Saturday, December 31, 2016

Metallica - "Hardwired...To Self-Destruct"

Metallica - Hardwired...To Self-Destruct
2016, Blackened

1. Hardwired
2. Atlas, Rise
3. Now That We're Dead
4. Moth to Flame
5. Dream No More
6. Halo On Fire

1. Confusion
2. ManUNkind
3. Here Comes Revenge
4. Am I Savage?
5. Murder One
6. Spit Out the Bone

1. Lords of Summer
2. Ronnie Rising Medley
3. When a Blind Man Cries
4. Remember Tomorrow
5. Helpless (Live)
6. Hit the Lights (Live)
7. The Four Horsemen (Live)
8. Ride the Lightning (Live)
9. Fade To Black (Live)
10. Jump in the Fire (Live)
11. For Whom the Bell Tolls (Live)
12. Creeping Death (Live)
13. Metal Militia
14. Hardwired (Live)

When this album was nearing release I'd read an article saying the band was "getting back to their roots." Naturally, I rolled my eyes so hard I got a headache. Usually this means nothing. I expected it meant nothing in this case. Then I heard "Hardwired" as was like..."Well... maybe they are going back to their roots." While this is far from Kill 'Em All II they definitely dip deep into that well. "Hardwired" and especially the masterpiece closer "Spit Out the Bone" are fast, heavy, but relatively simple. They definitely remind one of the band's debut album. The rest of the album is a pretty solid continuation of what they accomplished with Death Magnetic - hearkening back to their old thrash roots while still injecting more melody. Some tracks, like "Am I Savage?" and "Murder One" lean toward the Load/Reload days. My only problem is that this album is a bit too long. I think if it was one disc with nine tracks on it, it would be stellar. As it is it's two discs and the second disc definitely has some filler - here I'm thinking of "Confusion," "ManUNkind," and "Murder One." They're songs that aren't bad, but not quite the quality of the first half. Though I really like "Here Comes Revenge," and "Am I Savage?" Oh, and let's not forget "Spit Out the Bone" which I already mentioned. It's probably one of the best songs they've ever written. Not kidding there. Actually, most of the first disc, too, is full of great songs. I think a shorter album would have made it a bit tighter and more unified.

Now I can't complain too much because it's been eight years. I get the sense that the band wanted to reward fans for waiting so long. I mean, the deluxe edition (which I think is the only edition) has three disc. Disc three is several B-side type tracks and what would amount to an entire live album. Also, the packaging is stellar and it's only like ten or eleven dollars. I do hate the cover art though. It looks...weird...not a fan.

Useless Fact: I guess this album contains no riffs from Kirk Hammett as he reportedly lost his phone with all his riff ideas on it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bullet Boys - "Bullet Boys"

Bullet Boys - Bullet Boys
1988, Reprise

1. Hard as a Rock
2. Smooth Up In Ya
3. Owed To Joe
4. Shoot the Preacher Down
5. For the Love of Money
6. Kissin' Kitty
7. Hell On My Heels
8. Crank It Up
9. Badlands
10. F#9

I remember watching the videos for "Smooth Up In Ya" and "For the Love of Money" back in the day on MTV. I really dug those two songs and bought the album from some record and tape club. For whatever reason I didn't really like the other songs on the album. However, as an old man with his wits about him, I really do like the rest of the songs. In fact, I like this album as a whole quite a lot and would probably rank them right up there with Firehouse in terms of Eighties albums I love. Definitely worth a listen if you're into the hair metal.

Useless Fact: "For the Love of Money" is a cover but I do not know the original artist and, yes, I am too lazy to look it up.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sting - "If On a Winter's Night..."

Sting - If On a Winter's Night...
2009, Decca

1. Gabriel's Message
2. Soul Cake
3. There is No Rose of Such Virtue
4. The Snow It Melts the Soonest
5. Christmas at Sea
6. Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming
7. Cold Song
8. The Burning Babe
9. Now Winter Comes Slowly
10. The Hounds of Winter
11. Balulalow
12. Cherry Tree Carol
13. Lullaby For An Anxious Child
14. Hurdy Gurdy Man
15. You Only Cross My Mind in Winter
Bonus Track:
16. Blake's Cradle Song

Last year I watched the lighting of the big tree in New York City and Sting was on playing "Soul Cake" and I absolutely loved it. A lot of that had to do with how different it was from everything else that was being performed. Naturally, I had to look up more about this album which isn't so much a Christmas album as much as it is about the winter season in general. It's also not your standard Sting album. This is folk/acoustic music for sure - very minimalist in a lot of places. Sting doesn't even really use his normal singing voice, but sings in a much lower register. Your mileage may very as to whether you'll like it, but heaven knows I did. It's great to have some seasonal music that is completely different from anything else. I found a few new Christmas favorites from this album like "Soul Cake," "Christmas at Sea," "The Burning Babe," and "Cherry Tree Carol" just to name a few. Also, joy of joys, I got the special edition media book with extra DVD. If you're looking for something different, definitely check this out.

Useless Fact: The version of "Gabriel's Message" on this album is a more morose and acoustic version of Sting's 80's Christmas classic.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Pentatonix - "A Pentatonix Christmas"

Pentatonix - A Pentatonix Christmas
2016, RCA

1. O Come All Ye Faithful
2. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
3. White Christmas
4. I'll Be Home For Christmas
5. Up On The Housetop
6. The Christmas Sing-Along
7. Coventry Carol
8. Hallelujah
9. Coldest Winter
10. Good To Be Bad
11. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

Oh, look! More Christmas Pentatonix! There's not really much more I could say about Pentatonix is there? I pretty much like everything they do. I do wonder why they chose "Hallelujah" and "Coldest Winter" for this album as they are not Christmas songs at all. And "Hallelujah" was even the album's first single. This was also before Leonard Cohen died (God rest his soul). So...yeah... it's Pentatonix - go get it already...though be ready for the inevitable reissue next year with extra tracks.

Useless Fact: "The Christmas Sing-Along" and "Good To Be Bad" are the originals here.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sweet, Michael - "One Sided War"

Sweet, Michael - One Sided War
2016, Rat Pak

1. Bizarre
2. One Sided War
3. Can't Take This Life
4. Radio
5. Golden Age
6. Only You
7. I Am
8. Who Am I?
9. You Make Me Wanna
10. Comfort Zone
11. One Way Up
12. Can't Take This Life (ft. Moriah Formica)

I wasn't originally going to pick this up. I've never really liked any of Michael Sweet's solo stuff so I didn't think One Sided War would be any different. However, it is pretty different, hence its presence here. It's actually more akin to Stryper material than anything maybe even a little heavier than Stryper. I particularly like "Radio" which pokes fun at rock stars who turn over to country for the money. I'm kind of surprised that this wasn't just a Stryper record, I mean, it's that close. So if you liked Fallen, you will totally dig this. I know I did.

Useless Fact: Remember when Michael Sweet said Stryper wasn't a Christian band. That was weird. I don't really have anything for this disc.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Calling All Stations"

Genesis - Calling All Stations
1997, Atlantic

1. Calling All Stations
2. Congo
3. Shipwrecked
4. Alien Afternoon
5. Not About Us
6. If That's What You Need
7. The Dividing Line
8. Uncertain Weather
9. Small Talk
10. There Must Be Some Other Way
11. One Man's Fool

Poor, poor Calling All Stations. Talk about an underrated album! What’s lower than underrated? I mean, a majority of people don’t even know this album exists. The band never mentions it – almost like it never happened. It did happen, however, and it never really had a chance. It came out in ’97. If you’ll remember, alternative rock had ruled the rock scene for years. Pop princesses and boy bands ruled the radio. There was some ska for a minute, there. Point is, while the bands unique blend of progressive rock and tight, catchy pop worked for them in ’91 when We Can’t Dance was released, it definitely wouldn’t in ’97. This is especially true considering, at this point, the band only contained two original members. That’s right...Phil Collins had flown the coop. He’d become the “face of the band,” but dang it, he had Disney movies to score. So not only do we have a style that the radio at the time wouldn’t touch, we’ve also got a form of Genesis that lacks Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins. So it’s safe to say that Calling All Stations was pretty much doomed to fail before it was even released.

I remember my initial reaction to an album without Phil Collins was pretty much, “Yeah… no thanks.” However, I was young and ignorant of the band. Tony Banks himself wrote a fair amount of Genesis’ catalog by himself. He wrote so much that Steve Hackett got mad about it and left. Not to say that Collins didn’t contribute to the writing and sound of the band because he did, but I think that Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks contain enough Genesis DNA to be given a chance. It’s the reason why I eventually chose this album over …And Then There Were Three.

So the main question becomes, “is it any good?”

Yeah, actually. It’s pretty dang good. Ray Wilson was hired to handle vocal duties and while he doesn’t sound like either Peter or Phil, he does a great job on his own. The album busts out of the gate with the title track which is pretty heavy. Probably the heaviest the band ever got. It leads into “Congo” which recalls albums like Invisible Touch and is one of the tracks where Collins’ absence is most felt. “Shipwrecked” is another tune I really dig and I think it actually benefits from not having Phil. I think it would be a lot sappier with him in it. In fact, while there are some love songs there’s nothing lame, over sugary, or just plain lazy. “Alien Afternoon” is a great throwback to the more progressive Genesis as is “Small Talk.”

The big drums make a return here too to give it the illusion that Collins is behind the kit. You’d think that would come off poorly, but it doesn’t. You just go, “Oh, they’re trying to remind me that this is a Genesis album.” The only thing that really hurts this album is the fade-outs. Several songs just sort of… fade away into silence. It’s like they didn’t know how to end them so they just turned down the volume. It’s not a deal breaker or anything but I’m surprised that so many songs would end this way.

That said, Calling All Stations is a really good album. It does suffer a bit from the lack of Collins and the fade outs, but the songs are strong and Ray Wilson is a fantastic vocalist. I honestly think it is worthy of the Genesis name and wish the band would stop forgetting about it. It is absolutely worth your time and attention and I’m glad I ended up choosing it for the project.

Final Score 3.75 out of 4

Useless Fact: Rumor has it Ray Wilson wasn't treated very well by the rest of the band.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

HammerFall - "(r)Evolution"

HammerFall - (r)Evolution
2016, Nuclear Blast

1. Hector's Hymn
2. (r)Evolution
3. Bushido
4. Live Life Loud
5. Ex Inferis
6. We Won't Back Down
7. Winter Is Coming
8. Origins
9. Tainted Metal
10. Evil Incarnate
11. Wildfire
Bonus Track
12. Demonized

Many years ago I used to have HammerFall's Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken and I liked it quite a bit. I got rid of it for reasons which now escape me and were probably foolish and dumb because it was a great album. So recently I got a hankerin' for some of HammerFall's straight-forward, no nonsense, classic heavy metal. I was hoping that FYE might have some and was hoping I could get it while on vacation. As luck would have it, they did have this album so I snatched it up. It's HammerFall - for good or ill. They are one of those bands that know their style and stick with it. I absolutely love it. That being said, I don't think that if you didn't like the band before this album isn't gonna change your mind. It definitely scratches an itch for me, though!

