|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Doolittle||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 17||Rating: No Quote|
Ministry tool or career retrospective? Boiled down to its essence, that is the question facing metal and hard rock enthusiasts as it pertains to the summer of 2013 Doolittle Records various artists release Metal For Jesus. A collaboration between Johannes Jonsson and vocalist Christian Liljegren, Metal For Jesus can best be described as “a bold proclamation for the Kingdom of God in the metal world” and “a perfect gift to your unsaved friend to let him/her know about Christ and introduce them to quality Christian metal” (from the Metal For Jesus press material either way).
Jonsson, the man behind the long standing Metal For Jesus website of the same name and the Metal Bible (a special Bible edition for those into metal music), chose the 17 tracks encompassing Metal For Jesus. The common denominator between the 17 is that each was taken from a project in which Liljegren contributed lead vocals. In terms of specifics, you will find 6 songs from Divinefire, 5 from Golden Resurrection, 3 from Narnia, 2 from Audiovision and 1 from Modest Attraction.
First impression upon seeing the track-listing was to dismiss the album as a Christian Liljegren compilation. Later, however, I came to view the project in a more positive light in terms of what it truly is: A Christian Liljegren compilation! I cannot help but think that Metal For Jesus, at least from an artistic standpoint, is LONG overdue in serving as a career retrospective that compiles many of Liljegren’s best songs in one place. Yes, missing are some of his lesser known projects such as Flagship and Wisdom Call but by and far the bands which have served to best define his career are represented. The listener, as a result, is introduced to the various metal genres in which the artist has participated: Power/progressive metal (Narnia), melodic metal (Audivision), symphonic metal (Divinefire), neo-classical metal (Golden Resurrection) and 70’s hard rock (Modest Attraction).
When looking beneath the surface, however, you will find that ministry actually proves the main priority behind Metal For Jesus. Jonsson sums things up best in this regard (again, from the Metal For Jesus press material): “Lots of prayer has gone into this album to make sure that the right tracks were chosen and right comments written so that it should be everything God wanted it to be. We want Jesus to be glorified and we dedicate this album to Him! Focus on the album is totally on God and what Christian faith is all about. Booklet contains salvation prayer and comments by me where I explain the lyrics and talk about God's mercy, why Jesus is the only way to God, second coming of Jesus, prayer and how to get to know Jesus and overall what true Christian faith is all about”.
Along this line, it must be noted the bold and upfront lyrical direction to the material here (lyrics, obviously, played a significant role in the songs that made the final cut).
Of equal importance is the high quality packaging, consisting of a 10 page mini-booklet with detailed commentary from Jonsson regarding the meaning behind each song.
As is often the case with compilation releases, I am going to forgo one of my standard track by tracks in favor of breaking things down by each band represented.
Liljegren is most often identified for his participation in Narnia, and rightly so in light of how his partnership with guitar virtuoso Carl Johan Grimmark produced 5 studio albums, 1 live DVD/CD and 1 compilation over a nine year period.
“Living Water” and “The Mission”, off the group’s 1999 sophomore release Long Live The King, make logical inclusions (both are considered Narnia staples) in having also appeared on the 2006 live album At Short Notice: Live In Germany and greatest hits package Decade Of Confession from a year later. “People Of The Bloodred Cross”, from what is widely considered Narnia’s finest effort in Enter The Gate (2006), represents another essential track with its smooth essence and immediately recognizable chorus hook. Lyrics stand out as well:
Listen to the Master's voice inside
We are protected in His name
You can take our lives, but
You can not take our faith
We serve and pray
Our time is here
And we believe
We're the people of the blood red cross
Lone complaint is how just three songs were chosen for Narnia, which seems a bit light when factoring the groups productivity. My pick for a potential fourth Narnia composition would be the dramatic progressive rock of “The Man From Nazareth” (also off Enter The Gate) due to not just quality to the music but lyrical direction as well (song title gives away the subject at hand).
Audiovision started as a side project as opposed to a band in that the 2005 debut The Calling had an “all-star” feel to it in featuring three vocalists, four guitarists, two bassists and seven keyboardists. Suspiciously, no tracks were taken off The Calling. The main reason being, at least in my estimation, is not due to lack of musical strength but rather lyrics, while leaving little doubt that written from a Christian perspective, are not quite as direct as those on the 2010 Audiovision follow up Focus. Nevertheless, “The King Is Alive”, a driving power metal piece with an unmistakable message, would be my choice for inclusion of a track from The Calling.
Focus proved more of a band effort in featuring the contribution from a core of five musicians, including Veni Domine brothers Torbjörn and Thomas Weinesjö. The Stryper cover of “The Way”, in which Audiovision lends a unique symphonic power metal touch, is an essential selection and not just musically but lyrically as well:
I feel His strength come into me
Reading His word helps me to see
I feel so new, I want to sing
Feeling His joy in everything
Oh - What can I say?
