It’s not everyday that I go out of my way to check out Christian Metal bands, let alone bother to review them, but lately I’ve found myself listening religiously to BARREN CROSS’s “Atomic Arena” and now I have no choice but to spread the word. Yes, there were two puns in there and yes they were both intended! Whether or not you feel that mixing Christian dogma and Metal is a recipe for disaster, I urge you to put aside your negative preconceptions a second, for this band is the shit. Come, ye unfaithful, and listen to the Metal! Note to self: never use that line again... Hey, I’m blasting White Metal here - odd things are bound to happen... Anyway, on to the music.
Yes, the pro-family values lyrics may occasionally get cringe-worthy, as the band take it upon themselves to warn us of the dangers of abortion (“Killers Of The Unborn”), the occult (“Cultic Regimes”), and drug abuse (“Dead Lock”), among other things, but they thankfully never come off as preachy as, say, MORTIFICATION or WHITECROSS. Lyrical issues aside, the band gets it right where it counts most: the riffs and the vocals. The album is chock full of catchy riffs, imbued with the flair of classic Metal and the raucous energy of early Glam, while front man Mike Lee is an honorary graduate of the Bruce Dickinson School Of Vocal Greatness. It all makes for a cracking 80s Metal album that is solid all the way through, peaking with superb songs like the fist-pumping opener “Imaginary Music”, “Dead Lock” (LOOOVE that meaty double-bass section near the end!), and the uplifting (though occasionally wispy) DIO-ish ballad “Heaven Or Nothing”. It’s stupendous stuff and the punchy production job ensures that everything is upfront and center.
So there you have it, that rare beast – a Christian Metal band that kicks 100% ass, 100% of the time. Musically-speaking, anyway. Highly recommended for fans of IRON MAIDEN, DIO, and even early RATT.
(Online November 30, 2009)