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Bride and Vigilant
by Paul Landkamer
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Bride, the metal master, slams out another great album in Skin for Skin. I’d never been a really huge fan of ‘80s metal, and since Bride came out in the late ‘80s and with the typical sound, I always listened to their stuff with hesitation. But Bride’s still around, and it’s not the ‘80s anymore!

Bride is heavy. Bride is extreme. Bride is very well polished. And, no offense Dale, Bride has toned down the high-pitched screaming, or wailing vocals, so I can drop my old desire to tag the vocals as gimmicky. OK, they’re growly, but most metal is.

One thing I can say about lots of extreme metal is that it’s often a place to find the most obvious Christian lyrics in the industry. Though the lyrics didn’t come in Skin for Skin’s printed material, most of them come through understandably without having to read along. I’ve got to admit that some are thinking songs for me. Their theme didn’t jump right out at me.

Track one is a short electro-instrumental introduction, then track two jumps into some nice fast precise guitar work backing a message of Satan’s deceitfulness. Track three features some interesting bass-work. “End of Days” says to not fear because Jesus ultimately wins in the end. That third track also features a chorus of female vocalist who remind me somewhat of the chorus in Alice Cooper’s “Brutal Planet”. “Take the Medication” slows the tempo down a bit, but stays dark and plodding. Jesus is the only medication that cures what ails you.

“Inside Ourselves” gives some catchy guitar and vocal hooks. It heavy metal was a popular now as it was in the late ‘80s, this one could be a potential hit. The songs points out that we’re stuck inside ourselves without Jesus to let us out. The next three tracks are similar in a traditional heavy metal style. “Hard to Kick” is on the foolishness of racism, while “Fuel and Fire” gives the listener an analogy of Satan and a modified car. “Breathless” came across to me as a thinker, but my daughter sees it as about new Christianity, and seeing old pain through new light.

Track nine, “Breathless Savant” is an instrumental with renaissance flavorings to the harmonies. Little stuff sometimes impresses me, but I love the cowbell use in “Bang Goodbye”. It’s a song of living without Christ, but knowing you need Him. “Rise Above” tells us that past, present and future, Jesus is God. I have an obvious bias toward “The Government”, since I’m retired military. Musically, the song is solid, well-executed heavy metal. To me, it’s a slam on govermnemt and war. Though both have their faults, I’m not going to say either are always good. While listening, I can’t help but ponder Romans 13:1-7, Exodus 15:3, Matthew 22:21 (and Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25). Though the song makes some good points against war and government, the Bible’s pretty clear that God uses both to His purposes.

“Super Ego Star” sings of Ego eating away at a relationship with God. “Hang On”, the last and fourteenth song, is the album’s ballady song. I find it odd to have it placed at the end of the CD, but there it is. It’s an almost-soft country rock tune on suicide’s not being the answer to any problem.

Overall, Skin for Skin is an excellent addition to the collection of anyone who’s into classic-style heavy rock. Several friends I mentioned the CD to, in person, got excited and said they’d have to check it out. And they’re not what you’d call “old folks”. Bride’s got a reputation, and they don’t let their fans down on Skin for Skin.

Young and diverse describes the band, Vigilant. Their press kit sums up the theme of the album, A Common Misconception, by saying “People have this crazy belief that once you give your life to Christ, it’s all easy street, but that’s the exact opposite of the truth.” Styles ranging from piano solo to metal rock tells us that Jesus is the answer, but knowing that doesn’t erase all the questions. I’d still liked to have seen a little more style variance on the CD. Though they touch on a broad musical range, most of it is very laid back and subdued. It’s not one by which to operate heavy machinery.

A few measures into the first track, I was getting into the music. The hard-rocking power pop that characterized “A Common Misconception” blended with slight emo vocal intonations carry a message of consequences for your actions. Think before you act! “Popology” jumped into another favorite genre of mine: blues rock. The beautiful guitar work on the intro brought me into lyrical jab at worldliness, and how we’re all getting so good at it. After this, the CD seemed to take a turn for the lethargic. Until the last two tracks, it began to sound almost like one long song. The third track, “Searching”, brought ballady, jangly ‘60s-style guitar to a theme of knowing what’s right, but resisting the change demanded of a spiritual re-birth.

“Legalism” is a message of trying to make it on works, but realizing that only Grace can save us. The song’s slow, Caribbean flavored rock reminded me of some of Paul Wright’s work. Track five is a piano and vocalist song. “The Point Being” it can be easy to work yourself to death without seeing God’s obvious gift of Grace. “Take Back” is another song of trying to make it on one’s own. An energetic heavy guitar bridge in the song served to punctuate the relaxed feel the CD had picked up.

“Cleaning Up” uses an analogy of a dirty room for a dirty life. Track eight, a night-clubby soft-rock song, sings of barriers to “Answered Prayer.” Don’t expect to see miraculous answers to your prayer while you’ve got monstrous planks in your eye. “Redundance” uses repeated phrases in a subdued guitar-based song to say we are only human, but God is still God, and He loves us.

“A Question For You” gets the pace back up a bit with some heavy guitar work. The question, “What is it you hide?” is of a spiritual seeker who won’t acknowledge that Jesus is the answer. The last, eleventh, and bonus track, “Hell’s Fire” is from a guest band, Freezer Beef. Heavy rock and growled vocals sing that Jesus is coming, and Satan’s days are numbered.

Vigilant’s honesty with questions shows young and even older Christians that it’s OK to wonder. Like Job, question God, but don’t give up on Him. Watch these guys. They’re a promising young band!

Always let your music help keep your focus on Jesus!

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