Useless Fact: I think this is the first time the band's mascot, Hector, has his own song.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Amaranthe - "Maximalism"

Amaranthe - Maximalism
2016, Spinefarm

1. Maximize
2. Boomerang
3. That Song
4. 21
5. On the Rocks
6. Limitless
7. Fury
8. Faster
9. Break Down and Cry
10. Supersonic
11. Fireball
12. Endlessly

I tell you the truth, Maximalism is basically like a Monster energy drink in musical form. Life got you down? Need motivation for work or school? Pump this album - you will be motivated. It goes from zero to RAWK! in sixty seconds. Amaranthe is one of those bands, like Paramore has been over the years, whose albums have gotten better and better with each release. Maximalism is no exception. The band has spent years refining and carefully welding metal, techno, and pop into a radio-friendly blend. This is definitely the band at their most pop, especially with songs like "That Song" (the first single), and the Dead or Alive homage song "Boomerang." Yet it's not watered down - it's got enough substance that a few tracks could actually stand to be a bit longer. Which I think I said about the last album either. I can say that this is probably my favorite album from this band so far. I still hate the title though. Why couldn't they just call it "Maximize?" Maximalism is NOT a word! Speaking of which, the lyrics on this album are...not deep. It's mostly about high energy, partying, and just generally being extreme. Not much emotional turmoil here, no sir. Fortunately, the album doesn't need it as they make up for any lack of depth with sheer energy and passion. Elize Ryd is really coming into her own as a powerhouse vocalist. I can't wait to see what the future brings for these guys - hopefully some mainstream success.

Useless Fact: "Fury" is the first song the band has done to focus on the growler of the band. It works really well, actually.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Circle of Dust - "Disengage (Remastered)"

Circle of Dust - Disengaged (Remastered)
2016, FiXT

1. Waste of Time
2. Refractor
3. Yurasuka
4. Babylon
5. Chasm
6. Thulcandra
7. Blindeye
8. Mesmerized
9. Perelandra
10. You Are Fragile
11. Disengage
12. Chasm (Version 2.1.0)
13. Refractor (Version 3.2.1)
14. Easier To Hate (lvl Remix)
15. Hate Opened Wide
16. Alone to Die (lvl Remix)
17. Deadly Love (Uncensored Version)

1. Machines of Our Disgrace
2. Yurasuka (Blue Stahli Remix)
3. Your Noise (1997)
4. Resist (1996)
5. Goodbye (1998)
6. Waste of Time (Acoustic)
7. Yurstillasuka
8. Mesmerized (Acoustic)
9. Yurasuka (Blue Stahli Remix) [Instrumental]
10. Mesmerized (Instrumental)
11. Your Noise (Instrumental)
12. Mesmerized (Babylonian Flashback)
13. Resist (Instrumental)
14. Wast of Time (Acoustic) [Instrumental]

1. Beneath the Skin (Waste of Time Demo)
2. Chasm (Early Demo)
3. Blindeye (Demo)
4. Chasm (Late Demo)
5. Refractor (lvl Void Remix) [Demo 1997]
6. Chasm (Version 2.1.0) [Demo]
7. Dust 29
8. Dust 30
9. Dust 31
10. Dust 32
11. Dust 33
12. Dust 34
13. Dust 35
14. Your Noise (Clean)
15. Deadly Love (Censored)

Disengage is the final album in Klayton's Circle of Dust remasters. Naturally, being a Klayton production, there's a metric butt-ton of bonus material and superb art direction. I didn't have much experience with this album because I never even knew it existed until years after its release. It's much different than the albums that came before it. Most notably, the lyrics are not really Christian as Klayton was distancing himself from the market. It's also more on the techno side and less on the metal side. I think it would be a stretch to call this industrial. There's also not very many cool, strange samples. Disengage is also very ambient. Several tracks are techno-ambient tracks, that while cool, don't really do much for me. Almost the entire latter half of the album is remixes of "Refractor" and "Chasm." Hope you like the choruses to those two songs! Also the line, "YOU ARE FRAGILE!!!" You will hear these a lot is what I'm saying. This is probably my least favorite of the Dust albums but only because of the abundance of remixes and ambient stuff. I really like the first five or six tracks and I like some of the bonus stuff on disc two as well. There's just a lot of other stuff that isn't really for me.

Useless Fact: "Yurasuka" is not Japanese. It means "You're a sucker." Not much of a fact, but I only realized it when I heard the song itself. I thought it was Japanese for the longest time! Also, "Thulcandra" and "Perelandra" are names from C.S. Lewis' "Space Trilogy."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Devin Townsend Project - "Transcendence"

Devin Townsend Project - Transcendence
2016, Inside Out

DISC ONE: Transcendence
1. Truth
2. Stormbending
3. Failure
4. Secret Sciences
5. Higher
6. Stars
7. Transcendence
8. Offer Your Light
9. From the Heart
10. Trans-dermal Celebration

DISC TWO: Holding Patterns
1. Gump
2. Celestial Signals
3. Support the Cause
4. Into the Sun
5. Time Overload
6. Lexus
7. Farther On
8. Victim
9. Monkey Mind
10. Canucklehead
11. Loud

Listening to Transcendence is a bit of a gear shift from previous albums. Not that Devin & co. have changed styles or anything like that. It's more that previous albums have taken a more accessible pop direction. Addicted!, Epicloud, Sky Blue, and Dark Matters all married Devin's "wall of sound" style with pop hooks for albums that were both meaty but easy to digest. Transcendence, however, is much more progressive and ponderous. It's close in style an album like Synchestra or maybe the original Ziltoid. The songs are still very heavy, but overall slower in tempo and lack the standard song structures of the previous discs. As a result, this is going to be a bit of a grower. It's going to take a few listens for things to sink in. One thing I noticed is that the drumming is absolutely off the chain here! Ryan Van Poederooyen is really firing on all cylinders. I think it's one of his best performances on any Devin album I've heard. I'm still not sure how exactly I feel about this record, though. I like it but it hasn't really sunk in yet. I've still got more listens to go, but the good thing is that I do want to listen.

Useless Fact: The album title has to do with Devin "getting over himself" both literally and spiritually. He let the other band members have more input into song writing than normal.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Music Vault Vlog 4: Vacation Edition!

I went on vacation and took the camera along. I got to visit some stores I don't usually get to visit and got some cool stuff. Check it out!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Wind & Wuthering"

Genesis - Wind And Wuthering
1976, Atlantic

1. Eleventh Ear of Mar
2. One For the Vine
3. Your Own Special Way
4. Wot Gorilla?
5. All in a Mouse's Night
6. Blood on the Rooftops
7. Unquiet Slumber for the Sleepers...
8. ...In That Quiet Earth
9. Afterglow

Wind & Wuthering continues in much the same vein as Trick of the Tail in that it’s not so much about the concepts as it is the music. In fact, Wind & Wuthering could have been named Let the Music Do the Talking as the music really takes center stage on this album. There are three instrumentals and many songs have extended musical interludes. Not that that’s really unusual with Genesis, but here it seems like they were really trying to put the focus on the music. The vibe is laid back like the last album with the boys once again seeming to say, “Hey, we’re just here to play some songs.”

I’ve gone on at length in this series about Phil Collins’ drumming. I won’t take any of that back because it’s all true. However, it was this album that I noticed Mike Rutherford’s stunning bass licks – specifically on the opening track, “Eleventh Earl of Mar.” The bass seems to take front and center here and it’s all over the place…in a good way. It makes me want to go back to all the previous albums and pay more attention to what was going on. Also of note is Steven Hackett’s guitar. This is particularly evident on “Blood on the Rooftops” which starts with an absolutely beautiful and evocative classical guitar passage. Apparently, Hackett was frustrated while recording this album because he felt bits he had written were being rejected in favor of Tony Banks’ material. Truth be told I could have used some more Hackett here because acoustic classical guitar is like Reese Cups – you can never have too much.

“Your Own Special Way” serves as the lone single for this album. It shows that the band wasn’t above courting mainstream fame even way before Duke. However, while I’m not wild about this song, there’s enough to appreciate and it’s not quite so sappy that you want to stick a screwdriver in your ear. They wouldn’t get to that for quite a few albums.

One of the highlights is the three-song cycle that concludes the album. “Unquiet Slumber For Sleepers…”, “…In That Quiet Earth,” and “Afterglow” probably started life as one single song as they all fit together quite nicely. The first two sections are completely instrumental with “Afterglow” being sort of a vocal postlude to the main event. It’s not quite as epic as something like “Supper’s Ready” but then again, it doesn’t need to be. It just carries that quiet certainty the rest of the album has.

All in all Wind & Wuthering is a solid continuation of the work the band began on Trick of the Tail. I didn’t quite fall in love with it like Trick but it remained enjoyable throughout.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

Useless Fact: Wuthering Heights served as inspiration for both the album title and the final three tracks of the album.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Steam Powered Giraffe - "Quintessential"

Steam Powered Giraffe - Quintessential
2016, Independent

1. Malfunction
2. I Don't Have a Name For It
3. Blue Portals
4. Overdrive
5. The Ballad of Delilah Morreo
6. Love World of Love
7. Only Human
8. Salgexicon
9. Sleep Evil Sleep
10. Photographic Memories
11. Leopold Expeditus
12. Dream Machine

I got into SPG just before this album was to come out. Naturally, I pre-ordered it along with the other two albums. Quintessential is definitely the most modern, which actually fits with the lore of the band. The idea is that they are robots living for hundreds of years so they have adopted different styles as they go on. It's a neat idea and gives the band some room for variety. "Overdrive" includes some techno-pop...and the band actually raps. Though it works better than you would think. "The Ballad of Delilah Morreo" is probably as close to metal as the band has ever gotten. You've also got "I Don't Have a Name For It" and "Love World of Love" which are more what you'd expect from the band in terms of melodies, harmonies, and such. I like Quintessential but not quite as much as the other albums I've heard. There are a couple tracks that I'm not wild about. "Malfunction" doesn't do much for me, for reasons which I'll elaborate later. "Blue Portals" hasn't really stuck either. However, that's only two tracks out of twelve and it's balanced out by the fantastic "Photographic Memories," "Only Human," "Leopold Expeditus," and "Dream Machine." Still a good album, but so far my least favorite.

