “God is good, I’m not lying” vocal harmonizing prior to the shred instrumental run. Lyrics take an apologetic tone:
What do you mean-
I came from a monkey
Maybe you came from a monkey
What do you mean-
God doesn’t love me
He died on a cross for me didn’t He?
What do you mean-
I need to be more tolerant
Is that a two way straight?
What do you mean-
I cannot speak up for Christ in public
What are you so afraid of?
Well its new day
We’ve got to hold the line
God is good, and I’m not lying
Artist changed the wording to Armored Saint’s “Can U Deliver” to “U Can Deliver”. And it does in no uncertain terms as a traditional metal masterpiece, accenting a rumbling mid-paced proclivity as buzz saw guitars and hard charging impetus cooperate for a mid-paced focal point. Strength to the song resides from how it comes across so forthcoming but avoids the pitfall of repetition from its use of understated melody.
Metallica proves a perfect fit for the heavier nature to the STG2 material, with “Enter Sandman” revamped as “Hear Your Prayer”. The song makes the albums most decisive low-end statement, as wrecking ball bass and substantial drums lead the way, but intermingles touches of the calmer with those of the bone crushing variety. Artist reaches for some fitting gruff lower register gravel. The Lord’s Prayer narration interlude is courtesy of his daughter Kara Windlan.
As a guitar album, STG2 reflects a slight rawness in making rhythm guitars centerpiece to the mix. Yet, there is enough polish to allow guitar leads to cleanly stand out but not so much as to take away from the natural power emanating from the STG2 material. It must be noted - and accept this as neutral observation - that drums are programmed. Good news is that they do not distract or get in the way, keeping in mind I prefer the spontaneity and intuition a human drummer brings to the table. Not that I can fault the artist in this area in that I am sure his options are limited when it comes to recruiting a hard rock drummer in Bay City, Michigan!
Credit Pastor Brad for choosing material that hits his middle register vocal abilities, noting tracks from Judas Priest, Megadeth, Metallica, Armored Saint and Loudness. I hope he maintains the penchant on subsequent STG releases in light of how (in my opinion) his voice presents a natural fit for any type of blues inspired classic rock and hard rock. Can you imagine ZZ Top’s “Legs” redone as “Faith”? Or how about taking Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” and turning it into “Perfect Love”? Better yet, I can see Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen” coming to life as “Risen King”.
Equally notable is his guitar work, which never has sounded better. Both STG releases find him recapturing his pre-injury form or at the very least matching that found on his instrumental shred series releases Reshredded (2007), Shredded Sweet (2008), Heavenly Shred (2008) and Back To The Shredder (2011). Since he is so comfortable within an instrumental rock environs, I am surprised he has not attempted to re-imagine a mainstream cut such as Joe Satriani’s “Surfing With The Alien” (“Dancing On The Serpents Head”?) while providing voice over in the form of scripture narration or scriptural message.
I appreciate how STG2 carries over the momentum from STG in featuring covers that retain the musical vibrancy to the originals while lyrically changing the prose in a manner both tasteful and well thought out. Some truly outstanding material comes to the forefront in the process, with my choice cuts including “The Prophet”, “He’s The Way”, “God’s Good” and “U Can Deliver”. What I said in my STG reviews holds true in that STG2 sets itself apart in a Christian had music scene that does not have a great deal to offer in terms of parody metal/hard rock releases. I hope the album is the shape of things to come in terms of parody album from Pastor Brad and other artists as well.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Storming Hell” (3:26), “The Prophet” (4:13), “Rock For The Rock” (4:40), “You Know Messiah Is Coming” (4:49), “Knocking On Your Heart Again” (4:01), “Brand New Body” (3:41), “He’s The Way” (3:53), “God’s Good” (3:23), “U Can Deliver” (3:36), “Hear Your Prayer” (5:05)
Pastor Brad - Lead Vocals, Guitars & Bass
Luke Richard Webber - Lead Vocals
Maciej Podsiadlo - Lead Vocals
Matt Eltringham - Guitars
Kara Windlan - Narration