|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By: X-Terra|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: 60%|
|Running Time: 73:22|
How many Christian metal bands that came out of the eighties are still around AND making music? I can name only a few: Bride, Deliverance, Saint and Stryper (although I still hear the occasional rumor of a new Neon Cross album). One band that deserves mention with the previously referenced acts – in terms of longevity but not necessarily musical significance – is Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania based X-Terra. Initially forming in 1985, X-Terra is a power trio that over the years put out several CD and cassette only releases – with Wolves from 2003 being the most recent – before recording its latest work, the 2007 offering X-Nihilo. X-Nilhilo finds X-Terra continuing the trend of its past efforts by delivering a blend of metal and hard rock heavily influenced by both the seventies and the eighties.
Actually, I hate to “pigeon-hole” X-Terra with any specific label because they give us a variety of styles here. The metal anthem “I Will Survive”, the albums lone up-tempo compositions, is one of its finest; however, the straightforward hard rock of “Don’t Knock The Rock” and “Hello” hold up equally well. Mid-tempo plodders “Purchased In Blood” and “Feather Tank” feature notable chorus hooks and the bluesy “This World” and melodic rock of “Don’t Give Up” an abundance of melody as well. The albums acoustic based tracks, on the other hand, are hit and miss. The emotional “Dear Lord” is a near classic but “The Runaway” and “You Are The Reason” trend towards the lackluster side of things. All in all, what we have in X-Nihilo is an album that, despite an occasional filler track, is a solid effort from a musical standpoint. And I cannot help but think the main reason for this is the fact all three members of X-Terra contribute to the albums songwriting, which only enhances its depth.
Samples are available at CD Baby: http://cdbaby.com/cd/xterra2.
Vocalist/guitarist Bill Hunt, drummer Bob Kachline and bassist Anne Kachline are all able musicians. Hunt proves a fine guitar player who cuts loose with some monster lead work on “Purchased In Blood”, “Feather Tank” and “Who You Step On”. Vocal wise he brings a scratchy lead vocal style heavily rooted in the eighties. Think Dale Thompson (Bride), Dan Mariano (Rage Of Angels) or Vince Neil (Motley Crue)- but not as good in any case. All around, his performance is quite complementary (particularly on the bluesy “This World”), although he struggles somewhat on some of the albums quieter moments. Bob and Anne Kachline provide solid support as the bands rhythm section.
Production values, to put it bluntly, are of the low budget variety. The rhythm guitar, for instance, comes across weak and thin and the drums buried in the mix. Only rarely does the bass stand out. As a matter of fact, the low end can best be described as “missing in action” (it sounds as if it was EQ’d out of the picture). The end result is the harsh feel characteristic to the albums sonics- something I find disappointing in light of the quality music here.
You would think a band with X-Terra’s experience would be able to find its way around in the studio. Who knows, perhaps there were extenuating circumstances; that being said, there is little if any excuse for poor production these days. With that in mind, Letter 7, Scepter, TriPart, Saint, Fountain Of Tears, Unforsaken and others all prove you can independently release a project and get good production at the same time.
Another complaint worth mentioning is the albums packaging, which consists of a single page insert with generic looking album artwork on the front and a band photo on the back. With no extensive liner notes or lyrics to be found, low budget is also the overall feeling I get here.
Speaking of lyrics, this is one of the projects strong points in that X-Terra is upfront about its faith in addressing topics ranging from turning the other cheek, looking beneath the surface when it comes to judging others, the golden rule and the trials and tribulations of life. Again, it is too bad lyrics were not included as part of the albums packaging.
“X-Nihilo” is a short (2:07) album opener carried its distance by a blend of drums and guitar feedback.
The all out raw energy generated by “I Will Survive” brings to mind old school Bride Bride (“Hell No”), Rage Of Angels (“Hooked On A Good Thing”) or Stryper (“Co’Mon Rock”). One of the albums few up-tempo compositions, the song jumps out of the gate to a plethora of ardent initiative that forcefully impels it to a chorus of a spirited variety. The hook here is huge and will pull you in upon first listen.