Now... about "Malfunction." It's one of those "I'm okay, you're okay"-"your flaws are great"-type songs that reminds me of that one song, "Secrets" by someone whose name escapes me. I don't necessarily mind the sentiment of loving oneself. However, it seems like songs like these always focus on the externals. It's always about one's hair or body type or whatever. I guess my problem is is that we're not okay. Humans are not okay. You are not and neither am I. We are selfish, arrogant, angry, and impatient. We have no grace for others while demanding it for ourselves. We are malfunctioning and that's not okay. So yeah.. the song itself is fine, but this is the type of stuff I think about when I listen to it. Anyway, that's neither here nor there. I'd still totally recommend this album because I love this band.

Useless Fact: Apparently, "Overdrive" was written way back in 2009 and The Jon didn't want anything to do with the song, so it stayed in song limbo until now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Steam Powered Giraffe - "MK III"

Steam Powered Giraffe - MK III
2013, Independent

1. Curtain Raiser
2. Steam Powered Giraffe
3. Mecto Amore
4. Hatch Fever
5. A Way Into Your Heart
6. Ghost Grinder
7. Please Explain
8. She Said Maybe
9. Go Spine Go
10. Roller Skate King
11. I'll Rust With You
12. Wired Wrong
13. Fancy Shoes
14. Steam Powered Giraffe (Reprise)
15. Turn Back the Clock
16. Bleak Horizon

I think MK III is my favorite of the albums I've heard so far. It's got the same brain meltingly awesome harmonies, the same catchy tunes that stay in your head for days. However, it definitely moves away from the vaudeville feel of The 2 Cent Show and into more of a Fifties rockabilly vibe, especially on tracks like "I'll Rust With You" and maybe "Go Spine Go." New robot, Hatchworth, has a really high voice but he's a good fit and a great singer in his own right. I can't tell you how glad I am to have found this band.

Useless Fact: In a lot of their shows, The Spine tends to be the straight man whereas Rabbit and Hatchworth tend to be the crazy ones. This is very apparent in "Go Spine Go."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Steam Powered Giraffe - "The 2 Cent Show"

Steam Powered Giraffe - The 2 Cent Show
2012, Independent

1. Steamboat Shenanigans
2. One-Way Ticket
3. JuJu Magic
4. Me & My Baby
5. Little Birdie
6. Rex Marksley
7. Automatonic Electronic Harmonics
8. Prelude to a Dream
9. Make Believe
10. Honeybee
11. Scary World
12. The Suspender Man
13. That'll Be The Way Home
14. The Ballad of Lily
15. Airheart
16. Circuitry

So a buddy of mine posted "Honeybee" on his Facebook wall. I listened to it and immediately though of Bioshock Infinite, seeing as it was guys dressed like robots singing an acoustic folk sounding tune. The other thing that struck me were the harmonies. The glorious, beautiful, smooth harmonies. It was amazing and wonderful. I had to get more...and so I did. This particular album is sort of a mesh of folk, country, rock, Americana, etc., with a real Louisiana Bayou/Roaring Twenties vaudeville vibe. There's also some seventies pop in there too. So yeah... a LOT of different influences all sort of melded together. It all works extremely well because of the extremely catchy tunes and the harmonies. Oh man... the harmonies. Seriously. Do yourself a favor and check these guys out. I love them so much I bought three of their albums at once.

Useless Fact: The robot with the tophat, The Jon, left after this album to be replaced by Hatchworth.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Various Artists - "Sweet Family Music: A Tribute to Stryper"

Various Artists - Sweet Family Music: A Tribute to Stryper
1996, Flying Tart

1. The Abyss
2. "To Hell With the Devil" - Steve Hindalong
3. "Calling On You" - Morella's Forest
4. "The Way" - Klank
5. "Makes Me Wanna Sing" - Cricket
6. "Always There For You" - Havalina Rail Co.
7. "All For One" - Dinner Mint feat. Jesse Sprinkle
8. "Lonely (Two-Timing Mix)" - Argyle Park
9. "More Than a Man" - Grammatrain
10. "You Know What To Do" - Combat Chuck
11. "First Love" - Ghoti Hook
12. "You Won't Be Lonely" - The Echoing Green
13. "Soldiers Under Command" - The Blamed
14. "Makes Me Wanna Sing" - Alexia
15. "(Waiting For) A Love That's Real" - Joe Christmas
16. "Honestly" - Fluffy feat. Ralph Melish
17. "Free" - Marriage Is Madness

Hmmm...not sure what's going on here. Flying Tart wasn't exactly known as a metalhead's record label. Just the opposite, in fact. It was home to Fluffy (later Duraluxe), the final Circle of Dust album, and a few other very obscure, off-the-beaten-path artists who may or may not have been Christian. So... I'm not sure what the concept of this was because I would be hard pressed to call it a "tribute." A "spoof" perhaps? A big joke? I'm not sure. I would love to hear from someone who worked on this because I am puzzled. The bands are not metal bands or even really bands who were influenced by Stryper. The covers range from great (Argyle Park alone holds that honor) to interesting (Steve Hindalong and Morella's Forest) all the way down to awful (pretty much everything else). I'm not opposed to taking a metal song and giving it a new twist but the "twists" aren't very good. Also, the recording quality on most of these tracks is demo and worse. I can definitely see where an avid fan of Stryper might take this collection as an insult. However, I do find it to be an interesting and amusing piece of Christian music history, so I got a copy for the vault.

Useless Fact: If you want to hear "Lonely" without tracking down this disc, get the official Klayton sanctioned reissue of Argyle Park's Misguided. Which, honestly, you really should have done already. Geez, what's wrong with you?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Music Vault Vlog 3: Steam Powered Edition!

Here's the latest Music Vault Vlog in case you missed it!

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Genesis"

Genesis - Genesis
1983, Atlantic

1. Mama
2. That's All
3. Home By The Sea
4. Second Home By The Sea
5. Illegal Alien
6. Taking It All Too Hard
7. Just A Job To Do
8. Silver Rainbow
9. It's Gonna Get Better

Back when I was listening to samples for this album in preparation for the project, I stumbled up on “That’s All.” It’s a very distinctive song and I immediately recognized it…as something I heard a lot in the doctor’s office with my mom as a kid. It was quite the blast from the past. What I find interesting about this song is that it’s almost a textbook perfect example of a pop song. You’ve got the verses which have this interesting Motown-type groove to them. The chorus is bright, shiny and catchy. Then you’ve got the bridge which is a darker, minor key interlude that ties the rest of the song together in a neat little package. It’s actually quite brilliant.

I mention all this because as an album, Genesis seems to have garnered a bad reputation. Indeed, the self-titled album served as the sign that the band was never going back to their artsy, progressive rock past. It was the nail in the coffin. In many fans’ opinion it was the harbinger of death for a once great band. It’s too bad because there is some really good stuff on here.

First we’ve got “Mama,” the opening track. It’s a pounding, minimalist ditty that reminds me a bit of Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” It’s far from radio fodder, for sure, though I think it was a big hit. I’ve already talked about “That’s All.” Granted, it’s definitely built for radio, and I’m sure at the time fans used it as exhibit A in their charges of “sell-out.” However, in retrospect I think it serves as an example of how good songs can be when written by actual musicians instead of a team of producers. “Home By the Sea” and “Second Home By the Sea” are interesting tracks as well. The first one is a cool, dark song about the titular haunted “Home By the Sea.” “Second Home” is actually an extended instrumental track that would have probably just been a part of the first one in the band’s earlier years.

“Illegal Alien” is… kind of racist – especially considering the faux accent Collins uses while singing the song. It’s not a bad song but there is some cognitive dissonance there. I have the original pressing of this disc, not the remaster. Imagine my surprise when I saw a picture of the band in Mexican make-up and dress. Wow. I am pretty sure that is not on the remaster edition. “Taking It All Too Hard” is awful, however. It’s just one of the boring, lazy sappy ballads that the band puts out on occasionally to pay the bills. You’ll remember this would be a huge problem on We Can’t Dance. I really make sure I listen to all of the tracks when I’m reviewing albums, but not this one. One listen and you can pretty much get everything this song has to offer. It’s awful. Thankfully, it’s just the one track. The rest of the album has some pretty good pop tunes, the best of which is “Just a Job To Do.” It’s a song about a hitman with a great hook and cool lyrics.

I was pleasantly surprised by this album. I was expecting to something more akin to We Can’t Dance – that is, a few decent songs surrounded by crap. What I found, however, was a pretty solid pop album much like Abacab and Invisible Touch. It’s not their best, but there are some real gems on here and I’m glad I took the time to give it a fair shake.

Final Score: 3.5

Useless Fact: According to Wikipedia, “That’s All” was written by Collins as kind of a tribute to The Beatles and Ringo Starr.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Jelly Jam - "Profit"

The Jelly Jam - Profit
2016, Mascot

1. Care
2. Stain on the Sun
3. Water
4. Stop
5. Perfect Lines (Flyin')
6. Mr. Man
7. Memphis
8. Ghost Town
9. Heaven
10. Permanent Hold
11. Fallen
12. Strong Belief

The thing that strikes me the most about Profit is the overwhelming sense of sadness. The sense of mourning a world that has gone mad - about which nothing can be done. This release is a concept album about the Prophet, whose mission is to tell the world the Truth about life and the short-sightedness of greed. Naturally, the people don't listen, the corporate vultures don't listen, not even the spiritual leaders listen. It's a sad, melancholy story and every note is engineered to make you feel the powerlessness the Prophet feels in trying to change minds. Whether it's the crushing grooves of a song like "Care" or "Memphis" or the more contemplative "Ghost Town" or "Heaven" you really get a sense of the mood of this album. Granted, you might not get a sense of it on your first few listens. This one was a grower for me, but I got more and more invested with each listen. I've never been a huge Jelly Jam fan, but this disc is making me want to check out the other two albums I missed.