Oh - Christ is the way
I am not quite so confident with the rollicking “We Will Go”. No, far from bad, but I cannot help but think there are better songs off Focus (my opinion) in “Keep The Fire Burning”, “The Son Will Come” and “You Are The Reason”. And while we are at it, why not also add the seven minute worshipful “The Gate”, a song I describe in the 90% Angelic Warlord review as Liljegren’s “magnum opus” (and that would also fit the lyrical standards here perfectly).
Golden Resurrection, a joining of Liljegren with guitarist Tommy ReinXeed, has been quite prolific during its short lifespan. Two songs were taken off the groups 2010 debut Glory To My King, “Proud To Wear The Holy Cross” (a palatial but slower and driving piece) and “The Final Day” (the exact opposite with its relentless tempo and non-stop double bass work). If I were to choose one from the 2011 follow up Man With A Mission then “Flaming Youth” would be it (every bit as expeditious but rounded out with harpsichord and baritone backing vocals). One Voice For The Kingdom from 2013 features two in “God’s Mercy” (mid-paced and gritty with hints of organ) and “Golden Resurrection” (a return to a heavier and more explosive direction). Latter does a good job reflecting the group’s mission:
We raise our swords
We're the Golden Warriors
Love is our weapon
We're the keepers of the burning flame
We are waiting for the day
The Son of glory
Will end the perfect glory
I commend the song selection here (a delectable combination of slower and faster pieces), particularly when factoring how Golden Resurrection has a wealth of quality material in its repertoire. That being said, it might have worked better if only four songs from the group had been chosen in order to add one more from Narnia or Audiovision.
Divinefire, likewise, might be weighted a bit heavy in featuring six tracks. Yes, Liljegren did record five albums with Divinefire - so the volume here is understandable - but similar to Golden Resurrection the track-listing might be better balanced if one song had been cut in order to allow one more from another band.
The Divinefire material is frontloaded off the groups first two albums (both from 2005) in featuring three off Glory Thy Name and two from Hero. In terms of the former, “Never Surrender” is my all time favorite Divinefire song (bombastic, epic and orchestral are the first words that come to mind) while “Live My Life For You” is also good (slightly toned down with its added vocal melody presence). “The Way To Eternity” is a short (1:44) interlude piece that reinforces the salvation message:
For God so loved the world that
He gave His only begotten Son,
So that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world
But in order that the world might be saved through him,
From the latter standpoint, “Divinefire”, the groups signature song, stands out with its extreme backing vocals and pompous (in a positive sense) overtones, and “Open Your Eyes” an orchestral mentality upheld by rapid fire riffing and a furious tempo.
Inexplicably, the next two Divinefire projects, Into A New Dimension (2006) and Farewell (2008), are skipped in favor of one from Eye Of The Storm (2011) in “Bright Morning Star”. Good song? Yes, but I cannot help but think better material can be found on Into A New Dimension (“Facing The Liar” and “All For One” rank with the groups best) and Farewell (strong cases can be made for “King Of Kings” and “My Roots Are Strong In You”).
The Divinefire song selection is solid regardless of source, but it might have lent to the more well-rounded effort if one song had been drafted off each of the groups five albums instead.
Liljegren started his recording career with Modest Attraction, the group having formed in the early nineties and releasing two albums in The Truth In Your Face (1994) and Divine Luxury (1996). “Down On My Knees”, the lone Modest Attraction track here (off The Truth In Your Face), proves a raw and edgy hard rocker with a vibrant drum sound. The quality being that I am inspired to pick up a copy of Truth In Your Face as a result.
It is my hope that Metal For Jesus is not a one shot deal but rather that there will be a series of Metal For Jesus releases. Perhaps the second in the series (Metal For Jesus II?) might feature other notable Christian metal and hard rock acts from Northern Europe: Sarepta (Norway), Veni Domine, Hero, Majestic Vanguard and Germán Pascual (Sweden) and HB and Wingdom (Finland). Round things out with a couple additional Liljegren compositions such as “The Man From Nazareth” and “The Gate”. And while we are at it, how about Metal For Jesus III? This edition would focus on the States and includes tracks from Theocracy, Letter 7, Saint, Rob Rock, River Bomma, Faith Factor, The Sacrificed, HarvestBloom, Joshua Perahia and others
Ultimately, Metal For Jesus is an album one must assess from both an artistic and ministry based standpoint. Yes, if looking for a compilation of the better material to feature Liljegren then Metal For Jesus successfully fills that role. But the projects main emphasis - and this cannot be understated - is ministry with the goal of greatly impacting the Kingdom of God in the metal world by leading many to Christ and drawing back those that have left the faith.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “People of the Blood Red Cross”, “Living Water”, “Long Live The King”, “The Way”, “We Will Go”, “Divinefire”, “Live My Life For You”, “Proud To Wear The Holy Cross”, “Down On My Knees”, “The Final Day”, “God’s Mercy”, “Never Surrender”, “Flaming Youth”, “Golden Resurrection”, “Open Your Eyes”, “Bright Morning Star”, “The Way To Eternity”