|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Roxx Records||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 15||Rating: No Quote|
Just when I thought I couldn’t get interested in yet another compilation album, along comes the spring of 2016 Roxx Records various artists offering entitled A Celebration Of The Death And Resurrection. Rarely if ever do I warm up to compilations when factoring how they potentially over saturate the scene (and come across a ‘dime a dozen’ in the process) or fall victim to predictable if not redundant track listings (and play the role of label ‘cash cows’ as a result). Perhaps it is the analytical reviewer in me that tends to over think things, but I am challenged to name a “best of” album that got it right in terms of songs chosen and/or those left out. Which leads to the main problem at hand: ultimately, you are being subject to the song selection abilities of an outside party, which more often than likely contrasts with your own. How many of you, for instance, can name a compilation album in your collection that you are 100% satisfied with the track listing? Me neither. That is why I find it makes better sense to instead burn the favorite songs of a specific artist onto a CD-R and create my own compilation instead!
How does A Celebration Of The Death And Resurrection shine in light of this regard? Quite laudably from factoring how it represents a different take on a similar theme. Rather than a “greatest hits” package, ACOTDAR separates itself as a conceptually based compilation album that, as its title suggests, assembles some of the best Christian metal tracks focused entirely on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Much of the problematic pick-and-choose-and-hit-and-miss aspects of the song selection process associated with compilations ends up bypassed in that each song presented has its unique place in the track listings and serves a crucial role within the narrative in question accordingly.
It also does not hurt that the April 1, 2016 release date to ACOTDAR proves strategic in following shortly after Easter. Hence, how many within the industry are referring to it as the ‘Easter Comp’.
Musically, ACOTDAR runs the gamut from melodic metal and commercial hard rock to the power and progressive side of things to traditional metal to thrash metal. Artist’s represented comprise a ‘who’s who’ of the Christian metal scene the past 30 years from including the old (Bloodgood, Sacred Warrior and Neon Cross) and new (Theocracy, Worldview and Grave Forsaken) and all things in between.
Also, note how Roxx Records is using ACOTDAR as a tool to raise awareness of the ministries of Sanctuary International led by Pastor Bob Beeman. A portion of the albums profits are being donated to the ministry The Bridge Bunch, which focuses on feeding the homeless in the Nashville area. Fittingly, ACOTDAR opens the first of its fifteen tracks to the aptly entitled spoken word narrative “A Message From Pastor Bob Beeman”.
Classic Bloodgood track “Crucify”, the first of the two song theatrical rock opera that also includes “The Messiah” (off Detonation from 1987), storms out of the gate in follow up as a relentless and near speed metal assault of poignant energy. Vocalist Les Carlsen proves masterful with his raspy to operatic delivery as he takes on the role of Pilate in his interaction with the angry mob:
As you can see He's done nothing, nothing, nothing
To deserve the things you ask
I wash my hands of this man's blood
You act as though this man is inciting a rebellion
No one here can prove that to be true
Crucify! crucify! crucify!
He's your King!
The 1987 California Metal compilation is home to Neon Cross’ “Son Of God, which comes across every bit dramatic with prose taken from Luke 23: 36-43 in detailing the crucifixion of Christ (“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”), and His interaction with the believing thief (“Verily this day we will be together in Paradise”). High-octane front man David Raymond Reeves lets loose with several trademark falsettos throughout a non-stop, straight on heavy metal environs.
Sacred Warrior’s Rebellion (1988) ranks as one of my favorite Christian metal albums from the eighties, and show-stopping ballad “He Died” plays no small role in this regard. Moving and emotional, “He Died” slowly drifts from the start to keyboards as silky smooth high-end vocalist Rey Parra expounds upon the death of Christ:
He died for you and I on that day
As He hangs on the cross for you and I
He said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do”
Guitars kick in and lead the way through the expansive chorus and poignant bridge that ensues:
And when they hung Him on the cross
His face they did not recognize
And when they saw Him hanging there
Oh the pain
Parra’s new band Worldview follows (off its 2015 release The Chosen Few) with “The Last Cry”, a darker and more pensive track in which an ominous and swarthy progressive metal flair reveals itself. Acoustic guitars lighten the opening ethereal verses, while compact rhythm guitars stand in support of the choir-like “It is finished. It is done” symphonic refrain. An extended instrumental run aligns with the overriding technical milieu.
