C O L U M N S
Tales from the Jugular
Top 10 Christian Metal Albums
It is listmania once again folks! This time around I am focusing today's discussion on Christian Metal, known predominantly as "white metal" depending on which metal circuit you ask. Some of these bands never achieved the critial acclaim they deserved, and stayed in the underground playing church halls and gatherings. Others broke away from the pack and garnished some critical acceptance. Nevertheless, all of these heavenly soldiers marched on to victory, delivering important messages through the power of heavy metal.
The biggest Christian metal band known worldwide is Stryper, with their yellow and black attack historically setting the standard for all other Christian headbangers to live by. Stryper never did it for me, as their version of heavy metal never really seemed like metal. Instead my idea of Christian metal is listed below. These are the bands and groups that keep the metal banging, but at the same time deliver a positive message about life.
These are my personal choices for the Top 10 Christian metal albums of all time, but keep in mind there are tons of great positive bands out there that aren't necessarily calling themselves Christian metal.
1. RECON - "Behind Enemy Lines" (1989)
This is the one, the top of the heap. The unstoppable fury and determination, the ultimate fusion of power, melody, and prog. Recon explode out of the gates with riff after riff of intense American heavy metal. Think of bands like Helstar, early Queensryche, Vicious Rumors, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest all thrown together. Recon go behind enemy lines into the heart of the battle, displaying an extraordinary ability to play faster and faster, but stopping to deliver some heartfelt emotion and gutsy melody. The band released one album before disbanding. Recently the group got together to play a few live shows including the Cornerstone Festival which was recorded as a live album. A must have for any metal fan of any religion!
2. SAINT - "Too Late For Living" (1988)
Saint are probably one of the better known Christian acts floating around. The group managed to release three albums in the 80s before calling it quits. Most critics claim that the group's second album, "Time's End", from 1986 is their best work. I prefer the straight forward, hard driving effort "Too Late For Living" instead. This is a real treasure, featuring some Judas Priest inspired power and glory. Vocalist Josh Kramer sounds like Rob Halford, and at this point in Priest's career many could look at this album as a "lost" Priest record.
3. IMPELLITTERI - "Crunch" (2000)
Easily one of the finest "modern" metal works of this millenium. Few can achieve the soaring licks of one Chris Impellitteri, the man who can play just about anything you put in front of him. Anyone questioning that statement can simply take a look at the band's latest work, "Pedal To The Metal", a diverse offering that incorporates nu-metal, hard rock, 80s power, and even some death metal. But a few years before that he brought us the big "Crunch". With Rob Rock at the helm, this record blazed with an intensity that few can resist. Building on huge mammoth grooves the likes of Black Label Society, this version of Impellitteri updates and upgrades the sounds of the 80s into a more sinister machine. With plenty of positive messages and a small dose of preaching, Impellitteri blast forth into a new millenium with the fire and desire to shake the very walls of Christian metal's foundation.
4. BLOODSTONE - "Valley Of The Machines" (1995)
Okay, let me first state that this isn't a Christian metal album, nor is Bloodstone a Christian band. I confirmed that with the guitarist and the vocalist for the group. I've decided to include this in the list simply because Bloodstone deliver positive messages in their music. Whether it is the horrors of drug abuse or the re-telling of biblical tales, Bloodstone create a wonderful, inspirational feeling with their only album, "Valley Of The Machines". Think of "Holy Diver" era Dio meeting White Lion. With stellar songwriting, excellent production, and a fantastic vocalist, Bloodstone created a powerful metal album that was uplifting and remarkable in a day and age where grunge and self pity ruled the airwaves.
5. BARREN CROSS - "Rock For The King" (1986)
I've always thought of this band as the Christian version of Iron Maiden. Fronted by the Dickinson styled Mike Lee, Barren Cross managed to be as heavy as Priest, as melodic as Maiden, and as positive as Stryper. The band never really caught on but did manage to land a record deal with Enigma. They released four records and a live album before disappearing.
6. NEON CROSS - "Neon Cross" (1988)
It took me a long time to track these guys down. The band originally appeared on the compilation "California Metal" in 1987 along with some fine Christian acts such as Barren Cross, Deliverance, and Guardian. Neon Cross were an excellent 80s styled power metal group that wrote some really killer stuff. Guitarist Don Webster crafted some catchy hooks and vocalist David Reeves chimed in with a style similar to David Coverdale. The group managed to release one other album, the lackluster "Torn" in 1995.
7. TITANIC - "Maiden Voyage" (1995)
Man these guys just smoke! "Maiden Voyage" was one heck of a molten metal masterpiece. The guitars on this record remind me of early Savatage, in fact several of the songs here have an early Savatage feel to them. The band run through some quick paced power thrash with influences ranging from Annihilator, Metallica, and Savatage. Vocalist Simon Tyler is reminiscent of John Bush of Anthrax fame. The album was produced by Robert Sweet (Stryper) and was reissued in 2000 with three bonus cuts. The band have also released a new record entitled "Screaming In Silence".
8. ZAXAS - "Zaxas" (1995)
Released on Noise Records, Zaxas' first and only album scorched everything in it's path with a sincere traditional approach at Christian metal with influences ranging from Queensryche to Dio. Vocalist Dale Anthony sounds like Ronnie James Dio at times, with the whole band running through traditional power metal. Most of the lyrics focus on social issues from Bill Clinto to television. Unfortunately this was the only album from the band. They have disbanded and rumor has it that the group are involved in broadway plays now.
9. MASS - "Voices In The Night" (1989)
A quality hard rock act with Christian lyrics, Boston's Mass delivered four powerful rock albums in the 80s, with "Voices In The Night" my favorite simply because the band sound more mature here. At times the band sound like a European rock act similar to the likes of Victory or even Sinner. They were never quite that heavy, but they developed a unique style that was a lot different than the other hard rock acts in the US at that time.
10. HAVEN - "Your Dying Day" (1990)
Fans of Queensryche and Fates Warning take note. Haven is mandatory listening for any headbanger into those bands. "Your Dying Day" is a furious progressive power metal staple, with the vocals of Kevin Ayers bringing to mind John Arch (Fates Warning) or Warrel Dane (Nevermore). At times the band border on powerful speed metal, but for the most part the group stay mid-pace throughout stopping for the progressive arrangement or two. This was on the Rex Records roster which released a ton of Christian metal in the late 80s and early 90s.
[Other Maximum Metal Columns]
RANDOM ACTS OF METAL