Useless Fact: "Heaven" and "Permanent Hold" are kind of one song split into to two. Don't know why they wanted to do it that way.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Argyle Park - "Misguided (Remastered)"

Argyle Park - Misguided
1995/2016, Fixt

1. Refuge
2. Headscrew
3. Agony
4. Futile
5. Scarred For Life
6. A Burden's Folly
7. Circle
8. Leave Me Alone
9. Violent
10. Diesel
11. Gutterboy
12. og
13. Misanthrope
14. Skin Shed
15. Doomsayer
16. Uffern

1. Fanny Pack
2. The Communist Masters of Deceit
3. Lonely
4. Fanny Pack vs Doomsayer
5. og's Revenge
6. Leave Me Alone (Klayton Vocal Demo)
7. Violent (Demo)
8. Resurrection of the Ravens (1992 4-track Cassette Demo)
9. The Conversation
10. A Burden's Folly (Instrumental Demo)
11. Diesel (Instrumental Demo)
12. Leave Me Alone (Instrumental Demo)
13. Skin Shed (Instrumental Demo)
14. Doomsayer (Instrumental Demo)
15. Once Great Leaders

1. Refuge (Acapella)
2. Fanny Pack (Instrumental)
3. The Communist Masters of Deceit (Instrumental)
4. Headscrew (Instrumental)
5. Agony (Instrumental)
6. Scarred for Life (Instrumental)
7. Circle (Redux) (Instrumental)
8. Gutterboy (Instrumental)
9. Doomsayer (No Guitar or Bass)
10. Agony (Instrumental - no guitar)
11. Scarred for Life (Instrumental - no guitar)

Wow... that is a lot of bonus material. For those who don't know Argyle Park was a side project of Circle of Dust's Klayton and someone named Buka. The music here is a bit more experimental than anything you'd find on Circle of Dust. It includes a slew of guest musicians and vocalists like Mark Solomon (The Crucified, Stavesacre, White Lighter), Jyro (Mortal), Klank, and Jeff Bellew (The Crucified, Chatterbox). It should probably go without saying that this is awesome and well worth your time - even if you have the original. Or if you have one of the couple of reissues. Naturally, this being the Klayton "final form" reissue it's packed with bonus material and new artwork. Though I've made peace with the fact that we'll never get any liner notes. It's even got a new song, "Fanny Pack" featuring Mark Solomon! If you don't have this in your vault, now's the time, ya'll!

I remember I got this around the time I was trying to get my driver's license. The song "Skin Shed" was actually spread over three tracks on the original CD. Also, "Once Great Leaders," which is on the second disc, was buried at the end of the original after many tracks of silence. Kind of glad they did away with that for this release.

Useless Fact: "The Communist Masters of Deceit" is actually the "Drive, He Said" remix that Klayton did for the the Steve Taylor tribute album. The difference is that "Masters" has all the Steve Taylor bits clipped out and replaced with samples. Also, "Lonely" appeared on a strange Stryper "tribute" album.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Testament - "Practice What You Preach"

Testament - Practice What You Preach
1989, Atlantic

1. Practice What You Preach
2. Perilous Nation
3. Envy Life
4. Time Is Coming
5. Blessed In Contempt
6. Greenhouse Effect
7. Sins of Omission
8. The Ballad
9. Nightmare (Coming Back To You)
10. Confusion Fusion

Was never a huge Testament fan and I'm still not really, but I do like Practice What You Preach. I originally got one in the heyday of the LaLa CD trading website. I'm not sure why I got rid of it the first time. It's high-quality late Eighties thrash. The band has switched out some of their darker lyrical themes for social issues...which is always nice (for me, anyway). Maybe some day I'll look into more Testament. For now, however, I'll stick to Practice. 

Useless Fact: Did you know back in the day some company made Christian breath mints called "Testa-mints." I know that's not a fact about this band but I don't know enough about them to give you something interesting. And their name makes me think of those silly mints.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Audio Adrenaline - "Bloom"

Audio Adrenaline - Bloom
1996, Forefront

1. Secret
2. Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus
3. Good People
4. I'm Not the King
5. Walk on Water
6. See Through
7. Free Ride
8. Man of God
9. Gloryland
10. Jazz Odyssey
11. Bag Lady
12. I Hear Jesus Calling
13. Memoir

Bloom has a reputation for being the "grown-up" Audio Adrenaline record. The one where they move away from trying to be a band for the youth group and try to be a band for rock fans. The songwriting is more mature and aggressive. Some songs, like "See Through" are about as hard as the band ever got. I saw them at Kingdom Bound many moons ago and they put on a good show. Despite my affection for Don't Censor Me, Bloom is clearly the superior album. I don't really know what became of their sound after this because I had gotten out of music for a few years. What I heard through the grapevine (like "Hands and Feet") didn't impress. I guess they've recently put out a new album with DC Talk's Kevin Max on vocals. Don't know how that fared either.

Useless Fact: "I Hear Jesus Calling" is specifically listed as a demo. I guess the band liked it so much they kept that version for the album.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Music Vault Vlog, Episode 2: More CD Pickups!

Want a preview of what's coming up on the site? Check out my vlog!

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Nursery Cryme"

Genesis - Nursery Cryme
1971, Atlantic

1. The Musical Box
2. For Absent Friends
3. The Return of the Giant Hogweed
4. Seven Stones
5. Harold the Barrel
6. Harlequin
7. The Fountain of Salmacis

Way back in the day I worked at a hospital cancer center. I made molds and helped inpatients. I had my own little room and my own little space. I had the benefit of following a complete numbskull so all I had to do was show up and do my job. Everyone thought I was like Superman or something. It was nice. That was one of the best jobs I ever had. What’s the point of all that you ask? Well, hang on and I’ll tell you. You’re awful impatient aren’t you? Just relax. Anyway, the point was next to my little “office” was the dosimetrist’s office. I had no idea what a dosimetrist was or what he did (still don’t), but he was a pretty cool guy. We were both music lovers and we’d occasionally trade music back and forth. One day he gave me Nursery Cryme and I listened to the whole thing in one sitting…because I had a job that allowed me to do that. Did I mention that was my favorite job? That was totally my favorite job.

I would love to say that listening to Nursery Cryme that day was a revelation. That it really moved me on a deep, fundamental level. That I had gained a new appreciation for the craft of music. Ha ha! No.  It wasn’t. I just remember thinking it was really, really weird and not my type of music at all. I was not a progressive rock fan back then. My little mind just could not wrap itself around what was going on. This guy also gave me one of King’s Crimson’s albums and I was similarly unimpressed. You’ll have to forgive my ignorance. I was dumb. My eyes were closed to the wonder.

My experience with Nursery Cryme was much different this time. I’m a bonna-fide progressive rock fan now. I’m used to ten-minute songs and weirdness. I like ten minute songs and weirdness (to an extent). I’ve also been marinating in Genesis all year so I came fully prepared for what I might find. This being a Peter Gabriel era album, I braced myself for that emotional disconnect I had experienced with Foxtrot. I mean, just look at the song titles – “Return of the Giant Hogweed,” “Harold the Barrel,” “The Fountain of Salmacis.” I could just picture Peter Gabriel’s painted visage hovering next to me screaming, “IDEAS! CONCEPTS! PAY ATTENTION YOUNG MAN!”

Young man? Who does he think he’s talking to?

I don’t know whether I’m just used to Genesis by now or what, but I really enjoyed my time with Nursery Cryme. I was more engaged than I was with Foxtrot. The emotional disconnect remained, but it wasn’t as bad. I loved the little guitar parts in “The Musical Box” that compliment Gabriel’s vocals. Eventually the track builds into a maelstrom of progressive bombast. That’s a good thing, by the way, at least for me. Also, “For Absent Friends” (the very first Genesis song to feature Phil Collins on vocals) and “Seven Stones” had a bit more heart that I was expecting. I especially enjoyed the jaunty “Harold the Barrel” – speaking of weirdness – a song about a restaurant owner who cut off his toes and served them for tea. The man then escapes and tries to commit suicide, while the authorities (and his mother) try to stop him in the most inept and hilariously British way possible. The only track I didn’t care for was “Return of the Giant Hogweed” mostly because it didn’t really seem to stand out for me.

One thing I noticed about this album that seems to be unique is the copious use of fuzz distortion on the guitars. I know they’ve done that on other albums but there seems to be a lot more here than on any album I’ve listened to yet. Some parts sound just shy of heavy metal because of it – giving off sort of a Black Sabbath vibe.

According to what I’ve read, Nursery Cryme wasn’t as well received and reviewed as the albums that came after. Even now it seems to occupy the “good, but not great” spot on the spectrum. I’d have to agree with that assessment. I enjoyed it, but there was no danger of it overtaking Selling England or Trick of the Tail as my favorite Genesis platter. I can see myself taking it out for a spin every now and then but it’s not something that’s going to stay in heavy rotation. Mostly I just want to revisit Foxtrot and see if my opinion might change. Unfortunately, I must tread ever onward…

Final Score: 3.5 out of 5

Useless Fact: Apparently, “Harold the Barrel” was replaced in live shows by “Get ‘Em Out By Friday” and wasn’t really played after that.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hindalong, Steve - "The Warbler"

Hindalong, Steve - The Warbler
2016, Galaxy 21

1. Unparalyzed
2. Not Thinkin' Anymore
3. Oblivious
4. Love You Bad
5. Lucky and Blessed
6. That's How It's Gonna Be
7. For a Lifetime
8. O Jimmy A
9. Shellie's Song
10. Cloudburst
11. Into the Dark
12. Outta My Mind
13. The Warbler
14. Antithesis of Blue

The Warbler is Steve Hindalong's second solo album. It was a Kickstarter album, but I didn't kickstart it because I didn't have the funds at the time. However, I was more than happy to purchase it the regular way. I liked Skinny okay and I absolutely loved "Love You Bad" when he released that. I have to tell you, this is a great album. Probably better than some of the latest Choir records, to be honest. Steve has never been a strong singer and that's still true here. However, he makes up for it with strong, poignant songs, good instrumentation, and great production. The past few Choir records have struggled with lyrics. They've been okay, some have been great, but some have just felt kind of uninspired. He's caught a second wind here, though. These are the kind of lyrics that we expect from him. This album is definitely a contender for one of my picks of the year!

Useless Fact: If you're reading this you probably already know that "The Warbler" and "The Antithesis of Blue" are both Choir songs re-arranged. They kind of serve as bonus tracks for the album.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Amon Amarth - "Jomsviking"

Amon Amarth - Jomsviking
2016, Metal Blade

1. First Kill
2. Wanderer
3. On a Sea of Blood
4. One Against All
5. Raise Your Horns
6. The Way of Vikings
7. At Dawn's First Light
8. One Thousand Burning Arrows
9. Vengeance Is My Name
10. A Dream That Cannot Be
11. Back On Northern Shores

I wasn't originally going to get Jomsviking as I'm not a huge Amon Amarth fan. I liked Deceiver of the Gods alright and that was kind of enough for me. However, as often happens, I was on vacation and I was seduced by the power of the special edition media book packaging and cool cover art. I like this album, it's got pretty much everything I liked about the last one...only again. Basically, if you're not a fan of Amon Amarth, then you can safely skip Jomsviking. If you are a fan you probably already own this so my words mean nothing to you. This album is the band's first concept album. It's about a young viking warrior searching for his lost love. Spoiler alert: it doesn't end well.

