6. Saint: Time’s End

saint-times end
Pure Metal, 1985

The band described as the Christian version of Judas Priest released arguably the best straight ahead metal record in the history of Christian rock. Even in 2013, Time’s End still rocks. Awesome crunchy guitar riffs. Awesome guitar solos. Awesome album cover. Awesome band.

And what’s amazing about this record is just how catchy the songs are. Saint may play it loud and heavy, but these guys sure know how to write a hook as evidenced on Primed and Ready and Island Prisoner. And man can they rock out. Phantom of the Galaxy is a blistering track that absolutely rips along. That song and the abrupt tempo change that goes into the closer Steel Killer, which plays out in two parts, are the highlight of the record. Of course, Space Cruiser, the opener In The Night and the sludgy, mid-tempo title track Time’s End also shouldn’t be missed.

My only knock on this record? At nine songs, it’s almost too short. But in the time the band does use, it’s all quality music. Too Late for Living proved to be a suitable follow-up to Time’s End, although it lacked some of the punch. As far as heavy metal goes, Saint’s brand of straight forward, no-frills metal on Time’s End is astonishingly good. And although the term may sound tired after a while, Time’s End is indeed a Christian rock classic.

 

9. Bride: Live To Die

bride-live to die
Pure Metal, 1988

Live to Die is Bride. It’s what made the band great, before Dale and Troy Thompson and co. hit a homerun with Snakes In the Playground. But don’t get me wrong. Snakes was a great record, an excellent hard rock album. However, Live to Die didn’t bow to any set formula, or to what “critics” and record “execs” deemed as bankable.

For one thing, on Live to Die, Dale’s voice is frighteningly high and downright shrill at times. However, it suits the music fine. Not that Thompson doesn’t have a great voice on Psychedelic Super Jesus, Everybody Knows My Name and Would You Die For Me, three of the band’s hard rock anthems that came after Live to Die and Silence is Madness, the latter of which was the band’s final record of the ’80s. It’s just that I’d take Out For Blood, Hell No and Heroes over those three any day of the week. Heck, and what about Here Comes the Bride? A brutal, thrasher that makes Bloodgood’s legendary Black Snake sound tame.

The title track Live to Die, though, is probably my favorite Bride song of all time. It’s punctuated by Thompson’s high-pitched vocals, great lyrics and heavy instrumentation. Like I said, this is the record that I associate with Bride. Don’t get me wrong, though. The band’s body of work in the early ’90s is quality stuff, and Thompson is without doubt the greatest singer ever in the Christian hard rock/metal genre. But the apocalyptic doom and gloom (check out that album cover!) and no-holds barred approach the band took on Live to Die make it one of the greatest Christian hard rock records ever made.

10. Stryper: Soldiers Under Command

Stryper-soldiers
Engima, 1985

This was the record that converted me into a full-blown Stryper fan and the first Stryper record I ever heard. It ultimately turned me on to hard music and it’s a great album, right from the title track Soldiers Under Command right on through to the beefed traditional refrains of Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Musically, it’s pure heavy metal, with fiery guitar work by Michael Sweet and Oz Fox that’s always good. With Tim Gaines laying down some thick bass lines, and Robert Sweet’s no-nonsense drummer, the long-haired, spandex-clad foursome certainly had honed its act by the time Soldiers Under Command came out. It climbed just a bit higher than the Yellow and Black Attack and set the table nicely for the band’s quintessential record, To Hell With the Devil. For sure, Michael Sweet has a great set of pipes and the harmonies are stellar, never better than on Makes Me Wanna Sing. And when Sweet hits that high note at the end of the song, it’s almost surreal. While the opener is good, Surrender, Rock That Makes Me Roll, and Together For Ever are all above average metal songs. The only knock on Stryper, well on heavy metal band’s in general, are the bland ballads. The record would be just fine without First Love and Together as One.

Stryper was my favorite band for a time in the mid-’80s. But that was before In God We Trust, a record in which the band’s act had worn thin and thankfully the last with the yellow-and-black wardrobe. In its time, though, Stryper was just as good or better than Ratt, Poison, Cinderella, Warrant and other glam metal bands that married long hair with tight pants. The genre certainly sounds tired nowadays, but there are still times when spinning Soldiers Under Command is not just a taste of nostalgia, but a great way to rock out.

40. Bloodgood: Bloodgood

(Frontline, 1986)
(Frontline, 1986)

This may have been the heaviest record I purchased in 1986, an absolutely great debut from the band that took a page from Van Halen as far as the name went. Bloodgood really gave hard rock fans something to be excited about, with an album that was great from start to finish.

The band also put to tape one of the heaviest Christian songs of the ’80s, the unforgettable Black Snake. That song was worth the price of the record alone. But there were so many other good ones. I’ve always thought What’s Following the Grave was sensational. Killing the Beast is right up there too, with the opener Accept the Lamb. There really isn’t a bad track on the album. It may be no frills heavy metal to a fault, but it’s darn good at that.

And the crazy thing is that Bloodgood came right back the following year with an even better record, Detonation. Bloodgood was truly among the best Christian metal bands in its time, right in there in the same conversation as Stryper, Barren Cross and Saint. And lyrically, I don’t think there was a band that tackled Christian themes as good as Bloodgood. As Les Carlsen belted out in Black Snake, “He Who is In Me is Greater than He Who is In the Worrrrrrrrrrrld!!!” An unforgettable lyric from a great band.

