Music Reviews

Ditch Croaker, Ape History

You would have to listen to quite a few independent cassette releases to find one better than this: the production is good, the musicians are competent, and the songs are well-crafted. Ape History, a collection of songs from 1993-1994, treads familiar post-punk ground, sometimes evoking Sonic Youth and generally sounding a lot like a college band people would actually pay to hear. The songs are short and sweet, with intelligent, if unexceptional, lyrics and upbeat, though sometimes discordant, music.

If Ditch Croaker comes to your town, go see them. And write Fine Corinthian to find out about this, and other, recordings. You may not experience an epiphany, but I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Fine Corinthian
P.O. Box 1145
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(available on vinyl for $3 ea ppd)

- RS

Streetcar, Chapternext

This four-piece from Illinois has been together for only a year, but they show promise in the eleven songs here. Streetcar cites bands like Sugar, Velocity Girl, the Posies, and Stereolab as influences and, indeed, in the tape's best moments a powerful pop vision shines through. Unfortunately, it's a struggle to hear the songs trying to escape: Chapternext suffers from the primitive recording and poor production common in independent cassette releases. Fortunately, there are printed lyrics, so you won't miss nice turns of phrase like: "There's writing on the wall but I won't spell it out for you I wrote a warning just to see what it would do..."

A Living Indefinitely records CD compilation (We're All Living Indefinitely) is planned for release early this year, and Streetcar plans to contribute a track. If the CD is well-produced, it should be worth checking out. I hope we hear more from Streetcar.

Living Indefinitely Records
4516 Stanley
Downers Grove, IL 60515

- RS

Sudden Death, Brain Damage

This four song demo contains songs from Sudden Death's forthcoming release, Brain Dead. The production values are marginal and the music is enervating--a budget Dr. Demento goes rap--but Sudden Death does show signs of life. "The Psychic Enemies Network," for example, is a wonderful send-up of late night Babylon: "you don't have to be psychic to read your mind/.../you've got a little extra money and a lot of spare time/.../you're out of luck/your life sucks/thanks for calling/have a nice day."

This isn't the kind of cassette you listen to every day; it's the kind of cassette you take out to amuse your friends at parties--preferably after a few drinks. If you're planning on having one of those parties, though, you might want to give Sudden Death a listen.

Sudden Death
115 N. Stowe Pl.
Trumbull, CT 06611

- RS

Vigilantes of Love, Blister Soul

If Bill Mallonee were Catholic, I expect he'd show up for confession with a guitar in hand. Luckily for us, Mallonee shows up for confession at the studio and on stage, wielding his "blunt instrument" and backed by a cast of talented musicians. "Tell me your deep dark secret and I will tell you mine/Is that your deep dark secret?/Oh well, never mind," he sings here, but he doesn't really mean it.

Musically, Blister Soul is a nice compromise between the driving rock of last year's Welcome to Struggleville [see SONJ #1.01] and earlier, mostly acoustic albums, like Killing Floor. Lyrically, this is the same Bill Mallonee VOL's fans have come to love: a man able to look the evil in the world, and in himself, squarely in the eye without blinking--and walk away somehow still joyful. It's not an attitude that has earned him legions of fans, but it has earned him the profound respect of a few. As he sings here:

You gonna come around here and say those sort of things,
you gotta take a few on the chin.
You talk about sin and redemption,
well, you better wear your thickest skin.
Few songwriters can match the combination of musicianship and poetry displayed on this album--Bruce Cockburn and the late Mark Heard are the two that come most quickly to mind. Like Cockburn, Mallonee knows how to employ other musicians quite effectively in the service of his songs; like Heard, he is able to address political issues at the personal level, never falling into the didactic sloganeering that sometimes mars Cockburn's work. As on VOL's earlier Driving the Nails, Bob Dylan's influence also seems apparent. "Parting Shot," in particular, has the trademark Dylan sound--right down to the harmonica--and phrasing ("and the world like a tempest in your ears doth roar") of "Visions of Johanna" or "Boots of Spanish Leather."

