2. Vengeance: Human Sacrifice

vengeance-humansacrifice
(Intense, 1988)

There have been few moments in Christian rock music history when past precedents have been completely annihilated. And fittingly, when Vengeance (later to be known as Vengeance Rising due to legal matters) burst onto Christian bookstore shelves in 1988, it did so on the Intense Records label.

And intense they were. Human Sacrifice was perhaps the greatest Christian thrash album ever recorded, although the 180-degree denunciation of faith by lead singer Roger Martinez has somewhat tarnished the bands legacy. But Human Sacrifice was a rare album that caught hard music lovers off guard. It was intense from the album cover, a spike driven through the nail of a bloodied hand into a cross of wood, to the growling screams of Martinez, that gave the band its definitive sound and made Stryper sound like Sandi Patti. Just listening to the screams at the end of the final track Beheaded is proof enough.

Can’t miss tracks on Human Sacrifice include the title track, Burn, I Love Hating Evil, White Throne, From the Dead and the instrumental Ascension. But there really isn’t a bad track among the 13, although a couple hardly qualify given their length. Musically, the guitar work by Larry Farkas and Doug Theime is lethal. Glenn Mancaruso absolutely destroys the drums and Roger Martin shreds on bass. Add in Martinez’s raspy, near-indecipherable shouts and growls and you have a perfect mix of raw, gritty thrash. Once Dead, the band’s 1990 follow up, may have been a better record in my opinion, but Human Sacrifice was the ground-breaking, ear-splitting record that landed like a bomb on the CCM industry in 1988. It was indeed a moment of shock and awe, and Human Sacrifice is definitely a genre classic.

 

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4. One Bad Pig: Smash

obp-smash
(Pure Metal, 1989)

Well, as a guy who listened to a lot of heavy metal in the ’80s, this record blew my mind. And let’s face it: a steady diet of metal gets boring. But boring Smash was not, and One Bad Pig was not only fun but also rocked really hard. And the way the punk band pieced together highly entertaining songs was brilliant.

I mean, Isaiah 6 was unforgettable, thanks to a great thrashing groove and Cary “Kosher” Womack’s screaming. The record kicks off with Godarchy which set the table nicely for what followed. And the grooves are down right infectious. The guitar riff on People Cry Out is great. At times, the album rips along at a blistering pace. Take A Flying Leap has always been a personal favorite, and I’m Not Getting Any Older is right up there too. But Smash the Guitar and the whacky Looney Tune, which pokes fun at the band’s “stupid” name, are also must listens.

What amazes me all these years later is just how great this record is from start to finish. There really isn’t a bad track on Smash, which was high on screams and always entertained. It certainly set the blueprint for Swine Flew, which didn’t disappoint “Pig” fans either. Some of One Bad Pig’s novelty had worn off by the time I Scream Sunday came out, but the band had one heck of a run – and were absolutely brilliant in concert. Smash could very well be the best Christian punk record ever recorded. It’s certainly lost none of the entertainment value it had when I first bought it in 1989.

 

18. The Crucified: The Crucified

(Narrowpath, 1989)
(Narrowpath, 1989)

It’s hard to describe how much this record blew my mind. The Crucified’s debut album was hardcore punk that was high on both quality and quantity. At 14 tracks, the record had plenty of fodder for those looking to get into the mosh pit. And that’s exactly how the album began, with an ode called The Pit. It’s one of many songs that bashes about, then suddenly breaks off into relentless thrash.

Just like The Pillars of Humanity, it’s hard to nail down a favorite song on the band’s debut since the album delivers track after track. Rise is about as good as it gets, and Your Image is equally awesome. But the record is completed by such tracks as One Demon to Another, A Guy in a Suit and the Pope, and Back to The Cross. And you have to love how The Insult Circus and Thread flow seamlessly together, before the sensational Crucial Moment closes the record. 

Like I said, it’s hard to pick a favorite track. It’s such a great record. The drumming (thanks Jim Chaffin!) is fantastic, the guitar solos are blistering (Greg Minier is one talented dude!), the vocals are great (Mark Saloman’s the man!), and the bass playing is outstanding (Jeff Bellow’s the best!). The lyrics are great, too. It was the total package, and The Crucified’s debut remains an absolute classic.