Useless Fact: Doro Pesch provides some guest vocals on "A Dream That Cannot Be" as the lost love. As you can tell by the title, their love is not exactly The Notebook.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Haken - "Affinity"

Haken - Affinity
2016, Inside Out

1. affinity.exe
2. Initiate
3. 1985
4. Lapse
5. The Architect
6. Earthrise
7. Red Giant
8. The Endless Knot
9. Bound By Gravity

I fell in love with Haken after 2013's The Mountain. They remain one of my favorite progressive rock/metal fans so I was eager with anticipation for Affinity. It's a different album, influenced and inspired by progressive rock from the 1980's. So there's lots of 80's type riffs and 80's type synth parts. It all gels together so well and sounds new and vibrant and nostalgic at the same time. Like...this could be the soundtrack to the book Ready Player One. I'm not sure whether it overtakes The Mountain or not, but it's a great album. I think the parts where they're the 80's-est are my favorites. "Earthrise" in particular is an amazing song as is the fifteen minute epic "The Architect." The album isn't a concept album, per se, but has the overall theme of artificial intelligence and how it affects humanity. At least I think that's the concept. Anyway... go buy this!

Useless Fact: All the packaging for the album resembles cassette packing and old computer displays.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Return of the Vlogs!

I guess the vlogs are back. Not sure how often...but they are back.

Sort of.


Well...this one is.

Circle of Dust - "Metamorphosis"

Circle of Dust - Metamorphosis
1993/2016, Fixt

1. Heldweller
2. Nihilistic Void
3. Consequence (Temporary Remix)
4. Dissolved (Disintegration Remix)
5. Descent (Pit of Hell Mix)
6. Consequence (Eternal Remix)
7. Daraq
8. Emerge (Living Sacrifice Intro)
9. Void Expression (Circle of Dust 'Blank Stare' Remix)
10. Void Expression (Circle of Dust 'Black Veil' Remix)
11. Distorted (Circle of Dust Remix)
12. Sacrificed (Circle of Dust Refix)

1. Bed of Nails (Blue Stahli Remix)
2. lvl - Backslide (Circle of Dust Remix)
3. Rivot - Never
4. Heldweller (Instrumental Demo)
5. Consequence (Temporary Remix Instrumental)
6. Klayton & Tommy Victor - Lightyear (Demo)
7. Klayton & Tommy Victor - Long White Con (Demo)
8. Heldweller (Cassette Demo - 1987)
9. Dust 16
10. Dust 17
11. Dust 18
12. Dust 19
13. Dust 20
14. Dust 21
15. Dust 22
16. Dust 23
17. Dust 24
18. Dust 25
19. Dust 26
20. Dust 27
21. Dust 28
22. Bed of Nails (Blue Stahli Remix Instrumental)

Whew! That was a lot to type! Metamorphosis began life as a compilation of songs from Circle of Dust, Brainchild (basically Circle of Dust), and Living Sacrifice. All of the tracks were remixed by Klayton. It was a cool little project then, it's a cool one now. Though it's really for fans. This is not the album you want to hand to somebody for their first exposure to Circle of Dust. However, it's a pretty cool package and I'm glad Klayton didn't let it fall into obscurity. The tracks that were on the original edition that later reappeared on the other albums aren't repeated here. Instead we get some cool tracks from Klayton's various side projects. Like I said, this is mostly for the Dust fan - but what a package it is. I especially like the Star Trek lettering on the new cover art.

Useless Fact: "Self-Inflict" and "Deviate (Sawed-Off Shotgun Remix)" are the two tracks that are missing. The first was on the '95 reissue of the debut and the second was used for the rerelease of Brainchild. Helpful information for that bar bet you'd undoubtedly have.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Dakoda Motor Co. - "Railroad"

Dakoda Motor Co. - Railroad
1996, Atlantic

1. Falling Down
2. Rattlesnake
3. Railroad
4. Brother Mother
5. More
6. Befuddled
7. Followed Me
8. Sampled
9. Odd Man Out
10. Tommy

There's not a lot of information about Railroad out there. Heck, I didn't even bother to buy it when it first came out. I have no idea why, though. I knew that Davia left the band and Melissa Brewer brought in. For whatever reason I'd just decided I was done with Dakoda Motor Co. It could also be that most of what I'd heard about this album was, "'s alright." I got this to complete my DMC collection because I sort of consider myself an archivist of all this Christian music. I also wanted to really dig into it and see if it was any good.'s alright. Melissa is a suitable replacement for Davia but she's not given much to do. Peter sings more on this album than he had on the previous and he's not singing well. He's sort of doing this screachy shouty voice - not like the smoother vocals he used to do. It's a shame because Peter and Melissa sound really good together. It's like, dude, you hired this woman to sing - let her sing! Also, the music itself is really missing something. This was the band's big label debut for Atlantic records. I feel like this is really watered down. The previous albums had that fun surf-pop vibe with really catchy, unique songs whereas Railroad sounds like milquetoast mid-nineties alternative rock. None of the songs really stick out. I'm not sure if this was the label's fault or the band's, but it's definitely missing that spark that made the first two albums so fun to listen to. least I can say I have a copy for the vault.

Useless Fact: Peter King hosted some show on MTV in the summer. It was about beach sports or something? I can't remember. He was on a beach - I do remember that.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Abacab"

Genesis - Abacab
1981, Atlantic

1. Abacab
2. No Reply at All
3. Me and Sarah Jane
4. Keep It Dark
5. Dodo/Lurker
6. Who Dunnit?
7. Man on the Corner
8. Like It or Not
9. Another Record


That is some seriously Eighties cover art right there.

Though I think that’s pretty fitting. Abacab is a product of its time, steeped in eighties pop and new wave. It’s a few more steps away from progressive rock but seeing as how the previous album was Duke it makes perfect sense. Of course, the band could never truly excise its progressive rock past even when they created the sell-out laden We Can’t Dance. We can find plenty of progressive goodness here in the title track which is another fine example of the band melding both prog and pop. Then there’s “Dodo/Lurker” which is a fascinating and strange track with Collins, once again, absolutely killing it on drums. I think this song is probably one of my top favorite Genesis tracks of the year.

We also have some pretty darn good pop here too. “No Reply At All” is a catchy track with a little bit of Motown influence to it. There’s also “Like It or Not” which could best be described as “Misunderstanding II.” Speaking of influences, a lot of New Wave crops up in Abacab as I’ve mentioned. First in the title track, then in “Keep It Dark” and “Who Dunnit?” – the latter of which is one of the most annoying songs I have ever heard. While maybe not the worst Genesis song it’s definitely up there. “Man on the Corner” is the first example of that unique “popping” drum machine sound that would later become a staple of both Genesis and Phil Collins’ solo material. It’s also the first of the “trying to be heart-wrenching but failing” songs that would infest Genesis and Collins’ later output.

As I’ve been listening to this album I’ve kind of been dreading writing the review. I just don’t have that much to say about Abacab. It’s a fine, fun album and I enjoyed listening to it, even “Man on the Corner” (not so much “Who Dunnit?”). It’s a natural evolution from Duke though it doesn’t quite have the weight of that album. It was successful in its day – going platinum in the U.S. alone. However, it’s not exactly the album I’d hand someone to expose them to the wonderfulness of Genesis. Aaaand… that’s really all I have to say. I promise the next one will be longer. It’s on Nursery Cryme for heaven’s sake!

Final Score: 3 out of 5

Useless Fact: There are actually four different color variants for the cover. Also, the title “Abacab” comes from the band labeling each section of that song and that’s the order those sections come in. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Death Angel - "The Evil Divide"

Death Angel - The Evil Divide
2016, Nuclear Blast

1. The Moth
2. Cause For Alarm
3. Lost
4. Father of Lies
5. Hell to Pay
6. It Can't Be This
7. Hatred United/United Hate
8. Breakaway
9. The Electric Cell
10. Let the Pieces Fall
Bonus Track:
11. Wasteland

I was definitely suckered into buying this one based on the cover art. Cool logo, cool death moth - sign me up. It also helps that this album is balls to the wall thrash metal. It lacks the experimentation on an album like Act III but makes up for it with infectious riffs and nice chunky guitars. The band gets more melodic on tracks like "Lost" and "Wasteland" but they're still quite heavy. Though "Wasteland" is listed as a bonus track, which makes sense because it doesn't really fit the rest of the album. Definitely glad I picked this one up!

Useless Fact: I don't really know enough about this band to have an interesting fact. Sorry.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Death Angel - "Act III"

Death Angel - Act III
1990, Geffin

1. Seemingly Endless Time
2. Stop
3. Veil of Deception
4. The Organization
5. Discontinued
6. A Room With a View
7. Stagnant
8. EX-TC
9. Disturbing the Peace
10. Falling Asleep

I had this CD a few years back but I got rid of it for some reason. I cannot recall what that reason was. It obviously wasn't a good one seeing as I bought it back again. Anyway, Death Angel was (and still is) thrash metal. They weren't a part of the "Big Four" but I suppose they were a part of the B-team of thrash with the likes of Testament and Exodus. Act III sees the band getting a little progressive with a lot of variety on this album. There are a couple of melodic acoustic tracks and some funk influence as well. I could see where Precious Death might have been influenced by this record, especially on a track like "Discontinued." There's also a lot of early Anthrax in here too. It's a pretty good album. I still don't know why I got rid of it. Must have been a bout of temporary insanity.

Useless Fact: This band eventually renamed themselves The Organization. Eventually they went back to Death Angel. Or something. I'm not really well versed in Death Angel lore. And yes, I'm too lazy to look it up.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Let's Do the Popcorn: A Kingdom Bound Parable

Hello! I usually wouldn't post such a long story on my music review blog, but it has a lot to do with music. I was going to self-publish it but couldn't secure the rights to the lyrics of the songs I used. This means you get to read it for free! Yay! The story is fictional but heavily based on my years growing up in youth group. I hope you like it...

We were almost there!