Not a single song on Blister Soul disappoints. VOL's fans should rush to buy this album, especially for the re-working of "Real Down Town" (with a clever reference to VOL's previous label); others will find this as good a place to start as any--a nice precis of the sounds and subjects they'll find on any VOL release.

- RS

James Boggia, Excitation Transfer Theory

In a perfect world, the first cut on this demo tape would already be at the top of the charts. The last demo that excited me this much was from The Gravel Pit...and that was in 1988! 30 seconds into the tape I was glued to the speaker, soaking up the bright, melodic music--complete with strings (or a reasonable facsimile thereof)--and chuckling over an unique application of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

Granted, not every song on the tape is as well-produced as this first one, but there isn't a truly bad cut on the tape. More importantly, Boggia's songwriting remains solid as he ranges over touching narratives, clever pop, and even a screwball version of "Maggie's Farm" with lyrics about Burt Reynolds ("I made a bunch of movies back in the 70's/I discovered that comic genius Dom Deluise"). Well-crafted pop is out of fashion these days, but Boggia proves that you can still do something new within the constraints of the traditional pop song structure. There are plenty of places where I'm reminded of other artists--The Beatles, XTC, Terry Taylor...or even James Taylor--but the music is by means slavishly derivative.

One song in particular, though, is a dead ringer for an acoustic Elvis Costello, circa This Year's Model. It's a love song: the tale of a man who wants desperately for his lover to give him "what he deserves"--to leave. Sure to bring a wry smile to your face, this song--and this tape--is proof that they still do "make 'em like that."

FredaPhone: +1 610 444 3696

ORDERING INFO: Send $4 for a cassette, $10 for a DAT, or send a blank cassette or DAT at least 30 minutes long with SASE to:

The Freda Kelly
P.O. Box 712
Paoli, PA 19301-712
Make checks payable to James Boggia. Request "Excitation Transfer Theory'" or "ETT." Also available, but only by sending in a tape, is a four-song sampler: Siskel and Ebert.

- RS

Haze, Tom Dooley/God (Wish You Were Here)/Free

Does it seem that every "alternative" band out there is recycling the same handful of songs? It sure seems that way to me, and Haze is a welcome relief.

If these songs sounds like any one group, it's the recent work from The Golden Palominos; but there's an appealing roughness that sets them apart from more conventional dance music. Haze has a rich voice that, given some appropriate treatment by producer Ross Robinson, blends nicely with John Butler's funky, raw guitar; she doesn't say much, but the sound of her voice is interesting enough. Not only can you dance to these songs, they hold up to repeated listening.

Look for a single this July on Mutiny Records.

Hotline: +1 310 967 4637

- RS

The following reviews appeared in or were written originally for TLeM, which offers artist interviews, album reviews, upcoming release lists, news, and more.

Strong Hand of Love

Tribute albums are a tricky thing. When they succeed, as in Hal Wilner's Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus or John Zorn's The Big Gundown, they can say new things with their material and stand on their own, appealing to fans and newcomers alike. When they fail--I Predict a Clone comes to mind as a recent, if not egregious, example--they are full of pale imitations or arrangements so different from the originals that they are "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

So it is no easy task that the creators of Strong Hand of Love, a tribute to the songwriting genius of the late Mark Heard, have set for themselves. That the task is a difficult one even by the standards of the genre is a tribute to the quality of Heard's work; that it in large measure succeeds is a tribute to the talents of the producers and performers. Strong Hand of Love eschews the single band approach favored by Wilner and Zorn in favor of tracks contributed by a variety of the most talented performers in Christian music. Some of the tracks, like Phil Keaggy and Sunday's Child's "I Always Do," appeared originally on other albums, while some, like Bruce Cockburn's "Strong Hand of Love," make their debut here. The tone and quality of the album, however, is remarkably even: the listener new to Heard's material will come away with a good sense of Heard's style, rather than those of the performers. In one sense this is a missed opportunity for the performers to say something new with the songs, but the presence of artists like DC Talk's Kevin Smith (who sounds for all the world like Daniel Lanois here), The Call's Michael Been, The Vigilantes of Love, and Chagall Guevara means few dull moments.

