|Musical Style: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal||Produced By: Caesar Kalinowski & Rex Carroll|
|Record Label: Pure Metal||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1987||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 39:09|
Guitarist Rex Carroll got his start in music while attending Northern Illinois University in the late seventies when he was a member of a local Christian rock group called A Band Called Light. Attempting to establish a musical career upon graduating from school, Carroll began sending demo tapes to various labels until Mirage/Atlantic contacted him and suggested he join the secular hard rock band Fierce Heart. Carroll proceeded to contribute all the rhythm and lead guitar work to Fierce Heart’s very fine 1985 self-titled debut album, but afterwards he longed to get involved in another Christian project. Upon returning to Illinois, Carroll started giving guitar lessons until one of his students, vocalist Scott Wenzel, announced he was looking for a lead guitarist. Since Carroll was also seeking a lead vocalist, the two formed a partnership that led to the creation of Whitecross in 1986. (Wenzel came up with the bands name after drawing it from Isaiah 1:18.) The two began working on new material, and after recording a demo tape, they were soon signed to Pure Metal Records. The rest, as they say, is history.
Carroll is a wonderfully talented musician who deserves to rank with other top notch players of his era such as Eddie Van Halan, Randy Rhodes and Joe Satriani. If in doubt, check out his work on the "Eruption" influenced open air guitar solo "Nagasake". The scratchy and gritty lead vocal style of Wenzel brings to mind Stephen Pearcy (Ratt) and, as a result, helps invite the bands comparison musically, accurate or otherwise, to Ratt. While bassist Jon Sproule and drummer Mark Hedl are both technically sound, neither is quite in the same league musically with Carroll.
The hard rocking 1987 self-titled debut of Whitecross is held back by a thin and muddy sounding production job. The rhythm guitar sound is weak and deserves to be beefed up. The drums come across hollow and monotonous, while the bass, with a few exceptions, cannot be discerned in the mix. Only the lead guitar rises above the instrumentation as it should.
The introduction to album opener “Who Will You Follow” gives Carroll the opportunity to exhibit his pyrotechnical guitar playing. Slowing as Wenzel takes over with his raspy vocal delivery, the song gains momentum for a chorus in which the salvation message comes across in the form of a question
Who will you follow?
Satan or the Author of Life?
Jesus paid the price
God made the sacrifice for you
"Enough Is Enough" progresses through its first verse to an edgy rhythm guitar backed by a hammering bass, the two driving the song to a groove flavored chorus delivered with a ton of grit and attitude:
Enough nuff, Enough is enough
No more white lies
It’s time to hang tough
Enough nuff, Enough is enough
No more foolin with compromise
Carroll nails a brief but fiery guitar solo, while he decorates the songs last minute with more of the same.
Commencing to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar, “He Is The Rock” is carried through its first and second verse in a near mesmerizing manner by the bands prodigious energy. Deep sounding vocal harmonies enter the mix in time to shore up a chorus with a huge catchy hook. Carroll's flashy lead guitar work brings out the best in a song talking about making the correct eternal decision:
There is a way that seems right to a man
That many have traveled before
You must choose between the jaws of hell
Or find life through the narrow door/He is the Rock...
The open air rhythm guitar at the start of "Lookin' For A Reason" gives way to pounding drums and several seconds of fluid lead guitar work. Subsequent to the rhythm guitar moving to the front of the mix, the song moves forward hard and heavy until it crests for a strong melodic flavored chorus. Carroll steals the show with a pull out all the stops guitar solo.
“You’re mine” is a forgettable and out of place sounding keyboard based ballad that falls way short of the mark. While Wenzel puts in a very fine performance throughout the album, his raspy vocal delivery fails to complement a song moving in such a commercial influenced musical direction. This reviewer would never discourage a band from performing a ballad; on the other hand, if recording a hard rock album then why not write a hard rock ballad?
"No Way I'm Goin' Down" challenges "He Is The Rock" as the albums best track. The drum solo opening the song transitions to a choppy guitar riff that pushes it ahead with just the right amount of upbeat momentum. After briefly pausing, “No Way I’m Goin’ Down” evenly advances on a great anthemic chorus delivered in energetic fashion. A pyrotechnical guitar solo helps out things over the top.
“Seein’ Is Believin” highlights perhaps the albums weakest production job in that Wenzel’s voice is placed way too high over a muffled sounding mix of rhythm guitar. The song is quite solid musically, however, in showcasing a very fine hook filled chorus and a driving mid-tempo pace. A few seconds of backward masking opens an instrumental passage carried by a brief but well done guitar solo.
As "Seein' Is Believin'" ends to more backward masking, "All I Need" immediately embarks to several second of blazing lead guitar work. A driving guitar riff proceeds to impel the song at an upbeat tempo until it crests for a chorus bolstered by a heavy dose of background vocals. Carroll follows with his trademark neo-classical influenced lead guitar work. "All I Need" focuses on God's faithfulness:
We will all stand before Him
On the judgement day
He promised He will defend us
He'll carry us all away
The flashy open air guitar solo "Nagasake" is 1:51 of fast fingered energy. Following several seconds of backward masking, Carroll cuts loose and displays in no uncertain terms why he deserves to rank with the finest guitarist on the planet. While a comparison to Eddie Van Halan's work on "Eruption" is warranted, the song gives prominence to the influences of Joe Satriani and Chris Impellitteri as well.
The album ends, appropriately, with “Signs Of The End”. The song opens in up-tempo fashion before tapering off to the bluesy guitar riff that carries its first verse. Gradually picking up in pace, “Signs Of The End” moves on to a strong chorus fortified by deep sounding vocal harmonies. Carroll cuts loose over the songs final minute. "Signs Of The End" talks about exactly that:
Take a look around the world - oh so many things you'll see
Even though it may not seem near, predict a change for you and me
I know the days will come when men claim I am He
These things and so much more laid down in history
A legitimate case can be made that Whitecross' self-titled debut features the strongest group of songs Rex Carroll and company have put together. The album showcases three exception tracks in "Enough Is Enough", "He Is The Rock" and "No Way I'm Goin' Down". Everything else, with "You're Mine" being the lone exception, holds up under repeated play. Any problems with the albums production are offset by Carroll's world class abilities and the all out energy generated by the bands performance.
Please note that in 2005 Carroll and Wenzel reunited and re-recorded Whitecross' self titled debut under the new title of Nineteen Eighty Seven.
Track Listing: “Who Will You Follow” (4:03), “Enough Is Enough” (4:04), “He Is The Rock” (4:36), “Lookin’ For A Reason” (3:33), “You’re Mine” (4:02), “No Way I’m Goin’ Down” (4:11), “Seein’ Is Believin’” (4:28), “All I Need” (4:13), “Nagasake” (1:52), “Signs Of The End” (4:03)
Scott Wenzel – Lead Vocals
Rex Carroll – Guitars
Jon Sproule – Bass
Mark Hedl – Drums