Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Doppelganger

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daniel amos doppelgangerDANIEL AMOS
Doppelganger
Alarma Records
1983

Daniel Amos’ fifth release continues the overall Alarma Chronicles concept, something that I still have no idea what the story itself entails. But, at least the second part itself, Doppelganger, is a rather good entry in the series. Also, it’s a great classic New Wave record in its own right, methinks.

Having a bit of a darker tone than that of the previous release, Doppelganger nonetheless manages to maintain the high quality musicianship and writing, putting out a very detailed and multi-textured album, filled with some of the best writing going as well as showcasing the bent sense of humor the band was famous for. If that wasn’t evident by the album cover–a slightly unsettling monochrome image of a mannequin–then you’re not paying attention.

The album itself kicks off with a brief yet mind-twisting intro “Hollow Man”, played backwards with spoken words and an avant-garde bent, which leads into the first proper cut of the album, “Mall (All Over The World)”, which is an infectious and dark New Wave cut with a funky bass hook that will get into your head like none other, there. “Real Girls”, “Memory Lane”, and “I Didn’t Build It For Me” feature that kind of New Wave style, yes; but like with their previous releases, the band branched off into other styles while keeping things unmistakably their own: “New Car!” has a cool rockabilly style, almost psycho-billy in a way before that became a thing; “Do Big Boys Cry?” isn’t necessarily a ballad, but it comes close; “Youth With A Machine” and “Little Crosses” are guitar-driven with some good hooks, while “The Double” and “Angels Tuck You In” are more janglepop, with the later having a classic Elvis Costello vibe to it. “Distance And Direction” has a Caribbean vibe to it that reminds me of another song from that time, the title of which escapes me greatly; “Autographs For The Sick” is another avant-garde tongue-in-cheek spoken word bit over ambient played music; the final song, “Here I Am”, has a very Beatles-esque somber-brite quality that just burrows down into your brain and will have you whistling it absently long after the record ends on the second part of the “Hollow Man” intro.

So, as I’m coming to understand the further I look into the Daniel Amos discography, you can’t just casually throw on a Daniel Amos record in the background and leave it; Doppelganger as an ablum begs to be listened to, closely, to take in the various textures and layers and lyrical play melded together into a whole. The production is fantastic, and you can tell a lot of time and careful crafting went into the making of this. I’m just now beginning to realize why the band ranks so high on everyone’s list of influential Christian bands. This release comes highly recommended.

Music Review: RESURRECTION BAND – Colours

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Resurrection Band - ColoursRESURRECTION BAND
Colours
Light Records
1980

After getting the left foot of fellowship from Star Song Records, Chicago-based rock n’ roll troubadours Resurrection Band got signed to another gospel label–Light Records, a label that was, at the time, better remembered as the home of Andreae Crouch and the Sweet Comfort Band. It’s not like they had much of a choice in the matter; there were literally no labels in the Christian market that specialized in that new-fangled rock and/or roll music those rebellious kids were all into. They had to make due with getting lucky, and having a record executive experiencing a momentary lapse of reason and sign them. Or something like that.

After getting signed to Light Records, they recorded and released their third album, Colours. Colours goes for more of a straight-forward guitar-driven hard rock sound than from the previous two releases, yet maintains the raw quality to the music and writing that typifies the band’s style. What resulted was a more streamlined record, but certainly not a corporately produced rock record.

The album kicks off nicely with “Autograph”, which features an extended hard rock riff hook before Wendy Kaiser’s vocals kick in. It’s here I should point out that Colours is a solid front-to-back collection of hard rock, with no ballads to speak of. The closest they come to a “ballad” is penultimate cut, “Beggar In The Alleyway”, which is slower, yes, and does feature an acoustic guitar, but is a rock tune, make no mistake. For the majority of the time, you’re bopping your head along to some fast paced hard rock (“N.Y.C.”, “Amazing”, “American Dream”, “Benny & Sue”) and some mid-paced heavy rockers (“Colours”, “Hidden Man”, “City Streets” and album closer “The Struggle”), all featuring some of the tastiest guitar riffs and hooks with solid rhythms going, all with husband and wife duo Glen and Wendy Kaiser’s raspy and passionate vocals adding weight to the music. What really separated Resurrection Band’s brand of “Christian Rock”, though, was the fact that they weren’t afraid to sing about topics that were mainly avoided in the CCM market then or even since: homelessness, teenage pregnancy, depression, and others from a very solid Christian worldview, refusing to be one of those shiny-happy Christian bands that can get played on the radio. That, and their rock n’ roll was legit, something you can sneak into a mix of 70s-era AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and other hard rock staples of the time, and no one would bat an eye.

Overall, Colours is a classic hard rock album that I’m sure sounded amazing on vinyl, but I was quite a bit late in discovering Resurrection Band’s back catalogue. It’s a solid back-to-front collection of premium hard rock that, if you haven’t heard this one yet, you owe yourself to check it out sometime.

Music Review: CHRISTAGEDDON – Metal Unblack

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Christageddon-Metal-UnblackCHRISTAGEDDON
Metal Unblack
InChrist Records
2013

Christageddon is the black metal side project of Kristian, the main guy behind The Synics Awakening, another great underground black/death metal project that needs to be talked about more, in my not-so-humble opinion.

When it comes to genre, it’s pretty self-evident from the get-go what you’re getting just by the title alone. No ambiguity here. Refreshing, really. The album starts off with a brief intro of ambient sirens and marching, with voice over narration, then leads into the face melting thrash-based black metal onslaught of “Defending The Throne Of YHWH”. There’s some great riffs and touches of melodic playing that keep the songs from bleeding together and creating a sonic sludge in total; while “Baptized In Sacred Blood”, “Full Armor Of God” and “Christageddon (Metal UnBlack)” have that full-tilt sandblasting quality to the metal, there are also cuts that have more of a mid-paced heavy quality that works well (“Carry My Cross”, “At The Throne Of Judgment”), with a couple having almost a doomy quality to things (“The Lamb Shall Rise”, “Psalm Of Eternal Hope”), as well as a straight-up instrumental (“Satanic Forces Burned To Ashes”).

There seems to be an edition of Metal UnBlack that includes covers of seven Horde songs after the album cuts. I did not purchase this version, as I was unaware of its existence, and I think that comes with the physical CD copy of the album, and my edition is an MP3 download I purchased off of Bandcamp. Either that or Amazon. One of the two. Probably Bandcamp. Can’t be bothered to double check at the moment. Sorry.

Anyway, overall, Metal UnBlack is a good, solid collection of traditional black metal in the vein of Horde, Ceremonial Sacred and Elgibbor that you should check out some time. The production is good, and the lyrics will make any unblack metal warrior raise their metal horns in salute. And now I want to try and find their covers of the Horde songs.

Music Review: KRIG – Target: Human-Mission: Destroy

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KRIG - Target_ Human-Mission_ DestroyKRIG
Target: Human-Mission: Destroy
Independent
2009

The second full-length release from these Brazilian death metal minstrels (it’s my blog, and I’ll use as much purple prose as I want) finds Krig continuing on with crafting some rather tasty death metal going.

Target: Humanity; Mission: Destroy kicks things off right with the opening cut “Mercenary Pastor”, which is heavy, has a nice groove and is a bit chaotic at points. Krig is definitely not one of those bands that feels the need to be Br00tal for brutality’s sake, and that is evident in the songs “Fatal Brutality”, “Chaos In The Air” and “You Will Be Hated” (not a cover of the Vengeance Rising song, mind), which showcases some good riffs and a nice mid-paced groove. That isn’t to say they’re afraid to bring the full-on death metal goodness and play it safe: “Fast Food” has an interesting riff and breakdown, “My Intestine Is Displayed” is a great gut-churning cut, and the closing track–“Beautiful Mutilation”–ends things with some classic blast beat death metal riffage with a bit of a progressive edge thrown in.

Overall, Target: Humanity; Mission: Destroy is a very good death metal gem from the South American continent. If by now you’re still unaware of the fertile metal community there, you’re missing out. And Krig is (was?) a shining example of that. Recommended.

Music Review: FREAKINGS – Toxic End

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FREAKINGS - Toxic EndFREAKINGS
Toxic End
Independent
2017

Back in the 2000s, there was a bit of a resurgence of the thrash style of metal, with bands like Havok and Municipal Waste and others resurrecting not only the music, but also the aesthetic that came with it. It was dubbed “re-thrash”, and had its share of detractors from the metal nerds (which I could see their point; why listen to something that sounds like Exodus, when you can just listen to Exodus? And so on…). Personally, I reveled in the sudden resurgence of not only new, younger and hungry thrash bands, but also the way it kicked the old guard in the rear end when it came to getting back to their roots since the great Metal Dark Age that was the 1990s. It may have been played by bands who weren’t even alive in the 1980s, but boy were they a much-needed shot of \,,/METAL\,,/ adrenaline at a time when it seemed metalcore was the only thing going.

Which brings us to the band FreaKings. Hailing from Switzerland, this is a band that, for whatever reason, managed to escape my notice until just recently, when i happened upon them mentioned at the Christian Metal Distro page, and was able to purchase the download of their third album Toxic End off of Amazon. And holy bovine, what was I missing all this time.

From the opening track “Hell On Earth”, right through to the ending cut “No More Excuses”, Toxic End is a barrage of unrelenting thrash metal played fast, loose and heavy. There are some good riffs employed, and more than a few rather tasty rhythms and hooks thrown in to make things a lot more interesting than your standard thrash collection. The vocals use the standard throaty, raspy shout with a snarl type, giving the band a strong comparison to that of Municipal Waste, Havok and Toxic Holocaust.

Overall, while it didn’t change my world as much as some of the classic releases in thrash’s golden age, but in the desert of good metal, Toxic End is an oasis of thrash goodness. I’m going to have to see about acquiring their previous two releases now. Recommended.

Music Review: ADVENTUS – Hell Will Fall

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ADVENTUS - Hell Will FallADVENTUS
Hell Will Fall
Independent
2011

There is hardly any information that I can glean for the band Adventus. Hardly. Anything. And I have some mad Google skills, here. They’re not even listed on the definitive Christian rock and metal database, the Firestream Vault. There’s a bit at the Encyclopaedia Metallum, stating they’re from Russia, and…that’s about it, besides the discography bits. And those album titles are in Russian, not English. Which leads me to think, this may not be the same band. Because, somehow I managed at one point to ascertain that the EP we’re reviewing was released in 2011. Also, the logo on the album art doesn’t match the band on Metal-Archives. I can’t even remember how I came into possession of this thing, really. This is kind of a maddening mystery, the more I try and think about it.

So, regardless of my inability to glean any kind of interesting talking points about the background of either the band or this release, I still have the music to talk about. And if you can find this somehow, floating around out there, try and nab it, because this is a four track collection of some of the better THRASH that I have had the pleasure of listening to. The opening track, “Forgive Me” starts things off with some heavy stinking thrash metal with a great riff to get us primed and going. The next track, “Sepultura”, has a tasty dark opening riff, then settles into a great thrash hook, with kind of a death metal break. “Sky Or Hell” has a piano opening things, then goes into a great metal hook, with a very good mosh break within. The closing track, “Hell Will Fall” has some great riffs and leads going for it, giving this EP a rather satisfying end.

Overall, despite where and how I came across this, Hell Will Fall was a pretty good bit of THRASH metal with a bit of Death Metal influences thrown in. The production is decent, with a rawness that works in the music’s favor. It just boggles my mind that I can’t seem to find any information on either the band or this release. Regardless, good find with some rather good thrash contained therein.

Music Review: RESURRECTION BAND – Rainbow’s End

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resurrection band - rainbow's endRESURRECTION BAND
Rainbow’s End
Star Song
1979

Resurrection Band’s second release continued on in the heavy rock n’ roll style that they went with on their first studio release, which may have ended up being both a blessing and a curse simultaneously. For whatever reason, the label that took a chance on them on their first album, decided to drop the band after this release. I can’t really find any official reason why they were dropped; maybe it was a change of personnel at Star Song Records that decided they didn’t want such a radical sounding rock band on the label (wild-eyed speculation, as they would release the third Petra album on that label the same year…though it could be argued that Petra was less a “rock” band at that time, but I digress), maybe they got too many complaints from the normals because of the genuine bluesy hard rock style that evoked comparisons to Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, and Canned Heat. Maybe Star Song wasn’t as satisfied with the quality of the album as the band was. I don’t know. Again, this is wild-eyed speculation on my part. Point is, after releasing Rainbow’s End, the band suddenly found themselves looking for another label.

As for the album itself, Rainbow’s End turned out to be a good, solid follow-up to their debut release. If there was a question of quality, maybe it has something to do with the kind-of thin production on this, but keep in mind Rainbow’s End was recorded on a small Christian label using late seventies technology. But, trust me when I say that the band makes up for that minor shortcoming in some very gritty, very passionate hard rock n’ roll.

Ten tracks are contained overall, with eight of them being some very tasty guitar-driven classic hard rock (“Midnight Son”, “Strongman”, “Afrikaans”, “Skyline”, “Rainbow’s End”, “Sacrifice Of Love”, “The Wolfsong” and “Everytime It Rains”) and two ballads (“Paint A Picture” and “Concert For A Queen”), the music is, without a doubt, a genuine rock album played by musicians that know what they’re doing, injecting an authenticity into a sea of superficial falseness. This is also the beginning of the band injecting politically-motivated lyrics, challenging the Christian listeners to examine our motivations as believers and putting the “love your neighbor” thing into practice. It’s probably what contributed to their sudden loss of a record label.

So, overall, as a follow-up to arguably one of the classic releases in Christian rock, Rainbow’s End really did take it to the next level with both the music and the message, daring to go beyond the standard Happy Christian Fun lyrics and delving into some rather heavy and dark themes. This was re-released on the band’s own Grrr Records in 2007, but I would recommend finding this on vinyl, as I would wager it would sound fantastic in its original format. Gads, I sound all hipster-y now.

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