The tone of the album is, perhaps, too even. Musically, most of the songs represent Heard's mellower side; lyrically, the selections tend toward the direct and easily-understood--some of Heard's most incisive lyrics are missing. The absence of songs from Mosaics and Victims of the Age, for example, is unfortunate. So many performers wanted to contribute to this project, however, that a second tribute album is forthcoming, so it's possible that such a judgement is premature. It's doubtful any one album could do Heard justice in any case, and it is to be hoped that this tribute will mean a belated surge of interest in Heard's work. All things considered, Strong Hand of Love is worth a look for Heard fans, old and new.

- RS

Passafist, Passafist

Under the auspices of Dave Perkins and Lynn Nichols of Chagall Guevara, "Reno and Waco Caruso" debut with the eponymous Passafist. In fact, although this is ostensibly industrial music--with its relentless beat and harsh vocals--it sounds in places (especially "appliance alliance") like nothing more than a beefed-up Chagall Geuvara sung through a lousy microphone. If a cross between Chagall Guevara and Skinny Puppy appeals to you, though, you'll definitely be interested in Passafist.

Of course, it's hard to say just what "industrial" music is supposed to sound like anyway: since the term was coined it has been applied to bands with as diverse musical styles as Einstuerzende Neubauten, Test Dept., and Throbbing Gristle. To the extent that what these bands shared was a certain sensibility and a novel approach to music, I'm not sure the label is fairly applied to Passafist; but as it has come to mean a band with a relentless beat and harsh vocals, maybe it is at least descriptive.

The most successful songs on the album include a healthy dose of Perkins' and Nichols' trademark guitar sounds. Where they aim for a conventional industrial sound, however, the results are plodding and repetitious. There is also a bit of clever sampling, including Slim Pickens' rousing speech from Dr. Strangelove.

Passafist isn't about to win any awards for breaking new ground, unless it's as the first industrial band to cover The Rolling Stones ("Street Fighting Man"). Like several of the songs on the recent Steve Taylor tribute (I Predict a Clone), the result is not so much bad as pointless. Indeed, although the music throughout the album is competent and sometimes even catchy, it left me wondering why the Caruso brothers chose to work within the industrial genre at all. Perhaps if their lyrics were more intelligble (or were included with the album) it would make more sense.

While it's not among the best of its genre, industrial music fans will want to give this a listen. If you're new to industrial music, though, you might want to spend your money on something else and wait, as I will, to see what the Caruso brothers do next.

- RS

Jimmy Abegg, Secrets

"This ain't no perfect world!" Jimmy A. exclaims in the chorus of the first song on Secrets. Indeed, in a perfect world, Abegg would be recording more interesting music. Too much of this album is full of the sort of pedestrian pop suitable for the local supermarket or Adult Contemporary radio: sure, it's not going to actually hurt anyone--and the lyrics are uplifting if not especially insightful--but it doesn't make my pulse quicken, either. To borrow a phrase from Douglas Adams: Mostly Harmless.

Still, it is only MOSTLY harmless. The opening track explores the difficulty of loving one another in a fallen world--not a subject that hasn't been explored by greats like Mark Heard and Bruce Cockburn, but while Abegg doesn't add much of interest here his words ring true and the music is entertaining. The only drawback is that the sprechstimme he employs in the verses sounds so much like Lou Reed that it comes off sounding like a slavish imitation. A few other tracks are both interesting and original, though, and given the professionalism of the performance and production, worth listening to. Listeners unfamiliar with Abegg's previous work will get more for their money in the CD re-release of Vector's first two albums (Mannequin Virtue and Please Stand By, available from gaga records) or the limited edition cassette release Vector is currently flogging; those already a fan of Abegg's understated-but-tasty guitar work and his Entertaining Angels, though, will be neither surprised nor disappointed by this album.