            The fifteen passenger van I was sitting in heaved to the left as we turned into the amusement park. It was Kingdom Bound time at last! Kingdom Bound was a Christian music festival that ran for three days inside an amusement park in upstate New York called Darien Lake. It was the most important event of the year, second only to Christmas. I’d spent the entire summer saving money for this one trip. Our church youth group talked about it endlessly. When the flyers came in the mail we poured over them, noting each band and speaker. We dreamed of that glorious three days at the end of August when Darien Lake became the property of Christians.
            The excitement was palpable. The thick humid air clung to my skin. Even the heat and smell generated by the twenty bodies inside the van did nothing to diminish my enthusiasm. It was the hottest time of the year in Upstate – absolutely sweltering. I hated the heat but as I said, Kingdom Bound mania knew no bounds. Its fires burned bright and could not be diminished by mere weather conditions. We were finally there.
            I knew exactly what I was going to do. While everyone else was probably going to ride rides or camp out at the main stage, I was on a mission. My first stop was going to be the vendor’s tent. Why? Because it was the largest collection of Christian music I had ever seen. Any artist. Any style. Sometimes they would even have rare indie stuff that never saw the light of day in my little hometown Christian bookstore. I had almost two hundred dollars in my pocket to get me through the weekend. Most of that would be spent on tapes and t-shirts. I might buy some food too, but only if I was in danger of dying of starvation.
            The van looped around the parking lot as my aunt Missy tried to find a good parking spot. Out of the van’s smudged window I could see the peaks of the Viper roller coaster in the distance. The van eased into a spot at last. My sister, Elise, grabbed my shoulder from behind and shook me excitedly, “We’re here! We’re here! We are finally here!” I snapped out of my reverie and gave her a big grin.
            “Vendor tent, here I come!” I said excitedly.
            “Not me,” Replied Sylvia, one of the other girls in the youth group. “I’m going to park my butt in the front row of the main stage and never leave. If I’m lucky, I’ll be splashed by my sweet Kevy-poo’s sweat!”
            “That’s gross,” I replied. “But good luck, I guess.” Sylvia had a massive crush on one Kevin “K-Max” Smith of DC Talk – a hip-hop group that was one of the more popular bands among my fellow teens.
            “That’s where I’ll be too!” said my aunt Missy. “I just want to see Ray Boltz and Al Denson up close.” They were a couple of adult contemporary performers that I didn’t really care for. Ray Boltz in particular was a favorite of anyone who sang “special music” in church. I think I’d heard his song, “Thank You,” at least a million times by singers of varying ability. That is, varying from “almost listenable” to “horny cat yowling in the night.” Besides, back then I was all about heavy metal.
            It was then that my grandfather turned to me and said, “When are the services?”
            “What do you mean?” I asked. My grandfather had been a pastor for over forty years. He’d been the shepherd of a several churches spanning two denominations. He played the trumpet. His wife (my Grandma) played the organ. Together they were the picture perfect ministerial team. However, he was an old school type guy – very traditional.  He rode with us the entire way in a grey suit and tie. He never even took off his jacket. He also didn’t say much during the hour and a half long trip to the park. The few words he did speak were to my aunts only.
            “You know, services? This is a Christian event isn’t it? Aren’t there any services?” he asked with a slightly annoyed tone.
            “I think there are some in the mornings.” I replied. I unzipped my fanny pack (hey, don’t judge) which housed my cash stash and pulled out a map of the park. “They’re over here in the worship tents” I said, pointing to the map. “I think they’re at eight or nine o’clock. I don’t know if we’ll even be here by then.” We weren’t camping at the park like many of the festival goers. We were staying at a comfy little Holiday Inn a mere fifteen minutes away. Also, we were not early risers.
My grandfather just sighed in response and rolled his eyes. “Of course not. But thank you for showing me.”
I put my map away and wondered if it was really a good idea for him to come. He’d heard my sister and I talk endlessly about it and I guess he wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was sure he wasn’t going to like it. Like I said, he was old school. It was all about hymns and Sunday school and meetings and services. He was into “the ministry” and didn’t have much use for anything that didn’t serve a “spiritual” purpose. I remember vividly getting a stern lecture from him about one of my band t-shirts. I think the band was Vengeance Rising. He said the design couldn’t have sprung from a Christian mind. No sir, I didn’t think he was going to like anything he saw here. After all, he would be the only man in the hot August sun wearing a suit.

There were actually nineteen of us (not counting Grandpa) this particular year. It was me, my sister Elise, and Sylvia. Then there was Kim. Elise, Sylvia, and Kim were the, how do I say, de facto “leaders” of the group – socially speaking. Then there was my aunt Missy the official “youth group leader” (“youth pastors” hadn’t quite been invented yet), and my other aunt Helen. They took great pains to remind us kids to be on our best behavior because, as they said, “This is our vacation too!”
My friends Matt, Jason, and Chris came along as well. They were friends from the neighborhood. I couldn’t ever tell if they were really Christians. They came to youth group on and off. We never really talked about spiritual things much. Mostly we just spent our time playing Nintendo and goofing off. However, in whatever spiritual state they may have been in they could not resist the siren call of Kingdom Bound. The rest of the group was filled out with some of Elise’s friends from school that I didn’t know very well. They’d only come to youth group sporadically. I did know one of them, Brooke, because she was absolutely gorgeous and I had a major crush on her. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no courage back then and didn’t really say much to her.
We all filed out of the van and clustered in a big group on the parking lot. The sun had been beating down on the blacktop all morning so it was nice and hot. The heat radiating from the asphalt combined with the bright summer sun beating down on our heads made being outside insufferable. Aunt Missy began her usual speech, “Now here’s the deal. We will be at the main stage. If you need anything, if there’s an emergency, come see us. An emergency means someone is missing, bleeding, dying, or dead. If you need food – go buy it. If you need somebody to carry your stuff, buy a backpack. We will meet back here at the van after the Carman concert tonight. Alright?”
We all shouted an affirmative “Yes, Ma’am.” And off we went.
“We’re headed for the Viper,” Jason offered. “You coming, Jax?” My friends shortened my name, Jackson, to Jax. I usually told people it was because I liked to use Jax when we played Mortal Kombat II. The truth was they called me “Jax” because I had a fondness for Jax brand cheese puffs.
“Nah, you know where I’m headed.” I said.
“Okay, dork.” He said laughing.
As our clot of sweaty teenagers gradually made its way to the front gate my grandfather tapped me on the shoulder.
“Could you show me where the worship tents are?” he asked. I was kind of surprised. I don’t think my grandfather had asked anything of me ever, least of all advice on where to go. Thankfully, the worship tents weren’t that far from the vendor tent so I wasn’t losing much time. I was really annoyed at the inconvenience but I tried not to show it.
“Yeah, I guess. Follow me.”

As we walked I reveled in all the familiar sights and sounds. The little souvenir shops, the lemonade stands, the big red barn where they held the silly vaudeville-type shows. The Sea Storm. Ah, the Sea Storm, my absolute favorite ride. It was my favorite because it jerked me around just enough to be fun, but not so much that it was scary. Yes, I was a real wuss. Despite his age and heavy, polyester suit, my grandfather managed to keep up with me.
“The tents are over there,” I said, pointing to several white peaks not far from where we were standing.
“Okay. Thank you,” he replied and stalked off without saying another word. I just didn’t understand it. If he was going to be so unhappy why even bother coming? It was one of the many questions I had for my grandfather. Like why wouldn’t he ever talk about anything? Why was our Christian music so bad but his hymns so good? Why was it so important to wear a suit all the time? On the off chance I broached the subject he would just grunt something about it being “just the way things are.”
Furthermore, I didn’t understand how a man who never wanted to talk to his family and grumble about every new thing under the sun could call himself a Christian. Weren’t we supposed to be joyful? Life abundant and all that? How could such a man could claim to serve the infinite Creator of the universe? My grandfather was so myopic in regards to how things should be that sometimes I wondered if he was even born again. He just seemed so angry all the time. Sometimes I would find myself thinking, I really hate having him around. Maybe all this was all just for show or a social thing. Or a power trip. Only God knew.

I shook my head as he walked away and focused on the task at hand: tape hunting. My tape collection was a thing of beauty. I can say, with some certainty, that it was one of the largest collections in upstate New York. I had all the albums from all the great metal bands: Deliverance, Tourniquet, Vengeance Rising. I’d even gotten to score some cool demos from bands like Immortal and Thresher. I loved music. It was my life blood. It brought color to everything I did. School was more bearable because I looked at my tape inserts during class. I remembered things, not based on date or time, but by the music I had when it happened. Most of the Scripture I had memorized was the stuff in Christian metal lyrics.
Needless to say the vendor tent at Kingdom Bound was my Promised Land. It was a veritable bounty of Christian music goodness. I walked into the tent and basked in the ambience. The smell of straw wafting up from the ground along with the cedar shelves containing thousands of tapes and CDs filled my nostrils. The racks were filled with colorful album art ranging from simple portraits of the artists to lush illustrated landscapes that would put Roger Dean to shame. The illustrated covers usually contained rock or metal. It was one of the few times that you could judge a book by its cover! Last year I must have spent one hundred dollars just on tapes alone. This year? The sky was the limit! Well, the money in my fanny pack was the limit, but still!
The game was on. I strode over to the tape section and quickly found the “Artists A - D” rack. I examined each one in turn following with my finger like a child reading a Golden Book, careful to read the artist and title so as not to miss anything important. I slowly worked through the alphabet this way.
Once I was satisfied that I had seen everything I grabbed a few tapes, probably three at most. I didn’t want to spend all my money in the first hour of the trip, you know. I grabbed the latest release from Sacred Warrior and some band called Torn Flesh. I was even able to score The Downward Spiral by the Moshketeers. They were a band I’d heard a lot about but, since they weren’t on a “major” record label, they never made it to my local store. There was a lot of buzz about them. They’d been thanked in a dozen other bands’ liner notes. Word on the street and in the zines was that they were awesome.  Now I had one. I was happy as a clam.
After perusing the tapes for a good half hour I ventured out to see the other sites. Festivals like this were crammed with vendors. You could get some great Christian books for only a few dollars. I used to load up on Christian t-shirts as well. Sometimes, joy of joys, you would find another music vendor. Not to mention seeing the artists themselves selling their merchandise. That was the cool thing about Kingdom Bound, the artists seemed a lot more accessible than regular musicians. While walking around I met the guys from Sacred Warrior and even had them sign the tape I had gotten a few minutes earlier.
I glanced down at my watch, it was almost two o’clock. I opened my fanny pack and checked the schedule. Ronnie Hawke was speaking at the worship tents. He was the guitarist to one of my favorite bands: Holy Knyte. Yeah… the names left something to be desired back then. I really did want to hear him speak though. I realized that he was probably going to be at the same tent where my grandfather was.
I made the journey to the worship tents in the hot sun, not before stopping to grab a soda on the way there. As I approached the tent I looked around for my grandfather. I found him in the third row, near the middle. There he was sitting in his full suit. The only one in the crowd I might add. A young woman was up on stage butchering “How Great Thou Art.” And I do mean butchering! Like a serial killer hacking up a victim, not one note of this classic hymn went unmangled. I snickered a little as she botched the last note in spectacular fashion. I was sure this would be Grandpa’s favorite part.