Theocracy’s “30 Pieces Of Silver (As The World Bleeds from 2011) sustains the progressive themes but in a more power metal based package. Initiating a heightened and double bass driven demeanor, the song transitions between the heavy set and aggressive (for the briskly done verses) and smooth and carefully refined (upon obtaining the grand and stately refrain). Theocracy offers its well thought out take on Judas’ betrayal of Christ:
All the treasure in the world so blinding
30 pieces of silver shining
Tell me what’s the price you seek
To place the kiss of death upon His cheek?
Blood money and the serpent winding
30 pieces of silver shining
Treasure fades away
What a price to pay anyway
Veteran AC/DC influenced hard rockers X-Sinner deliver the no-nonsense goods on the title track to its 2008 release World Covered In Blood. The song rollicks start to finish, with heavy set backing vocals upholding the stark rawness to the shouted ‘world covered in blood’ chorus and Rex Scott’s snarling vocal delivery setting every bit the pointed tone. I appreciate the analogy to the lyrics:
What possibility could there be?
That blood is flowing down a tree
At first a trickle – and then a steam
And then a river – and now a sea!
Classic metal masters Saint ensues with “Crucified”, a short but powerful piece from its 2012 release Desperate Night. With big bass pumping and Josh Kramer wailing away with his expansive vocal style, the song proves equal parts accessible and compelling with its catchy chorus and “Was crucified for all to see. Was crucified for you and me” lyrical focal point.
ACOTDAR moves on to a thrash basis over its next four barn-burning tracks. Many of you reading this know I am not a connoisseur of the thrash genre; that said, I also hope you do not think I am bringing a bias either in that I welcome thrash as playing a key role within the scene and is deserving of its place on ACOTDAR.
Ultimatum bulldozes its way through “Violence And Bloodshed" (2000 release The Mechanics Of Perilous Times), a relentless chainsaw attack of a song in which a cool grooving bass line and Scott Waters’ signature driving vocal play lead roles. Lyrics build upon the meaning behind the songs title:
Cold steel pierce through the hands,
Blood spouts from the flesh,
Hard wood rubs at the stripes from the whips to his back.
Gravity pulls down the body, lungs gasp for air.
Impaled and sentenced to die for the sins of man.
Grave Forsaken follows with “Death On The Cross”, a sledgehammer heavy track that contrasts a ruthless as it gets rhythm section with some surprisingly melodic guitar harmonies. Guttural and lower register vocalists Vaughn Gregory snarls “Death, death, death on the cross, salvation comes through Him” throughout the near mesmerizing chorus.
Deliverance unloads seven and a half monstrous minutes of melodic thrash on Weapons Of Our Warfare (1990) piece “Flesh And Blood”. Challenging for albums most powerful, “Flesh And Blood” pulverizes with the unyielding dual guitar attack of Jimmy B. Brown and George Ochoa while briefly decelerating for the ethereal tinctures of its instrumental moments. Brown’s clean and even vocal delivery help convey the songs spiritual warfare themes:
Slaves to the power of sin
Once in captivity to darkness; spiritually dead
A voice cried from the top of a hill
"It is finished"!