- RS

Whitecross, Unveiled

Let's get this right out in the open: Whitecross' Unveiled, like so much CCM product, is an album full of derivative and unexceptional tunes. There is nothing here that hasn't been done at least as well elsewhere.

Having said that, Unveiled does have its modest charms. While most songs are reminiscent--sometimes uncannily so--of earlier tunes from AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, or the like, this is perhaps not an altogether bad thing. Vocalist Scott Wenzel sounds as though he was born to belt out tunes like these, and if what you want is an album full of solid rock songs you can crank up to "11," Whitecross delivers. The obvious difference is that Unveiled's lyrics are generally more uplifting than those of their secular counterparts, praising God's mercy and love instead of some groupie's more carnal attractions. Again, there are no deep insights here, nor are the lyrics especially clever, but Whitecross does speak the truth of the Gospel in their straightforward way.

No one will mistake the members of Whitecross for musical geniuses, but this album does deserve a measure of airplay and appreciation. Guitarist Barry Graul (formerly of HALO) may be no Eddie Van Halen, but he's smart enough to spare us the gratuitous solos other guitarists of his caliber might inflict upon their audiences; likewise, bassist Tracy Ferrie and drummer Michael Feighan lay down a solid foundation. Unveiled may be uninspired, but it does display a level of workmanship that is at least above average for the CCM industry.

- RS

Resurrection Band, Lament

After more than twenty years of making great Christian rock, the folks in Resurrection Band (aka Rez) could have rested on their laurels. Instead, with each new album they've stuck out their necks a little and explored new sounds. In the past, the results have been mixed; but although Rez continues to break new ground, this is a solid album.

Lament continues in Rez's hard-hitting tradition: "Song and Dance," for example, is a cathartic rocker along the lines of "Lightshine" and other great Rez numbers. In general, the album is a step back toward their musical roots: "Summer Throw," has a 70's flavor reminiscent of The Who or Kansas; "Richest One" could have come straight from Dylan or Clapton, though the choir blends more smoothly with the lead vocal than on any Dylan album; "Across These Fields" recalls their earlier "Under the Gun." The blues and folk influences that colored earlier albums are evident here, too. Indeed, it's impressive that Rez blends together so many musical elements to tell a coherent story--the album is almost a rock opera, albeit one with a meandering libretto.

But though they may be revisiting their roots, the sound is thoroughly modern. "Dark Carnival," a mini rock opera in itself, uses contrasting tonal colors, dynamics, and extramusical sounds to particularly good effect. Rez's years of experience and the production work of King's X's Ty Tabor complement one another nicely: Tabor's trademark fat guitar sound certainly shaped this album, but Rez never gets lost in the mix.

The lyrics aren't the best in their catalog, it's true. Mostly they're clear and direct--serviceable, if sparse. Rez stays away from politics, for which this reviewer is grateful; and, while they revisit familiar territory--sin, need, love, redemption, and praise--they're sincere where others might be cliched.

There's a few gems, though, like the following:

Can't remember what dreams were made of
Can't believe there is anything leftbr> What I thought was the garden of Eden becamebr> The valley of the shadow of death

My complaints? Rez hasn't had nearly enough snoring on their albums lately; worse, the advent of the compact disc means no more great album covers. But that's the price you pay for progress...

- RS

Mad at the World, The Dreamland Cafe

The Official Rock Musician's Guide (I've never seen it, but surely it exists!) says that every band must, at some point in their career, record a song about trying to get The Message across. Mad at the World's "On the Stage," the first cut on this album, is their entry in this venerable genre. Though it falls short of Mark Heard's "In the Gaze of the Spotlight's Eye," the message is at least less pretentious than Rush's "Limelight." It's fun--upbeat and simple.