I sat down several rows behind Grandpa. I didn’t really want him to know that I was there. Not that he would have talked to me anyway. The young lady singing mercifully gave up the stage to the MC. He was an older guy with a brown mullet, a Christian T-Shirt (which had the Burger King logo reworked to say “Jesus the King” or something). He also had on some eye-piercing neon colored tropical shorts because it was the Nineties. Hey, we were all guilty.
“Thank you, Madeline, for that song.” He said. “Our God really is great isn’t he?” Several “amens” arose from the crowd. He continued, “We’ve got a special treat here today folks. He’s going to be talking about evangelism and how important it is to reach those people who we wouldn’t normally talk to. Everyone please welcome the guitarist for Holy Knyte, Ronnie Hawke!”
Everyone clapped, politely. This wasn’t the place to gush.
“Hey everyone. Thanks for coming.” He said. Ronnie Hawke was a lanky guy with long black hair and a black goatee. His hair was pulled back in a pony tail. He was wearing black denim shorts and a white Vengeance Rising T-shirt - specifically the one where Satan was bound in chains and being thrown into the abyss. I had one too. It was one of my favorites. Black Nike high top shoes completed the ensemble.
“I know I probably look a lot different from some of the other people you’ve seen up here today,” he said. He was kind of a soft spoken dude. He didn’t really project a “rock star” persona either. He gave off a vibe that he was just a regular person.
“But rest assured. I am 100% completely sold out for Jesus.” He went on to give his testimony. He’d come from a broken home with an abusive dad. He hung around a bad crowd. Got into some drugs and trouble with the law. Then more drugs. Then more trouble with the law.
“I hit rock bottom, man.” He said of his second visit to jail. “My friends had all left me, my mom wouldn’t even talk to me anymore. I didn’t have any money to get drugs. Then one day I was sitting in my cell thinking about killing myself. I was looking around my cell looking for something I could do it with, you know? Then a little voice popped into my head. It was the weirdest thing. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had a lot of voices in my head, but this one was different.”
He described the voice as “quiet, but strong.” Not like any other voice he had ever heard. He told us that the voice suggested he go to the weekly church service. I knew what he was talking about because I’d heard that voice too, not a lot though. I could count the times on half of one hand, but enough to know what he meant.
“So I did,” he said. “I walked in there and saw this dude in the front. He had a suit on. Kinda looked like that dude right there,” he said pointing to my grandfather. People looked him. Grandpa looked around at the people looking at him.
“Sorry, mister.” Ronnie said. “No offense or anything. It’s just that, when I saw that guy I thought there was no way anything he could have said to me would have mattered. I was wrong. He told me about God and about his Son, Jesus. He told me that there was more to life that just breathing. He said that God had provided a way for me to be forgiven and be a better person.”
It was hard not to be affected by Ronnie’s testimony. He was so sincere. He wasn’t crying (never trusted criers) but you could tell, just by the way he talked and the look in his eyes that this was a real thing to him.
“I accepted Jesus that day.” Ronnie said. “Now I said all that to say this. I would have never known the love of Jesus if that man hadn’t done his prison ministry. This dude had a vision to reach people that most people didn’t think about talking to. It’s because of him that I’m in the Kingdom of God.”
Several “amens” rose up from the crowd. He went on, “That’s why the guys and I started Holy Knyte. There’s kids out there that won’t come to church. They won’t come to a church event. But they will come to a club. They’ll come to a heavy metal concert. They’ll listen to me when I talk because I look like a rock star. I’ve got a chance to get kids into the Kingdom of God!”
            He shared a story of a time after one of his concerts. A kid, a lot like he was pre-conversion, had challenged their beliefs after a show. Ronnie said the band didn’t argue with him or debate him. They just tried talking to him about his life, asked questions, and listened. Eventually they were able to share the gospel with him and he got saved right then and there.
            “I still get letters from this kid,” Ronnie said. “He says God is calling him to be a missionary! Can you believe that?” Ronnie was getting a little more animated. “He’s gonna go off to some third world country and help build the Kingdom all because of this silly music we play! I tell you what, guys, even if I never play another note I am so grateful and humbled by the work God has done through the band.”
            Ronnie wrapped up his talk shortly after that. He shared one of his favorite Scriptures and prayed. He blessed everyone and walked off the stage. I was impressed. He hadn’t really said anything that I didn’t already know or didn’t already agree with, but it was cool hearing it from the man himself. I had to restrain myself from running over to him and vomiting affirmation all over him.
            As I got up I briefly wondered what my grandfather was thinking. He’d never respected my music or the people who made it. When he found my sister and I listening to it he’d always say, “Sounds like they’re getting ready to cook the missionary!” I saw my grandfather get up and turn around. He’d spotted me and made a beeline. There was no escape. I was bracing for a diatribe of some sort. I was pleasantly surprised.
            “I’m hungry.” He said matter-of-factly. “Is there anywhere good to eat around here?” This was the second time my grandfather actually asked me for something. Two in one day! The devil must have been shivering.
            “Um, yeah.” I replied. “I was going to go get a burger. You can come with me, if you want.” I said. I was really hungry because I didn’t really eat anything all day, chosing to subsist off Kingdom Bound excitement. I was hoping he would turn down my invitation. I didn’t want to sit there in awkward silence or, worse, hear some lecture.
            “That sounds good.” He said much to my chagrin, “Lead the way.”

            I led him over to a burger joint by the Sea Storm. We waited in line and got our food. We both got burgers. I guess we have something in common, I joked to myself. We sat down and started to eat. Well… I started to eat. Grandpa bowed his head for a second and whispered a quick prayer of thanks. I felt a little ashamed that I didn’t think to do that.
            We sat and ate in silence for a while. The whir-whir-whir of the Sea Storm and the cacophony of ambient noise provided the only accompaniment to our meal. Finally, against my better judgement I decided I would ask him about what the thought of Ronnie Hawke’s testimony. I’m nothing if not a glutton for punishment.
            “Looks like a hippie,” he said. “Probably doesn’t have a real job.”
            I wasn’t surprised, but I was hurt. Why did it always have to be like that? I wanted to argue, to defend my “hero.” I wanted to point out all the good he’d done. How God had saved him from a horrible life and gave him a new purpose. I wanted to ask why that wasn’t good enough. But after so many years of Grandpa ridiculing my music I just didn’t have the energy to fight another losing battle. I stared down at the few remaining pieces of my burger and pushed some ketchup around with a fry. I wished he would just go away.
            “I’m sorry.”
            I looked up. Did my grandfather just say sorry? He’s never said sorry! Thoughts poured into my mind – Did I hear him right? Is this real? Is this really happening? Am I going crazy? No, I’m dead. I died at the tent and this is my near death experience. This can’t be real.
            “This must mean a lot to you,” he said. It was real.
            “Well, yeah.” I said. “It means more than you know.” Since we never talked, he couldn’t know the half of it. The time I’d spent alone in my room worshiping to Sacred Warrior’s “Holy, Holy, Holy” or the time I was really depressed and The Lead’s “Suicide Is a Lie” gave me hope or how excited I got about Jesus’ resurrection while listening to Vengeance Rising’s “From the Dead.” He truly had no idea.
            My grandfather sighed.
            “I’m sorry,” he said, again. He had a tired look in his eyes. It was like, in this particular moment, all his years weighed heavier on him than normal. I realized something serious must be going on. First, my grandfather apologized to me and I cannot overstate how momentous that was. Second, it felt like he’d let down his guard for a minute. He wasn’t “Pastor” or “Elder” or even “Grandpa” – he was just a tired old man.
            “I must be getting old,” he said after a minute.
            “What do you mean?” I asked.
            “I bet you’re wondering why I came with you guys this year.”
            I laughed. “That is an understatement.”
            Surprisingly, he smiled and chuckled too. “No doubt it is. The short answer is that God told me to.”
            “Really?” I said, genuinely interested.
            “Yes. I do listen to you guys, you know. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I do. It seems like all you guys talk about is this music and concerts and this festival.” He was right about that. An inordinate amount of our time was spent discussing all of those things.
            He sighed again. “But you talk about God too. You talk about Jesus. And you do it a lot more than I ever did when I was that age. I can’t stand some of that racket you guys listen to but if God is talking to you through it, well, then maybe there’s something to it.”
            I just listened in stunned silence.
            He went on, “I was talking to the Lord one day about you guys. I asked Him all about this stuff. Do you know what He said?”
            I just shook my head no.
            “He said, Man looks upon the outward appearance but I look upon the heart. I had a vision of this festival. I got the distinct impression God wanted me to go with you guys this year. So here I am.”
            He popped the last big of burger into his mouth and chewed. I polished off mine as well.
            “I have an idea,” he said after he finished. “What say I go to one of your concerts if you go to something I want to go to.”
            I couldn’t believe my ears! Did my own grandfather just agree to go to a Christian metal concert? I shuddered to think about what he might subject me to, but I was excited that he was actually taking an interest in me.
            “Okay. Sounds good.”
            “Tomorrow there’s a service around eleven in the morning. Will you go to that with me?”
            “Yes.” I said. I meant it.
            “And what concert shall we go to?”
            I thought about it for a minute. I could take him to see Holy Knyte but I knew the vocalist’s helium high falsetto vocals would really irritate him.
            “Um… Sacred Warrior might be good.” I said. I picked them because they did actually sing, and while there was the occasional high pitched wail it was mostly melodic.
            “It’s a date.” He said.
            We took our trays to the trash bin and went our separate ways. He was off to see some speaker at the tents and I was off to ride the Sea Storm a few times before Novella performed. As I waited in line for the ride I could only think of tomorrow. It’s going to be an interesting day.

            The next day we got to the park a little early. I think Grandpa had talked with my aunts the previous night. The ride from the hotel was a bit different. Everyone noticed it. Grandpa was listening to all of our stories. He was asking questions.
            “So who’s this Carman now?” he asked my sister. Naturally she launched into a dissertation on the man and his music. It even included an impromptu acapella sing-along of “I Got the Joy” with Sylvia and Kim. I could tell he still wasn’t quite sure about everything but he kept at it. I started to feel something for my grandfather I’d never felt before: admiration.
            Before long we arrived at the park and filed out of the busted old church van. “Old Faithful” we called it. It was a dark navy color and was on its last legs, but we all felt a certain affection for it.
            “You ready for today?” Grandpa asked me.
            I smiled, “Are you?”
            “Ready as I’ll ever be,” he replied.
            Our walk to the tents was a stark contrast to the day before. We didn’t stalk in silence. We were a bit more leisurely. Grandpa was still wearing a suit – a blue one this time. But he’d seemed to lighten up a bit.
            “Do you like Carman?” he asked.
            “Yeah,” I said. “He’s kind of cheesy sometimes. But his songs are fun to sing.”
            “He sounds cheesy.” Grandpa said. We walked for a minute or two in silence and I thought we were going back to business as usual. Then he asked, “Hey you know what song I used to like when I was younger?”
            “What song?” I asked. I thought he was going to say some hymn or classical piece of music.
            “It was called ‘Let a Man Come In And Do the Popcorn’ by the one and only James Brown.”
            “What?!” I laughed hysterically. He laughed too. It was a good feeling.
            “I guess what I’m saying is that I get cheesy. But don’t tell anyone I told you that. It’s our little secret.” He mimed zipping his lips and locking them. I did the same back, indicating I would take the secret to my grave if necessary.
            We walked and talked some more. He’d ask me what who my favorite band was and why they were my favorite. Then he’d talk about some silly song from his childhood he liked. I couldn’t believe it. We were… bonding.