TRACKS:

1. The Pit
2. Diehard
3. Your Image
4.Getting a Grip on Things
5. Hellcorn
6. Rise
7. One Demon to Another
8. Unity
9. A Guy in a Suit and the Pope
10. Back to the Cross
11. Confidence
12. The Insult Circus
13. Thread
14. Crucial Moment

LISTEN HERE:

http://www.last.fm/music/The+Crucified/The+Crucified

23. Believer: Extraction from Mortality

(R.E.X., 1989)
(R.E.X., 1989)

Things were just starting to heat up on the Christian thrash metal scene when Believer came blasting in with an absolutely smoking debut. The band’s Extraction from Mortality came one year after Vengeance’s Human Sacrifice, the same year as Deliverance’s self-titled debut and one year before Tourniquet’s Stop The Bleeding. At the turn of the decade, Christian thrash metal boasted a healthy stable of bands that included Living Sacrifice, Mortification and Sacrament, to mention a few.

But in someways, Extraction from Mortality was ahead of its time. The music was certainly more technical than what Vengeance (soon to be known as Vengeance Rising) and Deliverance were doing. Heck, this record even had violin, which was featured on the title track. The symphonic sounds contrasted perfectly when the song kicked down with Believer’s unmistakable crunching guitar and sped-up thrash beats. The record began with a bizarre intro on Unite that featured a chaotic piano sequence and church organ, which gave way to thick, heavy guitar. I’ve always liked how the following song, Vile Hypocrisy, kicks off with a double-kick drum beat and meaty bass line. There really isn’t a bad song on Extraction From Mortality. Blemished Sacrifices just might be my favorite, but then again Not Even One is just as good. It’s a toss up.

The record closes with Stress, in which the band had one last trick up its sleeve. It’s an Anthrax-sounding almost rap-like track with drum scratches that is equally parts thrash reggae and One Bad Pig inspired punk. It’s real fun. Believer’s sophomore release Sanity Obscure was equally as interesting and included a cover of U2’s Like A Song and more superb orchestration. Both records are classics as far as early Christian thrash goes and Believer remain one of my favorite bands in the genre.

TRACKS:

1. Unite
2. Vile Hypocrisy
3. D. O. S. (Desolation Of Sodom)
4. Tormented
5. Shadow Of Death
6. Blemished Sacrifices
7. Not Even One
8. Extraction From Mortality
9. Stress

LISTEN HERE:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Extraction+From+Mortality/3714625

41. Tourniquet: Psycho Surgery

(Intense, 1991)
(Intense, 1991)

A sonic blast of goodness, Tourniquet’s Psycho Surgery remains one of the greatest Christian thrash records ever released. It’s as enjoyable today as it was when I bought the CD in 1991. Of course, after Stop the Bleeding, the band’s first album, I just had to have the follow-up. And I was blown away.

Psycho Surgery is a potent mix of brilliant lyrics and thrash metal. There isn’t a bad track on the record, which sounds the best played at full volume – especially Viento Borrascoso, which features some devastating drum work by the Ted Kirkpatrick. A Dog’s Breakfast and Broken Chromosomes are also must-hear songs.

It’s not surprising that Tourniquet would gone on to release a healthy discography of eight studio records. Some of the latter records I’ve listened to from time to time, but none have the brillance of the first two. Tourniquet was truly at the top of its game early, and are one of the greatest Christian hard music bands of all time.

Track list: 1. Psycho Surgery; 2. A Dog’s Breakfast; 3. Viento Borrascoso (Devastating Wind); 4. Vitals Fading; 5. Spineless; 6. Dysfunctional Domicile; 7. Broken Chromosomes; 8. Stereotaxic Atrocities; 9. Officium Defunctorum

Listen Here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Psycho+Surgery/3609465

45. The Crucified: The Pillars of Humanity

(Ocean Records, 1991)
(Ocean Records, 1991)

After an absolutely sensational self-titled debut, The Crucified followed it up with another great record. Unfortunately, it would also be the band’s last due to personal differences or something like that. The Pillars of Humanity was another furious offering of punk-inspired thrash, bustling with all the energy and aggression fans had come to know and love. And there was more superb drumming from Jim Chaffin, who continued to beat his kit into submission.

