|Musical Style: Varies||Produced By: Varies|
|Record Label: K-Tel||Country Of Origin: Varies|
|Year Released: 1987||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: No Quote|
The history of the Righteous Metal compilation dates back to 1987 when K-Tel Records – those of you into 70s and 80s nostalgia are certain to remember the TV commercials from K-Tel that promised “20 original hits by the original artists” – contacted the Austin, Texas based band Stryken to request permission to use their song “Rock On” on a Christian metal compilation they were putting together. Stryken, of course, consented and when K-Tel asked for the names of other well known Christian metal acts of the time, the band pointed them in the direction of Barren Cross, Bloodgood and many others. Hence, Righteous Metal, the first official Christian metal compilation, was born.
Metal might be a bit of a misnomer here in that Righteous Metal does not stick to the genre in question as close as it could. Yes, the album DOES feature a lot of metal – it includes one track each from Bloodgood, Barren Cross, Messiah Prophet, Saint, Stryken and Philadelphia – but it has its share of non-metal moments as well from Petra, Rick Cua and Altar Boys. The likes of Jerusalem, Rez and Daniel Band, which all move in a more hard rock direction as opposed to metal, were also represented. One of the problems with Righteous Metal is that it came out perhaps a year or two premature- which accounts for the exclusion of such well known act as Angelica, Deliverance, Guardian, Neon Cross, Sacred Warrior, Shout and Whitecross. Let’s face facts, in 1987 K-Tel had somewhat limited options when it came to putting together a twelve song Christian metal compilation and, as a result, probably felt it had no other choice but to include several non-metal artists to fill out the track list.
My overall feeling is that Righteous Metal does a LOT of things well and in the process exposed a great deal of people to the Christian metal scene at the time. That being said, I cannot help but think it could have also done a few things better (particularly when considering the resources at hand). Hence, it is the purpose of this review to focus on both sides of the fence from an objective standpoint and in the process (1) take a close look at each band and corresponding song that made its way onto the compilation and (2) take a close look at each band that could have been included but, for reasons unknown, ended up being omitted.
Bloodgood gets things underway with the excellence of “Crucify” (from Detonation). No complaints here; however, it is worth pointing out that Detonation features several excellent songs in “Alone In Suicide” and “Eat The Flesh” that would also have made noteworthy selections. When you think about it, you could not go wrong with “Demon On The Run” or “Soldier Of Freedom” from the bands self-titled debut.
The mighty Barren Cross follows with “Rock For The King”, a heavy and driving track off the bands 1986 debut of the same name. While certainly not bad, “Rock For The King” does not quite rank with the albums better compositions. I might have gone with the upbeat power metal of “Dying Day” or energetic hard rockers such as “It’s All Come True” or “Just A Touch”. Even the slow but bluesy “He Loves You” would made the better choice.
“Master Of The Metal”, the title track from Messiah Prophet’s 1986 sophomore release, certainly rocks with authority, but I also do not consider it the albums strongest number. I tend to gravitate to two of the albums faster but catchier compositions in “The Friend” and “Hit And Run” or the superlative metal ballad “Battle Cry”. Still, it is good to see Messiah Prophet, a VERY deserving choice, to be represented here.
“Time’s End” by Saint simply slays. One of the few selections I CANNOT question, the title track to Saint’s full length debut is a dark and haunting piece that stands out with a catchy chorus and great guitar solo. Of course, this is not the only worthwhile selection from Time’s End: “Island Prisoner” and “Primed And Ready”, with their catchy melodies, and the apocalyptic “Space Cruiser” and speed metal of “Phantom Of The Galaxy” all would have made notable choices.
I am certainly glad a track was included by Swedish hard rockers Jerusalem. But “In His Majesty’s Service” from the bands 1985 live album of the same name? Give me a break! Why not instead choose “Warrior”, the catchy but militant title track from the bands third full length offering from1983, or the twelve minute epic “Sodom” (a classic if there ever was one!).
Rez (a.k.a. Rez Band or Resurrection Band) is another deserving band. Not quite metal, this hard rocking veteran Chicago based outfit had already recorded seven studio albums up to this point with Between Heaven And Hell from 1986 being its most recent. “Love Comes Down”, from BHAH, is a great song but so is “Shadows” (off the same album). As a matter of fact, there are many who say “Shadows” is the best song in the bands history. But I will leave that for you to decide. Nevertheless, when founding member Glenn Kaiser is at his best there are very few who compose a better song. If in doubt, then consider some of Rez Band classics that were left out: “American Dream” (Colours), “The Chair” (Mommy Don’t Love Daddy Anymore) or “Military Man” and “No Alibi” (both DMZ).
It is on the albums second half that things begin to take a bit of a turn for the worse. The melodic rock of Petra’s “Shakin’ The House”, taken off the bands 1986 effort Back To The Street, is not a bad song. As a matter of fact, if I were to include a Petra song from this era in the bands history, “Shakin’ The House”, along with “Chameleon” and “Angel Of Light” (Never Say Die), “Judas Kiss” (More Power To Ya) and “Bema Seat” and “Blinded Eyes” (Not Of This World), would be one of the first I would consider.
Stryken’s “Rock On” from its 1987 full length debut First Strike has already been mentioned and is by far the bands strongest track (not that “Crush The Head Of Satan” or “One Way” would have made bad selections). It is worth noting that the Righteous Metal version of the song has been re-mixed and features a more upfront mix of rhythm guitar and more pronounced drum sound.
Canada’s hard rocking Daniel Band was another veteran unit at the time of Righteous Metal, having already recorded four albums in On Rock, Straight Ahead , Run From The Darkness and Rise Up. The anthem-like title track to the bands 1986 release Rise Up is a worthwhile pick, but I might have gone with the dramatic hard rock power ballad “My Children”. Of course, a legitimate case can be made that Run From The Darkness includes some of the bands better material with energetic hard rockers “Don’t Give Up” and “Walk On The Water” standing out as the most noteworthy. If you want to go all the way back to the bands 1982 debut On Rock then you definitely would want to go with either the ballad “I’m Sorry” or the progressive influenced “Never Again”.
Rick Cua is a marginal selection in which a better and more deserving artist should have been included in his place. Yes, his track “Wear Your Colors” is a good melodic hard rocker advancing at an upbeat tempo (it is not a bad song), but when the lead vocals end up mixed twice as loud as the rhythm guitar, you cannot help but get the feeling the song sounds way out of place in a mostly metal environment.
I find the pop/wave of Altar Boys “You Are Loved” to be every bit as welcome here as anyone wearing a black and white striped shirt would be welcome in Seattle. Sorry Seahawks fans!
The album closes with Philadelphia’s “Search & Destroy”, a ripping track off the bands 1985 sophomore release of the same name. A concept album, “Search & Destroy” tells the story of a character named Bobby who goes through abuse, addiction and crime but in the end finds salvation. The album also showcases its share of notable hard rockers in “Judgement Day”, “Mirror Man” and “Showdown” that would have made a good showing of themselves.
As previously stated, several well known artists were left out here but their abscence can be easily explained: Bands such as Dual Edge, Emerald, Malachia and Whitecross, who all released their full length debut albums in 1987, probably did not come out in time to make the final cut for Righteous Metal. That being said, this does not excuse the exclusion of some very notable artists of the time such as Barnabas, Bride, Leviticus and Darrell Mansfield. Before going any further, on the other hand, it is worth pointing out that K-Tel, not exactly being an expert in the area of Christian metal, probably was not even aware the previously mentioned groups even existed; with that in mind, we will cut the folks who once brought us “20 original hits by the original artists” some slack. Okay?
By 1987 Barnabas had put out two full bore metal releases in Approaching Light Speed and Feel The Fire. “Breathless Wonderment”, an awesome track off FTF, is widely considered one of the greatest songs in Christian metal history and would have made a “no-brainer” selection.
I am still scratching my head how Bride could have been left off Righteous Metal. Having just released its debut Show No Mercy the previous year, Bride put its creative abilities on full display on the showy hard rocker “Thunder In The City’, an excellent number that easily ranks with the better material here.
Swedish hard rockers Leviticus had released two albums in I Shall Conquer and The Strongest Power by the time Righteous Metal hit the shelves. The band could also compose a very fine song which is best reflected in the stunning metal ballad “All Is Calm” (off ISQ) and the energetic power metal of the aptly named “I Got Power” (from TSP). One of these two should have been included.
Finally, last but certainly not least, blues rocker Darrell Mansfield moved in a mostly hard rock direction on his 1985 release Revelation. Mansfield, an evangelist by calling who always considered himself a fisher of men, decided to record a hard rock album because, in his own words, “the fish started biting hard rock”. Revelation features one all out metal track in “Jesus Will Reign” ” (in which Paul Gilbert of Racer X and Mr. Big fame makes a guest appearance) but gritty hard rockers “Thunder N’ Lightning” and “After The Storm” would have made strong choices as well.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: Bloodgood – “Crucify”, Barren Cross – “Rock For The King”, Messiah Prophet – “Master Of The Metal”, Saint – “Time’s End”, Jerusalem – “In His Majesty’s Service”, Rez – “Love Comes Down”, Petra – “Shakin’ The House”, Stryken – “On Rock”, Daniel Band – “Rise Up”, Rick Cua – “Wear Your Colors”, Altar Boys – “You Are Loved”, Philadelphia – “Search & Destroy