“Don’t Knock The Rock” slows the pace down a bit but proves no less notable. The song begins acoustically before a crisp rhythm guitar steps forward, an even mix of keyboards highlighting the poignant scene on the way to an energized chorus guaranteed to pull you in with its gripping appeal. The message to “Don’t Knock The Rock” is to look beneath the surface when it comes to judging others:
You know nothing about me
You don’t really care
You can’t judge a man by his clothing
Or the length of his hair
Don’t knock the Rock…
“Purchased In Blood” is a bottom heavy plodder (kind of like “Fiend Or Foul” by Rez Band). The song trudges its way forward from the start, held captive by a near ponderous guitar riff prior to gaining initiative for a chorus advancing at a determined mid-tempo pace. I enjoy how “Purchased In Blood” makes a transition to an acoustic guitar as its theme is expounded upon:
Freedom, purchased in blood
Our sacred hallowed right, purchased in blood
We will fight to defend the liberty we love
Freedom, purchased in blood
I might describe “Feather Tank” as dark and swarthy hard rock. The driving wall of rhythm guitar introducing the song plays a commanding role during its verse portions, the extended chorus that ensues standing in support of the catchy but stalwart momentum. Hunt steps forward with a stretch of moving lead guitar work.
“Who You Step On”, coming in at seven minutes, is one of several tracks here carried out perhaps an extra minute too long. The song proves another slow and driving piece, delivers some riffs bordering on the doom-like and a chorus with a message revolving around the golden rule:
Who you step on on the way up
You’re going to meet on the way down
What goes around comes around
Don’t use your brother as a stepping stone
Don’t push him down to the ground
Who you step on the way up
You’re going to meet on the way down
It’s a long way down…
The acoustic based rock of “The Runaway” and “You Are The Reason” include some of the albums least memorable moments. Lacking that notable hook or melody that might consistently draw you in, more often than not I end up skipping over the two. “The Runaway”, as its title implies, bases its lyrics around the prodigal son but features the worst production on X-Nihilo (there is too much background noise in the songs quieter moments). “You Are The Reason” moves at the quicker tempo and is highlighted by a trace of keyboards but, likewise, comes across on the colorless side of things.
“Music Is The Only Drug You’ll Ever Need”, a hard rock anthem if there ever was one, takes a foundation of edgy rhythm guitar and imbues it with a resounding chorus featuring one of those take a hold and refuse to go away hooks. The song flows perfectly until, over its final several minutes, it moves on to a trade off of passages in which each member of the band is allowed to handle lead vocals (as they provide discourse on every style of music imaginable). The whole effect comes across somewhat cheesy, leaving one with the feeling things would have been better of if reduced by a minute or two.
“Don’t Give Up” moves slowly ahead to an even blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards before transitioning to a finesse filled passage in which an acoustic guitar plays an accentuating role. Gaining momentum, the song culminates as it obtains an up-tempo chorus talking about following your dreams:
Don’t give up
Hold on to your dreams
Don’t give up
No matter how hard it seems
What we have here is a melodic based track that cannot help but bring to mind Stryper.
“This World” delivers a blues based hard rock sound certain to appeal to fans of Stevie & the Saints and Glenn Kaiser Band. The bluesy rhythm guitar initiating the song holds sway over its verse portions in poignant fashion, the gritty setting maintained for a flowing chorus in which Hunt’s scratchy lead vocal delivery is allowed to shine. “The World” is aptly named:
This worlds a brazen harlot
Shameless woman of the night
She’ll lead your soul to ruin
Steal your money, take your word
This cold, cruel world…
The nine minute “Dear Lord” is a bit on the long winded side of things but, due to the quality of the music, fails to turn into a cumbersome listen. The song is an acoustic based track (it brings to mind “Sarah Williams” by Jacobs Dream) that traces the events in the life of an individual who goes through a great deal of trials and tribulations but in the end finds his eternal reward. A particularly moving piece, you will be challenged to keep a dry eye after giving this one several listens. The songs chorus sums things up best:
I don’t need to win the race
My reward is with You
Please tell me what You to do
The straightforward hard rock of “Hello” opens to a bass guitar solo that gives way to a driving guitar riff. Charging ahead in a purposeful manner, the song peaks as it acquires a chorus backed by a prominent mix of vocal harmonies. Hunt adds to the scene with a stretch of fiery lead guitar work.
The album closes with a reprise of its title track.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “X-Nihilo” (2:06), “I Will Survive” (4:54), “Don’t Knock The Rock” (4:34), “Purchased In Blood’( 5:48), “Feather Tank” (5:51), “Who You Step On” (6:59), “The Runaway” (4:51), “You Are The Reason” (4:02), “Music Is The Only Drug You’ll Ever Need” (6:49), “Don’t Give Up” (4:39), “This World” (4:35), “Dear Lord” (8:49), “Hello” (6:42), “X-Nihilo – Reprise” (2:11)
Bill Hunt – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Anne Kachline – Bass
Bob Kachline - Drums