One thing you notice about the record is its depth and maturity. Sure, it sounds like The Crucified. But the formula is mixed up just enough to keep it interesting. Take Path to Sorrow for instance, which begins with spoken vocals before breaking away into hardcore thrash, with a mix of yelled lead and shouted background vocals. Oh, and the guitar solo is awesome. When the band does sound like it did on the debut it’s amazing, no more so than on Focus. But when you start naming favorite tracks it gets to be like splitting hairs. Mindbender is great, so is Blackstone/So Called Living, 1991, The Strength and The Wrong One… well the list could go on.

If there is a flaw with the record it’s that Mark Salomon’s vocals get buried in the mix at times, but it’s only a minor flub at that. Pillars of Humanity is a great album and must have for any punk/hardcore/thrash fan.

TRACK LISTING:
1. Intro/Hateworld
2. It’s All About Fear
3. The Wrong One
4. Mindbender
5. Path to Sorrow
6. Fellowship of Thieves
7. Focus
8. The Strength
9. Blackstone/So-Called Living, 1991
10. The Pillars of Humanity
LISTEN HERE:

57. The Chariot: Long Live

(Good Fight Music, 2010)
(Good Fight Music, 2010)

My first brush with The Chariot was in the form of the song Daggers from their album Wars And Rumors of Wars while doing a bit of YouTubing. It was promptly saved to a playlist and after repeated listens I was hooked.  Heck, the entire record was good, a lethal injection of terrifying hard, heavy and loud hardcore (or mathcore, as some call it). It was strangely captivating and I loved it.

The band’s follow-up release Long Live picked up where Wars left off, and even upped the ante on The Chariot’s ply and trade. This time around, the band recorded the album live in the studio, something artists do every now and then. (The Cowboy Junkies used a single mic to record their awesome 1988 record The Trinity Session). While The Chariot sounds great on tape, the band has made a name for itself playing live, and if you haven’t seen them you must! (At the very least, check out some YouTube footage of their epic Cornerstone concerts). Long Live hits the mark in more ways than one, capturing the band at its best: playing live and unleashing the musical mayhem fans know and love.

And at times, well in actuality a lot of time, Long Live sounds like a mess of noise. But it’s an enjoyable mess, as songs bash and bang along, sometimes at hectic speeds, other times plodding. The Chariot is absolutely clinical at igniting different moods within the listener, from violent outbursts to soft refrains. Every other song title on Long Live bears the name of a fan as part of a contest. The album begins with Evan Perks, an absolute barn burner in which singer Josh Scrogin screams bloody murder. It’s hardcore heaven. The next two tracks are equally good, but four songs in The City somehow manages to outdo the others. It’s superbly constructed and reaches a crescendo before coming to a screeching halt. Andy Sundwall typifies The Chariot experience, as it shreds along, than slows to a crawl and smashes its way to the end as guitars wail and Scrogin screams. On David De La Hoz, a portion of the lyrics are recited by Dan Smith of the band Listener. It’s well executed, and ends with lightly played piano. Brilliant. Of course, The Heavens kicks things right back up to a frenzy, a song with loads of swagger, which is also the feeling you get on Robert Rios. Oh so good. The King, with its robust marching band-like rhythm section, is a fitting closer.

As far as hardcore records go, it doesn’t get much better than Long Live, a simply stellar collection of 10 tracks and not a dog in the bunch.

TRACK LISTING:

  1. Evan Perks (1:38)
  2. The Audience (2:17)
  3. Calvin Makenzie (2:16)
  4. The City (3:59)
  5. Andy Sundwall (2:55)
  6. The Earth (2:48)
  7. David De La Hoz (4:17)
  8. The Heavens (2:14)
  9. Robert Rios (2:33)
  10. The King (5:50)