            We finally reached the worship tents and took our seats just in time for the service to start. It was pretty standard. You’d never guess that we were even at a Christian music festival. There were announcements, offerings, testimonies, even special music. Crappy, awful special music. The same woman that had sung yesterday was going to sing again! And she was going to sing “How Great Thou Art”… again! I sighed and rolled my eyes. I braced myself for the grotesque vocal mutilation this song would once again suffer. My grandfather must have seen me.
            “Look, I know she’s not the best singer,” he whispered. “But just try to listen to the words, okay?”
            I agreed. After all he was going to Sacred Warrior later and I’d no doubt be telling him the same thing. She began singing and it was just as awful as before. No, it was worse. It was like she just wasn’t happy with her previous performance. Not only did she miss every note, she garbled and shrieked them in ways I didn’t think was possible by human beings. I was sure that every dog in upstate New York was going bonkers right now. However, I made an effort to listen to the words because I promised Grandpa I would. What I heard surprised me:

            O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
            Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
            I see the stars, the rolling thunder
            Thy power throughout the universe displayed

            Then sings my soul, my saviour God to Thee
            How great Thou art, how great Thou art…

I didn’t expect to be moved by what I heard. After all, I couldn’t count how many times we’d sang this song in church. I never paid it any heed thinking it was just a “boring old hymn.” However, when I focused on the lyrics I found that I barely noticed the woman’s singing. I was taken up with those powerful and humbling words. At some point I closed my eyes and sang along. I started to feel like God had arrived and was right here listening to us sing to Him. I felt bad that I had written off church hymns because they didn’t fit my style. I could definitely see why people had so much love for them.
“I like that song,” I whispered to Grandpa.
“I’m glad,” he said. “Thank you for listening.”
The rest of the service came and went without much fanfare. The sermon was your standard “Great Commission” type sermon wherein we were exhorted to “go out into the world and preach the gospel.” The speaker was really boring. He’d told a couple lame “pastor jokes” that got big laughs for some reason. He also threw in some “hip” slang on occasion and it was all I could do not to laugh out loud. Worse, he had a very laid back, soothing voice which made me drowsy. Even though I was trying hard to listen to what he was saying I found my mind wandering. I thought about the vendor tent and which tapes I might buy next. That one with the hurricane on the cover looked cool. Then I thought about maybe possibly talking to Brooke. Doesn’t she like Carman? Maybe I can ask what her favorite song is? Er…maybe not. After that I daydreamed about being a starship captain. Make it so! I think I heard maybe forty percent of the total sermon.  I guess the best thing I could say about it was that it wasn’t heresy.
The benediction couldn’t come soon enough.
“Well?” Grandpa asked.
“It was good.” I said. “I really like that song.” I left out the fact that I thought the sermon was as exciting as watching grass grow.
“Yes. That’s one of my favorites.” He said.
“Along with, what was that? ‘Let’s Do the Popcorn?’” I joked.
“It’s ‘Let a Man Come in and Do the Popcorn’” he replied laughing. “I’m never going to hear the end of that am I?”
“Probably not.”
The Sacred Warrior concert was at one o’clock which gave us enough time to eat and get to the park stage in time to get a decent “seat.” Once we arrived we saw people grouped at the front of the stage.
“I don’t suppose we could sit back a bit?” Grandpa asked. “This is probably going to get pretty loud.”
I agreed. To tell you the truth I thought they were too loud as well. We picked a picnic table a little ways back. That way we could sit down but still see the stage. While we waited I informed my grandfather all about Sacred Warrior and what he could expect.
“Just try to listen to the words, okay?” I asked, mirroring his question to me.
“I promise I will do my best.” I knew he meant it.

Sacred Warrior took the stage promptly at one fifteen – late, like true rock stars, They also had a few delays with malfunctioning guitar monitors. I looked at Grandpa. He looked at me with a sort of well, here goes nothin’ look.
“Hey everyone out there!” Vocalist Rey Parra shouted from the stage. He was met with maelstrom of screams and shouts.
“All right!” he shouted, “Kingdom Bound! Let’s rock!” And with that they launched into the song “Master’s Command” They were kicking major butt! The sound was loud but mixed well so you could hear everything clearly. The band had energy. Even Rey, who was kind of a big guy, was all over the stage. Occasionally he would stick the microphone out to the crowd who would sing a line or two. I was in heaven. Well… as close to… you know what I mean.
Then something odd happened while they played. The band was cranking it out and Rey sang in his clear, clean, soaring vocal style:

How can you say you love me
Yet have so much hate for your brother?
Don’t you know that the law says we’re murderers
If we hate one another?

I looked over at Grandpa to see his reaction and I noticed he was crying. Real tears. I had never seen my grandfather cry ever. He put his head in his hands and sobbed. I heard him talking but I didn’t know what he was saying. I strained to hear his words but the music drowned out his supplication.  I put my hand on his back and asked him if everything was alright.
“It’s okay.” He shouted. I just barely heard him over the din. “Really. I’ll tell you later. Just enjoy your show.”
I did as he asked and left him alone. The band was well into their fourth song when he finally looked back up. His face was red, his eyes bloodshot but he was smiling.
Then he cried again. It was when the band played “Many Will Come,”

            We will see Him standing
            When the rest are gone
            He’ll be dressed in white
            And He will shine!

While it wasn’t the heaving sobs from before it was very noticeable. He got some weird looks from some of the metal kids that were hanging around us. Several asked him if he was okay and if they could help him. It was amazing. I kept telling them he was okay. One guy in particular, he had a Mohawk, ripped black jeans, a t-shirt with the devil being hit over the head with a guitar, and to top it all off tattoos. Lots of them.
“Does he need some food or water or something?” he asked. “I’ll go get it. Does he need any help?”
“It’s okay.” I shouted.
“I’m okay.” Grandpa said. “Really. Please, kids, enjoy your show.”
When Roger Martinez, vocalist for Vengeance Rising, took the stage to do some guest vocals for one of the band’s songs I thought maybe my grandfather had finally gotten himself together.
“I can’t understand a word that man is saying,” he said as Roger growled out the lyrics to “The Flood.”
I laughed. “It’s okay, neither can I.”
            I thought it was over. The crying, I mean. I was wrong. The band played “Holy, Holy, Holy.” It was one of my favorite songs. I sang my heart out. I raised my hands and sang. I did sneak a peek at what Grandpa was doing and to my utter shock he was standing on the picnic table, hands raised, tears streaming down his face, singing along with everyone else.

            Holy, holy, holy Lord
            God of power and might
            Heaven and earth
            Are filled with Your glory!

            I felt that presence again. The same feeling I had singing “How Great Thou Art” at the service earlier. It was that wonderful, beautiful feeling God Himself had arrived to dwell among His people. I stopped what I was doing and just watched Grandpa. I realized that everything I had ever thought about him and his faith was wrong. I always thought he was just some fossil - some fossil that loved his own way of doing things more than he loved God. I was wrong. Then I heard that voice – Ronnie’s “voice.” That small, strong voice in the back of my head said, You’ve hated him. It wasn’t condemning me. I didn’t feel shame from it. It was just stating a fact. The lyrics to “Master’s Command” floated into my head. I realized I hated my grandfather and in the eyes of God that was a serious problem! I was ashamed of what I’d thought about him. I saw the evil that was in my heart and I asked God to forgive me. I made a mental note to ask Grandpa to forgive me too. I wanted to make it right.

            The concert ended and the crowd was began to scatter. The next concert wasn’t for another hour or so. Grandpa and I just sat on the picnic table in silence. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was for what I’d thought about him, but it just didn’t seem to be the right time. It seemed like an eternity. Just us two sitting there, peacefully. Finally, Grandpa broke the silence.
            “Thank you for bringing me here!” he said. “Thank you!” His face was beaming through his tears. I had no idea what was going on.
            “You’re welcome.” I said.
            “You’re probably wondering why I’ve been blubbering like an old maid this whole time.” I was wondering but he spoke before I could ask.
            “I know why God wanted me to come here. I’ve held hatred in my heart for a long time. Hatred of change. I loved the way things used to be. The old hymns, dressing up your best for God. A reliable service you could count on. Ministry was a certain way. It was comforting. I always felt God’s presence in it. But things were changing, they are changing, and I hated it. Then you and your sister started listening to this,” he chuckled “racket and calling it Christian. I hated that too. I even started to hate you guys.”
            This was a revelation to me. Not that he hated me, I was always pretty sure of that, but that he would open up like this.
            “But that song,” he continued, pointing an old gnarled finger at the stage. “That song… how can I say I love God if I hate my brother? My grandchildren? How can I continue to act like everything is okay? Even these kids with their ripped-up clothes and their chicken hairstyles couldn’t do anything but make sure I was okay. Everyone here was worshipping God! I’m so sorry. Sorry for judging you and your sister. For hating you when you were just trying to get close to God in your own way. I thought I was preserving some sort of holiness by being distant and judgmental. I’ve wasted so many years. Years I could have spent with you guys. I’m so sorry.”
            Grandpa looked into my eyes and I could tell he meant every word he said.
            “Will you forgive me?” he asked.
            “Yes.” I said, unreservedly. “I’m sorry too.” I said.
            “I hated you as much as you hated me, maybe more. I hated that you would never listen to us ort that you would never give us a chance to be ourselves. I thought Christianity was just some sort of power trip for you. I never thought that you might love God just as much as me. I never thought you might have struggles too. I don’t want to be a bitter person. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
            “Of course.”
            Then he hugged me. I don’t ever remember previously getting hugs from him. It felt nice.
            “You know,” he said sniffling, “I think we’re going to be okay.”
            And we were. To my recollection he actually enjoyed the rest of the trip. Though later on he admitted that, while he liked the lyrics of my metal bands, he still thought it was racket. I thought that was fair enough. This was truly the best Kingdom Bound I had ever or would ever experience. My grandfather had truly changed and so had I. Everyone knew that a new day was dawning when, on the last day of the festival, Grandpa took off his jacket and left it in the van