Jesus' blood has made us free
But the battle still remains
We contend not with flesh and blood
But with spiritual darkness
“Human Sacrifice” by Vengeance Rising (from the 1988 album of the same name) approaches the all out extreme from the caustic vocal style of Roger Martinez and overriding flagrant band intensity to match. Lyrics can be somewhat challenging to understand but get the point across:
Jesus said, this is the blood of the new covenant
Shed for the remission of sins
That it might be fulfilled
Which was spoken by the prophets
Tourniquet’s 1997 release Crawl To China features “If I Was There”, albums softest and lightest in representing six minutes of stylish acoustic rock with a laid-back folk-mentality. The earthy vocal register of Luke Easter aligns with the moving scene:
As He marched up that hill
I can picture Him still in my mind
All the blood and the sweat on His brow
As He passed me on by, I could see in His eyes
That His pain was a gift of His love
He was the sacrifice-the Lamb
And He is the great I AM
And He paid the price for me
The price for you and me-you and me
Album reaches its apex with a pair of Easter themed songs dealing with the Resurrection. Recon leads the way with “Alive”, a dynamic classic US power metal outburst from its 1990 debut Behind Enemy Lines. Front man Vett Roberts hits the highest of the high notes throughout a song adorned with richly woven backing vocals (upholding the “It is written He is alive!” chorus) and accenting keyboards (for the commanding verses driven by clear-cut rhythm guitars).
Second Bloodgood piece “The Messiah” closes ACOTDAR in style. Taking the more commercial hard rock tone as opposed to the non-stop intensity that is “Crucify”, “The Messiah” underscores guitars of a more reserved nature and atmosphere that approaches the impassioned if not awe-inspiring. Lyrics succinctly capture the moment at hand:
Don't be afraid, He has risen, He's not here
Why are you trembling with fear?
Just as He told you, just as He said
They could not stop Him, He is not dead!
He’s the Messiah
Go into the world and tell
All of creation He lives
He lives in the hearts of men
He said go into the world and tell
All of creation He lives
He lives in the hearts of men
Professionally packaged, ACOTDAR comes with eye catching cover art in addition to an 8-page mini booklet (put together by Scott Waters) with lyrics to each song. George Ochoa effectively re-mastered the project.
ACOTDAR separates itself from an endless sea of compilation albums with its conceptual basis. The only other compilation to invite comparison is Metal For Jesus, a 2013 collection of songs from several Northern European bands fronted by Christian Liljegren (Narnia, Golden Resurrection) serving as a ministry tool used as a “bold proclamation for the Kingdom of God in the metal world”. Still, Metal For Jesus lacked a similar unifying theme to tie individual tracks together and played a dual role as a greatest hits package of songs featuring Liljegren (by no means a bad thing).
The lone constructive comment I have regarding ACOTDAR comes to light in the process: it’s lack of material of bands from Europe. Several stand out cuts come to mind: “The Man From Nazareth” (Narnia), “The King Is Alive” (Audiovision), “King Of The Jews” (Veni Domine), “Sins Of The World” (Gloriam Dei) and “Son Of Man” (Sarepta) to name just a few. Not to jump to conclusions, but perhaps the future holds for A Celebration Of The Death & Resurrection II encompassing bands from overseas!
ACOTDAR represents every bit the ministry tool that is Metal For Jesus, but it potentially makes the stronger artistic statement when factoring the greater variety of musical styles represented and bands chosen. It stands out equally as the perfect album at the perfect time in light of its release around Easter and unifying lyrical themes. Give credit to Roxx Records for the time, thought and prayer that it put into the project in terms of a near flawless track-listing and quality packaging. If I were to purchase one compilation album during 2016, ACOTDAR would be it.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “A Message From Pastor Bob Beeman” (3:07), “Crucify” (3:10), “Son Of God” (4:23), “He Died” (3:52), “The Last Cry” (5:19), “30 Pieces Of Silver” (5:11), “World Covered In Blood” (3:55), “Crucified” (3:19), “Violence And Bloodshed” (3:22), “Death On The Cross” (4:31), “Flesh And Blood” (7:28), “Human Sacrifice” (2:40), “If I Was There” (5:57), “Alive” (4:07), “The Messiah” (4:39)