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 - Underground Metal
   
Musical Style: Varies Produced By: David Malme & John Moore
Record Label: Regency Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 1988 Artist Website:
Tracks: 9 Rating: No Quote
Running Time: 39:44
Various Artists - Underground Metal

Underground Metal, the third compilation by Regency Records designed to focus on the talents of the top unsigned Christian metal bands at the time, was good in theory but not necessarily in concept.  The idea behind the project was to let the "underground" White Metal 'zines decide which bands would appear on it.  Subsequently, selections were made by Harvest Rock Syndicate (Chosen Stranger), Long Hairs For Christ (Paradox), Powerline Magazine (Watchmen), Risen Rock (Paragon), R.O.C.K.I.N Ministries (Mercy Rule), White Metal Magazine (Chariot) and White Throne Magazine (Armada).  Regency Records chose one track off Leviticus' guitarists Bjorn Stigsson's solo album Together With Friends.  Finally, I will let White Throne editor Dave Johnson comment regarding the selection of Torn Flesh by The Look:  

      Of The Look magazine, get this, this is not a magazine or even a
      zine but Torn Flesh's own newsletter.  Guess which band they
      selected?  Yup, Torn Flesh.  This is the grosses case of nepotism     
      I've ever heard of.1

I couldn't have said it better myself...

In the end, Regency Records had the final say regarding the songs making it onto the album which, as far as I can tell, accounts for the selections by such noteworthy publications as Heaven's Metal, Rizzen Roxx, Take A Stand, The Cutting Edge and Blood Sacrifice not being included.
 
Production values vary in that many tracks were re-recorded specifically for the project while others were taken from the bands original demo tapes.

In terms of the packaging, four major errors were made:  First, Paradox is given credit for the song "Ruler" when in fact they perform "Meet The King".  Second, Bjorn Stigsson's name is misspelled.   (It is NOT Stiggson but RATHER Stigsson.  Got it?)  Third, Chariot's track is listed as "Step Into The Light" when it is actually called "Step Into Light".  Fourth, not all of the lyrics were printed to Paragon's song "Why Are There So Many Sinners?" 
 
After Leviticus formed in the early eighties, it released three albums in I Shall Conquer, The Strongest Power and Setting Fire To The Earth before the bands guitarist Bjorn Stigsson recorded his first solo album Together With Friends (which was only available as an import at the time).
    
A catchy riff backed by a punchy bass line drives the commercial based melodic metal of "Come On" from start to finish.  After Peo fades into the mix with some passionate wailing, the song moves through its first verse in an upbeat manner prior to slowing for a chorus with a huge radio friendly hook.  Stigsson contributes thirty seconds of melodic based lead guitar work.  I might describe "Come On" as a metal praise number:

I see a crowd of people
From every nation
From every language
They are all dressed in white
And they're dancing and singing to the King
COME ON! COME ON! LETS ROCK TO THE KING!

From heaven the Kingdom comes
I praise and sing to the Lord

Armada came together in the mid-eighties and recorded four well received demo tapes in All For One, Frontline, Black And White and Break The Chains.  While "But It's Only Rock And Roll" is a re-recorded version of the same song appearing on Frontline, it still suffers from a muddy sounding production job.  
 
Once "But It's Only Rock And Roll" begins fast and heavy, a hard hitting riff underscores Doug Oxford's gritty voice and takes the song to a good forcefully delivered chorus.  The guitar team of Dave Dawdy and Jeffrey Sipe tear it up throughout an extended instrumental passage.

Chosen Stranger, also forming in the mid-eighties, released several demo tapes before debuting on Underground Metal with the polished commercial metal of "So Glad".  It is worth noting that Chosen Stranger stuck together until the early nineties, releasing a very noteworthy demo tape entitled Deathwalker.

Set in motion as an acoustic guitar shores up Russ Atteberry's melodic flavored voice, "So Glad" picks up in pace as the rhythm guitar enters the mix and leads the way to a catchy chorus that comes across almost worshipful in feel:

So glad that I believed, so glad
So glad I've been redeemed
So glad that I believed, so glad
Believed in Christ the King, so glad

Thirty seconds of stylish lead guitar work from Rusty Ellison helps place "So Glad" among the albums stronger tracks.

San Antonio, Texas based Paradox possessed as much talent as any band of the era but for reasons unknown never signed a deal.  The band appears with the track "Meet The King" from its third demo Power & Glory.
 
The drum solo at the start of "Meet The King" gives way to a blend of edgy rhythm guitar and a muscular bass line, the two energetically driving the song to a chorus showcasing Manual Castillo's high pitched classic tenor voice.  Fernando Hernandez contributes a blistering guitar solo that would turn the head of Oz Fox.  The songs lyrics, on the other hand, are on the trite side:

Bang your head tonight
Raise the dead in Christ
You need to surrender and give it up

I might describe Torn Flesh as post punk and not metal.  In other words, they probably do not belong here.  Irregardless, Torn Flesh recorded a couple of demos in Thrashin' EP and Love Kills before being one of the few bands on the project to release a full length album in Crux Of The Mosh.  Regarding the bands song "No Surfin' In Hell", White Throne staff writer Kevin Crothers sums it up best:
 
     One exception was the hilarious "No Surfin' In Hell".  It was so
     bad that I died of laughter and kind of liked it.  This (Thrashin'
     EP) is just a bad tape, man.  They say they have 25 songs and
     these four are the mellowest because they didn't want to freak
     anyone out.  Freak me out, I want something loud, fast and heavy. 
     I'm glad I didn't have to buy it.  Sorry, maybe next time.2

Coming out of the Seattle, Washington area with a very mature commercial melodic metal/hard rock sound, Watchmen put out a very fine eight song demo entitled Fear No Evil before releasing its full length debut Generation on Regency Records in 1989.

After the title track to the bands demo gets underway to a combination of rhythm guitar and keyboards, the rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix in conjunction with Greg Sweet's Dio influenced voice.  "Fear No Evil" proceeds through its first and second verse with a ton of sublime class until it reaches a chorus with a huge catchy hook.  The song deals with the issue of spiritual warfare:

If darkness comes in like a flood
Stand on the words of our Savior
For we fight not against the flesh and blood
We war against evil...
I will fear no evil
For my God is with me

With the momentum of two demos behind it, Chariot re-recorded the straightforward hard rock of the title track to its second tape Step Into Light.

Taking off to an upfront mix of edgy rhythm guitar, Paul Avile's smooth sounding mid-octave ranged voice helps propel the song in up-tempo fashion to a strong chorus reinforced by a touch of vocal harmonies.  Louis Filardo accentuates the song with his aggressively played lead guitar work.

Paragon, another Pacific Northwest band, brings a progressive influenced melodic metal sound to the project with the track "Why Are There So Many Sinners?".  In addition to releasing two demo tapes, Just Believe and Dead And Alive, Paragon won the Klitsap County "battle of the bands" contest three years running.  You would think a label might have taken notice and signed these guys...

"Why Are There So Many Sinners?" showcases excellent sonics as it moves through its first verse to a quietly played guitar line.  Picking up in pace as the rhythm guitar enters the mix at the start of the second, the song slows slightly for a chorus in which lead vocalist Jeff Schrone displays his immaculate classic tenor voice.  Schrone's rhythm and lead guitar also carries the instrumental passage closing out the songs last minute and a half.

Originally known as Az-Iz, Mercy Rule came out of the Detroit, Michigan area with an energetic style of melodic metal it displays best on the track "Cities Are Burning".  I wish that the bands full length R.E.X. debut Overruled featured sonics as polished as those found here. 
 
Opening to a brief drum solo, "Cities Are Burning" takes off as a crunchy rhythm guitar backs Aaron Byrnes abundant voice and conveys it at a mid tempo pace to a smooth sounding chorus driven by a strong drum sound.  The song breaks for forty-five seconds of tight lead guitar work before closing to a blend of pounding drums and guitar feedback.
 
Review by: Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: Bjorn Stigsson – “Come On” (5:31), Armada – “But It’s Only Rock And Roll” (3:44), Chosen Stranger – “So Glad” (4:35), Paradox – “Meet The King” (3:29), Torn Flesh – “No Surfin’ In Hell” (4:19), Watchmen – “Fear No Evil” (4:57), Chariot – “Step Into Light” (3:36), Paragon – “Why Are There So Many Sinners” (5:26), Mercy Rule – “Cities Are Burning” (4:04)

Also Reviewed: Various Artists - California Metal, Various Artists - East Coast Metal, Leviticus – I Shall Conquer, Mercy Rule – Overruled, Bjorn Stigsson – Together With Friends, Watchmen - Generation

Endnotes
   1. Dave Johnson, "Underground Metal review," White Throne 6 (1990): 14-15.
   2. Kevin Crothers, "Thrashin EP review," White Throne 5 (1989): 37.

 

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
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