That pretty much sums up the lyrical content of the album, except that some of the later songs are as sophomoric as they are simple. The problems range from flawed similes ("when their love was shiny as their wedding rings") to mixed metaphors ("broken hearted castaways who've gone astray") to hackneyed ("the hole down deep in your soul") and awkward phrases ("questions in my head of understanding").

"On the Stage" is typical of the music, too. From the moment I heard this cut I started searching for Terry Taylor's name in the credits; it's not there, of course, but the vibe was so Sgt. Pepper it seemed someone must have been evangelizing The Beatles to these fellows. If the cover art isn't enough of a giveaway, the introduction--practically lifted from "A Day in the Life"--cinches it. When not evocative of The Beatles (or groups like Daniel Amos, The Swirling Eddies, and Jacob's Trouble), The Dreamland Cafe ventures into the neighborhood of 70's pop or the lighter side of art rock groups like Queen or King Crimson.

For whatever reason, this album is full of bright, bouncy pop--a radical, but not unwelcome, change for Mad at the World. It probably won't change your life, but it sounds good. That's still worth something, isn't it? Sure, you open the wrapper expecting psychedlia, but after the initial shock the bubblegum tastes pretty good.

- RS

Vector, Temptation

In the period after Simple Experience, Vector fans had a wonderful cassette-only demo release to keep hope alive. The songs had upbeat, clever hooks--a return from the recent anemic fare to the sort of bright pop that characterizes Vector at their best. Your Humble Reviewer was convinced that a stroke of Vector brilliance was lurking just over the horizon...

And now, after more waiting, we have Temptation. Why the title? Perhaps Vector met the Devil at the crossroads and turned him down. That would explain why Temptation failed to live up to its potential, if it weren't so obvious from the lyrics that they're dedicated to the one real Source of creativity. Maybe they just had too much time to play with the songs while waiting to record this album and it took the edge off.

As it stands, though, the result is quite listenable. If this were an album from a new band, I would call it "a promising debut." Many of the songs may be unexciting, but they're hardly downright bad. Two stand out: "Mr. Color Wheel" would make a great uptempo single and "She Won't Say Goodbye" is a touching ballad that's moving without being maudlin. The bottom line is that if you enjoyed other albums from Vector and Jimmy A., you'll probably enjoy this one, too. If you're a fan of well-produced pop, you could do worse than this album...just don't expect to tap your toes too often.

- RS

Project X, Project X

I haven't been this impressed with an independent release in a long time. [Note: This was before I heard James Boggia's demo.] Project X is still a work in progress, but if this release is any indication, it's going somewhere.

The seven songs on this album are the kind of complex creations that too few bands are recording today, but they will be familiar to fans of 70's and 80's "progressive" rock. The sound of Project X comparison to many artists, especially Rush (circa Moving Pictures) and Argent's Russ Ballard, but even, here or there, Pink Floyd or The Mothers. At times, too, the band wanders into more conventional metal territory.

This sort of music demands virtuosity and top-notch production and, while the production here is surprisingly good, it's not quite as good as it needs to be. The guitar sounds range from too clean to overprocessed and the vocals, while not bad enough to make me cringe, could have used an electronic helping hand. Likewise, Project X's reach exceeds its grasp in the composition and technique departments at times. The varied sections of the songs are interesting, but they're stitched together, not seamless; the lyrics are often superfluous, and the vocals do nothing to rescue them; too often the lead guitarist gets caught up in aimless and repetitive noodling (there's one lick in particular that must appear in a dozen places on the album).

But if Project X falls short, it's only because it aims high. It is still quite an accomplishment, and I'd recommend it to any metal or rock fan who appreciates music with more than a backbeat and a blues riff.

- RS


There's nothing exciting about the music on this album that wasn't invented a long time ago by Sonic Youth, Minor Threat, James Chance & The Contortions, Husker Du, The Dead Kennedys, or some other great punk/post-punk band. But 1977 was almost twenty years ago and, if the recent success of Green Day is any indication, it's time for a punk revival. So don't be surprised if Blenderhead eventually rockets to the top of the charts. Sure, those of us who are old enough to have caught the tail end of punk the first time around will scoff that, in the words of Solomon, there is nothing new under the sun; that's the perogative of even the modest age this reviewer has reached. The derivative sound aside, this album is full of good songs that ought to satisfy the listener out to hear some noisy music.

Unfortunately, while the absence of anarchic angst is a welcome respite, the lyrics are something of a disappointment. Blenderhead is trying to communicate something, but the meaning often remains a mystery. Sometimes an artless passage makes the message plain:

I took for granted all the blood You spilled and the way it
broke Your heart.
Nobody could lift the weight You did and take away all my
ugliness....I don't deserve Your grace.
At other times, the message is too plain, and so cliched that I wonder if Blenderhead isn't actually a bad parody. "Shake This," in particular, ought to be featured on Beavis & Butt-head:
We are the products of what is sold.
....We've let us become what we own.
....With more attention paid we could have been more than a number.
....It's all about buying and selling...
Mostly, Blenderhead falls prey to the kind of hip lyrics that are oblique without being poetic, like King's X on a particularly bad day. How appropriate it is that the one cover song on the album is The Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime," which is wonderful but not particularly dense with meaning.

I'm certainly looking forward to Blenderhead's next effort. With any luck they will mature into an original band able to communicate with their audience. In the meantime, for anyone looking to break out of the CCM rut and make some noise, this album will serve as well as any.

- RS

one point oh: the re:think collection

one point oh is billed as "a surprising collage of diverse artists," which is a bit of an overstatement, but unquestionably it's an excellent disc that should be near the top of your shopping list this summer. Charlie Peacock has never impressed me as a solo artist, though he's a competent musician, but his reputation as a talented producer is well-deserved. It's as a producer and aspiring entertainment mogul that he shines here, introducing his new re:think label and several new artists.

There are no bad selections on this disc, but even if the other nine were abyssmal I'd buy it just to get Sarah Hart's "Falling to Ashes." Peacock writes that "this artist and this song ... typify beauty and grace," and for once I agree wholeheartedly with him! As important as her achingly beautiful voice, however, are Hart's evocative lyrics. In "Falling to Ashes" she skillfully weaves together childhood innocence

Here the remains of the old willow tree.
I'm envisioning Jesse and Mary and me.
Ring around the rosy girls,
pockets of posies
whirling around, going down, down...
and fallen mortality
Past the cathedral of St. Bernadette,
the soot of a sinner still fresh on my head.
Giggles and whispers that echoed through vespers,
weren't we all the guiltless ones?
Each one so unaware, so naive
without any cause to believe we were
falling to ashes.
with stately music that references "London Bridge" without ever quite quoting from it. Memo to Charlie: drop everything and release a Sarah Hart CD post-haste!

The other nine selections are pretty good, too, though they're mostly in the Peacock vein of slick, vaugely "alternative" pop. That's not so bad--a label should have an identifiable sound--and there are at least three that stand out: the great Aaron Smith weighs in with a Mingus-like, if somewhat corny, spoken word jazz piece; ensemblepossible does interesting things with Bach and a horn section; and Richard Thomas bends fusion guitar licks to pop ends in "To Velma, With Love." Peacock himself puts in a credible performance on "Insult Like the Truth" and Sarah Masen, whose independent release sadly seems to be unavailable for the moment, is represented here by the title track of her new re:think CD, All Fall Down. Also noteworthy is "Wild Patch" from Karen Bradley, whose interesting voice would stand out more if not overshadowed by Hart's tour de force. The remaining tracks, from Joey Richey, Diana Beach, and Brent Milligan, are nice, but not exceptional.

