Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Various Artists - California Metal
Musical Style: Varies Produced By: The Pakaderm Company with Bob Beeman
Record Label: Regency Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 1987 Artist Website:
Tracks: 10 Rating: No Quote
Running Time: 39:18
Various Artists - California Metal

California Metal, the first of five compilation albums released by Regency Records in the late eighties, was designed primarily to showcase the talents of the numerous unsigned Christian metal bands that had arrived on the scene following the success of Stryper.  As its title implies, all of the artists participating on the project come from the state in question and bring a variety of styles ranging from classic metal, melodic metal, speed metal and commercial hard rock.  What makes California Metal such a noteworthy release, nevertheless, is the fact it introduced several bands that in time would become household names in the growing Christian hard music community: Gardian (soon to correctly change its name to Guardian), Deliverance and Neon Cross.  Other artists participating on the project include Barren Cross, who debuted the previous year with its Star Song release Rock For The King, and Mastedon, the studio project of former Kansas vocalist John Elefante and his brother Dino.  Hero was the only band appearing on the album not to go on and make a name for itself. 
Please note that California Metal does not encompass tracks taken from a bunch of thin and muddy sounding demo tapes.  Regency, instead, made the wise decision to bring each band into the studio and record its material from scratch.  While the album does not feature a great deal of big budget polish, it is not held back by an overwhelming amount of muddiness either.

Barren Cross returns with a scorching new track in "Deadlock" that displays the potential which got it signed to the secular label Enigma Records.  It is worth noting that Barren Cross' Enigma debut Atomic Arena includes a different mix of "Deadlock"; as a result, this helps make California Metal that much more of a collector’s item in that its version of the song does not appear anywhere else.  I actually prefer the California Metal rendition better, its rawer sonics helping to add a bit more energy to the bands performance when compared to that on Atomic Arena.

Introduced to a drum solo, "Deadlock" takes off to a crunchy rhythm guitar that moves to the forefront of the mix in conjunction with vocalist Mike Lee's commanding voice.  As the song gains momentum, it arrives at a catchy chorus bolstered in an energetic manner by vocal harmonies.  Parris' fiery guitar solo brings out the best in a song dealing with substance abuse:

Deadlock: crawling into the dark
They're in a deadlock: before they realize they're caught
Hot steel the pipe's never cold anymore
The more you feel the more you can't let go
Bang goes your body now- cocaine
Harmless though it seems, it starts just like a dream but it ends

Deliverance approached the speed metal genre in a unique way by combining the melodic based vocals of Jimmy Brown with very heavy and aggressive sounding music.  Unfortunately, the tracks recorded by Deliverance are the only in which I feel the production team did not do the band justice.  For example, compare "Attack" and "A Space Called You" to the material on Deliverance's well produced 1989 self-titled Intense Records debut and it does not even sound like the same band.

After "Attack" begins to a heavy duty thrash influenced rhythm guitar sound, it briefly pauses and moves through its verse portions to an all out speed metal riff.   Just a touch of vocal harmonies accentuates the song before it advances on a hard hitting chorus backed by double bass.  "Attack" deals with spiritual warfare:

Put on the whole armor of God
That you might stand the evil that is to come
Soon you will grow weary of the fight
But only trust God and hold to His hand tight

"A Space Called You" moves in a more melodic based metal direction as opposed to speed metal or thrash.  The song progresses acoustically until the rhythm guitar kicks in hard and heavy and propels it to a chorus with a good commercial feel.

At the time of California Metal Gardian was still in its "space metal warriors" era.  (The albums packaging includes a photo of the band decked out in full body armor.)  After its demo Rock In Victory led to the band signing with Enigma Records, Gardian finalized its line up with the addition of guitarist Tony Palacios and was only waiting for the schedule of producer Oz Fox (Stryper) to open up before recording its full length debut First Watch.

I like the California Metal version of "Marching On" better than the one appearing on First Watch as a result of a smoother lead vocal performance from Paul Cawley.  In the end, the song ranks among my all time favorite Gardian (Guardian?) songs due to the infectious melody and Palacios' flashy lead guitar work.