Tracks: 1. Accept the Lamb; 2. Stand in the Light; 3. Demon on the Run; 4. Anguish and Pain; 5. Awake!; 6. Solider of Peace; 7. You Lose; 8. What’s Following the Grave; 9. Killing the Beast; 10. Black Snake

Listen Here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Bloodgood/4515497

43. Randy Rose: Sacrificium

(1991, Intense)
(1991, Intense)

It may be hard to believe that Randy Rose was part of the synth-pop outfit Mad At The World after listening to his first solo record. Sacrificium is straight-up hard rock/heavy metal, with a gritty guitar sound and raspy vocals. Rose would later form a band simply called “Rose” and more albums would follow throughout the decade.

Sacrificium has always drawn comparisons to Danzig, and if you’ve heard the two bands back to back the influence is definitely there. Both have a darker sound, and that comes to the forefront on Sacrificium. For sure, Black Harvest remains a great song. It’s easily the fastest on the record. The rest just plod along, and its a tough slog listening to the record all the way through.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of the style of music. The follow-up record Healing didn’t stray from Sacrificium’s path, although now with a band, the music sounds fuller and generally more interesting. I’d much prefer to listen to Mad at the World’s Seasons of Love for a dose of Rose-inspired hard rock.

TRACKS:

1. “Pain” (4:06)
2. “Oppresson” (3:46)
3. “Fire” (4:29)
4. “I Was Alive” (5:31)
5. “Wicked Ways” (3:40)
6. “Black Harvest” (5:31)
7. “Mashmallow Land” (4:09)
8. “Walls of Hate” (3:56)
9. “Death” (3:46)
10. “Sacrificium” (4:42)

LISTEN HERE:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Sacrificium+Disc+1/6407492

47. Sacred Warrior: Master’s Command

(Intense, 1989)
(Intense, 1989)

Sacred Warrior got the ball rolling with 1988’s Rebellion. It was a good but not great record, and the band really hit its stride on the follow-up album. Master’s Command is well-played sophomore release, led by Rey Parra’s high-pitched vocals and Tony Velasquez’s sensational drumming.

And the songs are really good. Beyond the Mountain is among the best, with the instrumental Onward Warriors a stellar track (and I nice break from Parra’s voice). But The Flood stands out as head of the class, with growly guest vocalist Roger Martinez from label mates Vengeance Rising. That song alones is worth the price of admission. The record closes to the refrains of Holy, Holy, Holy – another great track, in which Sacred Warrior adds some “oomph” to the traditional hymn.

Musically, Queensryche has always been mentioned in the same conversation as Sacred Warrior. For sure, the influence is there, especially in the vocals, and Master’s Command has its progressive metal moments. Sacred Warrior would go on to bang out a couple more records, Wicked Generation and Obsessions to make it four albums in four years before calling it quits. I don’t think any of those records equalled what the band had accomplished on Master’s Command, but they were also highly listenable and were a part of my collection at one time or another.

TRACK LISTING:

  1. Master’s Command
  2. Beyond the Mountain
  3. Evil Lurks
  4. Bound In Chains
  5. Unfailing Love
  6. Paradise
  7. Uncontrolled
  8. Many Will Come
  9. Onward Warriors
  10. The Flood
  11. Holy, Holy, Holy

LISTEN HERE:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Master+s+Command/4641862

49. Leviticus: The Strongest Power

(Pure Metal, 1986)
(Pure Metal, 1986)

Leviticus was the other early Christian hard rock/heavy metal band that hailed from Sweden. And, like Jerusalem, once the band’s songs were translated into English, Christian metal fans everywhere were introduced to some great music. The Strongest Power was the follow-up record to I Shall Conquer, and right off the bat the album kicks off with a bang. The Winner is a great song, with a noisy guitar riff and a catchy chorus. It’s real good stuff.

The next song, Deborah and Barak, plods along before breaking loose mid-way through with a frantic guitar solo and hectic drumming. It’s another great track. Other memorable songs include I Got Power, which explodes with a memorable drum intro, then moves along at a blistering pace. On Look Around, there’s a fair amount of keyboard (that also shows up at other times on the record), which serves to expand the band’s sound. It’s a well constructed and vocally excellent song. I Love You is another up-tempo gem, with a driving beat and an absolutely stellar guitar solo, while Light for the World is great closer.

For sure, Leviticus was firing on all cylinders on 1986’s The Strongest Power (first released in 1985). Three or four songs in, the record starts to sound a bit tired, but a strong B side saves the day. The follow-up record Setting Fire to The Earth was also good, although lineup changes also changed the band’s trademark sound. But 1989’s Knights of Heaven kind of lost me (another over-produced John and Dino Elefante record, although some disagree). For me, The Strongest Power is classic Leviticus, with the band in fine form and their signature sound on full display.

TRACK LISTING:

  1. The winner
  2. Deborah and barak
  3. On the rock
  4. King of kings
  5. Stay with us
  6. I got power
  7. Look around
  8. I love you
  9. A new day
  10. Light for the world

LISTEN HERE: