Movie Review: X-SINNER – Fire It Up

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x-sinner - fire it upX-SINNER
Fire It Up
Retroactive
2006

Fire it Up, the 4th release from gritty hard rockers X-Sinner, isn’t so much a studio release, as it was a complete re-recording of their second release, Peace Treaty. If you’re wondering what the purpose of that was, it boiled down to the band wanting to re-release their first two releases with a better remastering than what the originals had. Unfortunately, the rights to both the releases were tied up in so much red tape, the band decided to just re-record the songs from Peace Treaty, leaving out the ballad “Hold On” and replacing it with the newly recorded “Fire It Up”, and releasing it with that particular title.

As the lead off of the album, new song “Fire It Up” is what you would come to expect from X-Sinner: A crunchy, mid-paced three-chord hard rocker with a catchy groove hook. The vocals do seem a bit strained here, though not unexpected. I bring this up because, though the rest of the songs are toted as new recordings, the vocals don’t match the new song vocals. It’s like comparing James Earl Jones’ Darth Vader voice from 1977’s Star Wars with his voice from Rogue One. Which leads me to believe the note on the Firestream Music Vault entry that mentions that the vocals themselves were not re-recorded. Which is fine, really. Because the entirety of Fire It Up sound fantastic.

The re-recording of the music itself on the songs have seemed to breathed a bit of new life into them. The production is heavier, the sound thicker than on the original release. And really, the decision to keep the original vocals in (if that were the case) was a good one. Fire It Up is a solid, back-to-front release with some nice, heavy and crunchy hard rock stuffed to the gills. The riffs and hooks on the songs beg to be cranked loudly while driving with the window down, presuming the weather is permissible for that kind of thing. There is the more bluesy “Getch’ Ya”, and the power ballad “Don’t Go” that is pretty good for what it is. But, overall, Fire It Up is a great collection of hard rock goodness that needs to be in your collection.

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Music Review: WHITECROSS – Nineteen Eighty-Seven

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whitecross - nineteen eighty-seven
WHITECROSS
Nineteen Eighty-Seven
Girder Music
2005

Back in 1987, the short-lived Pure Metal label released the debut CD by Whitecross, which was full of raw, crunchy and metallic hard rock, fueled by Rex Carroll’s blistering guitars and Scott Wenzel’s raunchy Ratt-esque vocals…but was hindered by a lack of decent production. Nonetheless, the band’s self-titled debut caused massive waves at a time when good Christian hard rock and metal was still hard to find, and fans of Ratt, Motley Crue and other Sunset Strip bands at the time gobbled this up.

Fast forward to 2005. After nearly twenty years, and following a breakup of the band over five years prior, the original front men for Whitecross: vocalist Scott Wenzel and guitarist Rex Carroll, got back together and re-recorded their debut album. The result is a thicker, meatier production value, with slightly down-tuned guitars and pounding rhythms that were lacking on the original version. All of the songs from the debut were rerecorded, except for “You’re Mine”, which is no big loss whatsoever (those with the original know what I’m talking about). Added is a re-recording of the song “Love On The Line”, which until now was only featured on a little-known four song EP of the same name that only found its format on vinyl record and cassette. The song is mid-tempo groove-laden hard rock, very nice. Also stuck on there is a new composition by Rex Carroll, called “Re: Animate”, which is an instrumental piece that fits in nicely as a book end.

Those who are worried that the rawness and passion of the original would be compromised because of the reworking needn’t fret. Rex’s guitar playing has done nothing but become tighter over the years since 1987, which enhances the songs by beefing ’em up while keeping them nice and tight. True, its down tuned about a quarter of a step, giving the songs a heavier sound than the original, which in my not-so-humble opinion is a very good thing. Some have complained that Scott Wenzel’s vocals sound a bit strained. I disagree, as the down tuning makes his vocals seem a bit more organic and relaxed than on the high-pitched vox on the ’87 version.

So, which version is the superior one? Don’t ask. They’re both excellent; only one has more nostalgic value for most Whitecross fans. Being a dyed-in-the-wool audiophile, I prefer the updated one for the better production and beefier sound. Both are good examples of quality 80s hard rock and metal from an era when Christian music didn’t seem to get the concept of quality…