Incidently, the disc is supposed to contain "bonus interactive multimedia and video footage" (and, in case you've been living in a cave and don't have 47 diskettes already, AOL software). Unfortunately, neither my '486 running WIN-OS2 or a borrowed Pentium running Windows 95 would recognize the disc as anything other than an audio CD. Your mileage may vary, and there's rumoured to be some Steve Taylor induced hilarity within, so good luck.

In conclusion, if one point oh is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to from Charlie Peacock and his re:think label.

- RS

Mansfield, Howard, and Kaiser, Into the Night

Christian music stalwarts Darryl Mansfield, Tom Howard, and Glenn Kaiser are back with yet another sweat-drenched blues project. Recorded on a hot July night at Cornerstone by Roger Heiss and the rest of the ever-professional Grrr recordS gang, Into the Night captures what must have been an exciting live jam.

The boys are backed by a group of fine musicians, including the same tight rhythm section that appears on Kaiser's Spontaneous Combustion. Stu Heiss, Resurrection Band's trusty guitarist, also makes the scene. With a group like this on stage, it's amazing that no one ever gets in the way: there's no hotdogging or overplaying here, just subtle licks and tasty solos. "Where Would I Be?", for example, gets a kick from Mansfield's harp that puts this performance a notch above the studio version. Not only is Mansfield's playing a lot of fun, it seems to inspire Kaiser to new heights.

There's nothing, musically speaking, that sets Into the Night apart from the dozens of other fine blues albums released each year. The recording and production are better than average and the performances are thoroughly professional, but this has been done before. At their worst, the lyrics are even cliched, but nothing I've heard recently matches the sincerity of worshipful songs like "It's Only You" and "If I Leave This World Tomorrow." As Howard sings:

There's no cheering of the crowd
There's no bright lights allowed
Just this heart inside of me
And in the darkness you're all I see
Just about anyone will enjoy this album. I liked it even more than the earlier The Blues Night and at least as much the studio albums from Kaiser and Mansfield, so those who are already fans aren't likely to be disappointed. If you've never heard these musicians, this is a great place to start.

- RS

Whitecross, Equilibrium

One definition of an equilibrium is a state of balance, with no tendency to change. On the surface, Whitecross's latest effort fits this description very well: the lineup is the same as on Unveiled, Whitecross' previous project, with Jimmy Lee Sloas returning as producer. The sound is similar, too, with the same mainstream hard rock sound you loved (or hated) on Unveiled.

A more accurate description of the state of Whitecross, though, is an equilibrium growth path. Whitecross reaches for, and usually hits, a higher mark on Equilibrium: the arrangements are tight, but more complex; Scott Wenzel's vocals remain as sharp as a jagged razor, but guitarist Barry Graul takes the mike for "Full Crucifixion"; and, though the album does have a cheesy "canned" sound in places, Sloas's production is crisp and clear and appropriately varied as the band moves, almost literally, from a whisper to a scream.

One constant on any Whitecross album is their unswerving dedication to Jesus Christ and no-holds-barred evangelism. In places, this leads to trite, formulaic lyrics. "Fallen Star", for example, is a typical "you lose, Devil" rant with predictable heavy guitar-crunching. (Will a rock band ever create the equal of C.S.Lewis's Screwtape?) "The Balance" has a fun alliterative beginning, though, and Sloas' contributes some particularly memorable songwriting on "Full Crucifixion", where he likens the effects of the Fall to a river:

twist and curve it wraps the root
of every nerve
and numbs it like a stone
....Beneath this house, the water flows
and hollows out
foundations I have laid
Overall, this is a fine album that ought to appeal to any rock or metal fan. Equilibrium grew on me in a way that Unveiled did not; here's hoping that the next album will be even better.

- RS

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©1994-1997 Robert Szarka
Last Update: 19 Jun 1997