"Spiritual Warfare", Gardian’s second track, fades in to several seconds of keyboards before the rhythm guitar gradually moves to a place of prominence in the mix.  Once the song progresses through its first verse at a spacey mid-tempo pace, it evenly flows to a chorus fortified by shouted vocal harmonies.  Palacios contributes just under a minute of fluid lead guitar work to a song that, as its title implies, deals with the issue of spiritual warfare:

The voice of God has firmly spoke
The Scriptures speak so loud and clear
Our fight is not against flesh and blood
But against the evil powers in the air

While Hero was the only band participating on the project not to eventually sign with a label and record a full length album, a lack of talent does not hold the band back in that it features former Holy Soldier front man Robbie Braunz who has a vocal delivery similar to that of Rob Rock (though not quite as polished).  Both of Hero's tracks, "I Surrender" and "Sing It Out", move in an energetic melodic metal direction and feature strong hook filled choruses and plenty of blazing lead guitar work.  Please note that Hero also appeared on the Metal Mardis Gras video performing the tracks "Stand Firm On The Rock" and "On Burns The Fire".

When the albums production team of John and Dino Elefante ended up one track short, they decided to add a song written for Kansas in "Wasn't It Love" (originally entitled "What About Love") under the name Mastedon.  Regency later requested a full length album which became Mastedon's debut It's A Jungle Out There.

Proceeding in a melodic hard rock direction, "Wasn't It Love" starts as an organ underscores John Elefante's raspy voice.  The rhythm guitar blends with the organ after several seconds and immediately conveys the song to a chorus delivered at an upbeat tempo.  When "Wasn't It Love" reaches its verse, the organ drops from the mix leaving the rhythm guitar to drive it forward.

After Neon Cross solidified its line up with the addition of vocalist David Raymond Reeves, it recorded a popular five song demo entitled Frontline Life before signing to Regency Records.  The band showcases two new songs in "Son Of God" and "I Need Your Love" that did not appear on its 1988 self-titled debut.

The dramatic "Son Of God" is based around Luke 23:36-43 (I encourage you to read it now) as it details the crucifixion of Christ.  Opening to a hammering guitar riff, the song picks up in pace as Reeves portrays the first thief during its first verse:

You saved others Christ!
Come on save yourself!
If you're the Son of God, come on off the cross!

"Son Of God" reaches its emotionally charged chorus previous to the soldiers mocking Christ:

They came to jeer, to laugh, to scoff and to scorn
Behold the "King of the Jews" and His crown of thorns

Subsequent to the song breaking for several seconds of blistering lead guitar work, the voice of Satan enters the mix -

It's not too late you know
You could come off the cross
You could have it all
Just come off the cross!

- followed by that of Christ:

Father forgive them
They know not what they do

The second thief takes center stage as "Son Of God" reaches its second verse:

Have you no shame?
No Godly fear?

When You come into Your Kingdom Lord, will You remember me?

The voice of Christ interjects -

Verily today we will be together in paradise

- before the song closes by continually repeating its chorus. 

"I Need Your Love" is the least noteworthy of the albums tracks.  The song gets underway in a humorous manner to, of all things, the voice of Daffy Duck stating, "Some appropriate music maestro".  A hard hitting riff proceeds to take over and drive "I Need Your Love" to an ordinary sounding chorus that lacks the staying power of Neon Cross' more noteworthy material.

Review by: Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: Barren Cross – "Deadlock" (4:13), Gardian – "Marching On" (3:38), Neon Cross – "I Need Your Love" (3:06), Hero – "I Surrender" (3:47), Deliverance – "A Space Called You" (3:51), Mastedon – "Wasn’t It Love" (4:42), Gardian – "Spiritual Warfare" (4:13), Deliverance – "Attack" (3:44), Hero – "Sing It Out" (3:02), Neon Cross – "Son Of God" (4:16)

Also Reviewed: Various Artists - East Coast Metal, Various Artists - Underground Metal, Barren Cross - Rock For The King, Deliverance - Deliverance, Guardian - First Watch, Mastedon - It's A Jungle Out There, Neon Cross - Neon Cross


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