Saturday, January 26, 2013


When Deliverance returned to the music scene in 2007 with AS ABOVE-SO BELOW (Retroactive Records), it had once again been six years since their last album.  On this their ninth studio album, Deliverance is: Jimmy P. Brown II (guitar and vocals), Mike Phillips (lead and rhythm guitar), Tim Kronyak (bass guitar), and Mike Reed (drums).  Live, Corin Jae Scott was responsible for keyboards and backing vocals.  Of this album Brown comments: “Our fan-base always seems to want WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE-PART TWO.  I have never understood that personally.  I love Pink Floyd’s THE WALL.  I love Queensryche’s OPERATION MINDCRIME.  But I don’t want Part Two of those.  I am content with those particular moments in time!  I want to see where the band or artist wants to take me now on their next journey.  I don’t simply want a ride through the old neighbourhood in a new car, if that makes any sense.”

AS ABOVE-SO BELOW begins with a wonderful, moving instrumental that incorporates elements of both classical and rock music.  It is called ‘Legum Servi Sumus Ut Liberi Esse Possimus (Intro)’ which my computer translates from Latin to mean ‘We are slaves of the law so that we can be Free.’  This is followed by ‘Cause and Effect’ which speaks of the End Times which may not be that far off: “Zero tolerance for Biblical creed/Anti-Christ laying its seed/Mark the words written on the wall/Truth divides how the mighty will fall/Have you not seen? Have you not heard?/The day of shadows is at hand!/Your eyes have seen! Your ears have heard!/Decree this hour unto man!”

‘Return to Form’ reflects on how we as Christians tend to be overly judgmental: “Character flaws seems to be the latest trend/Like looking for lost loves by simply clicking send/Zeroes and Heroes returning from their graves/To spread the hatred cloaked with the words ‘Jesus Saves’/I never understood the need to criticize/In same likeness so far my words ostracize/The pointless task to tell what you already know/The course endeavor of sailing high and staying low.”  The great title track ‘As Above-So Below’ draws from the Lord’s Prayer: “Let the mountains shake and the rocks declare Your glory/As it is with You, so mote it be with me/Let the rivers run strong and all nature bow with humility/As it is with You, so mote it be with me/Quicken the hearts to receive the unfettered plan/And lose yourself in the eyes of an egoless drowning man/Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, both light and in the dark/In my body the Holy Name, I bear the mark.”

Those who struggle with doubts about their salvation will be able to relate to ‘Screaming’ and these words: “Screaming out, intensity builds/Running from my fear of Hell/Trapped inside surrounding walls/By this power, will I be held?/Careful as I tread the night/Laying on this sea of shattered glass/I need the peace promised, is it waiting there for me? Or will I once again, meet the black and empty stare?”  ‘Should we cross Paths’ lets the devil know he won’t have the final say in how the story of humanity plays out: “Justice lies beyond the Wailing Wall/To cleanse the threshing floor of failings all/A cure for humanity, to eliminate the waste/Should we cross paths, my victory you’ll taste/We’ve had all we can take! Nothing more to have!/The World disintegrates, should we cross paths.”

It is clear from the lyrics of the next song ‘Contempt’ that Brown has had some abusive experiences with those in religious authority: “You stole from me my life and the endearing part of my youth/You led me thru and all around in your circus you called ‘truth’/Take a knee and learn to submit, it’s the only way!/You said it was God, but somehow you were always in the way…Scatter the sheep and the Shepherd moves in for the kill/Shear the little ones many times, skin them only once of their will!”  ‘Thistles’ starts off as a slow rock instrumental then builds and quiets again.  It runs over eleven minutes!

‘My Love’ seems to be a love song for Brown’s wife Helen, who did a good job on this album’s artwork: “Remember when you first came into my sight/I fell just like a dream, it seems so long ago/Conscience, it did not take long/To see all that you were to me/My love, all that I am is yours/Soaring on the wings, they caress you in the dark/Listen to the waters that calm us in surreal/Believe the faith that’s led us this far/Emptiness filled by all that we feel.”  Many of the lyrics to the closing track deal with the fact that there are many belief systems Brown does not agree with.  He concludes: “I hear and see your point of view, and understand the arguments clear/I don’t want to end our talk with a fist of rage or a sighing tear/So let it be written, so let it be done/You have your views and I have mine/No sense to argue anymore/Because at least we agree we’re all part of mankind.”

Fans of the earliest Deliverance speed/thrash metal albums will find much to like here.  Blazing electric guitar work and breakneck speed drumming and shouted vocals.  Fans of later albums like RIVER DISTURBANCE, which fall more into the progressive metal category with sung vocals, also have much to cheer about here.  This album seems to have more heart and passion than its predecessor ASSIMILATION.  AS ABOVE-SO BELOW is Christian metal that kicks the devil in the rear end!  I’m rating it 89% and recommending it to fans of Tourniquet, Vengeance Rising, Once Dead, and Ultimatum.  For more info visit

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Deliverance formed as a speed/thrash metal band in 1985.  It was not until 1989 that they put out their self-titled debut.  The next year they released the highly lauded WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE.  Over the years the band turned musically more towards progressive metal and heavy metal.  When they released ASSIMILATION (2001, Indie Dream Records) it had been six long years since their last album!  On this project Deliverance is Jimmy P. Brown II (all vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, keyboards), Manny Morales (the five string bass), and David Gilbreath (keyboards and programming).  A couple additional musicians were also used.  Of this album group leader Jimmy Brown looks back and says: “I think out of the nine or ten songs there were two good ones.  I am really not sure since I haven’t heard this album since it was put out in 2001.  I just really have no interest in listening to it.  I don’t listen to too much of my own material to be honest, but out of all records, that one is in the ‘If I must’ category.”  The album credits show that at the time Deliverance supported The Church of Yahweh, and dedicated the album to the late, great Gene Eugene.

‘The Limitless Light’ starts things off.  It is one of seven songs penned solely by Brown.  The words remind us that the Church is not the be all and end all: “YHWH’s truth again revealed to the poor/The air carries the mystery of You/The answers I didn’t find in the pews/Through Your Name I found redemptive plan/The holiness forms the body of man/Come take me to where You dwell/Even through the fires of hell/I know You will.”  ‘From the Beginning’, co-written with Manny Morales, speaks of God’s powerful saving grace: “Beguiled by the snake, man lost his sight/There was no one left to blame/The veil was raised and the cord now severed/The beauty now became their shame…/The Ani looked and saw that it was good/Perfection embodied and His plan understood/Sacrifice to save mankind from themselves/Brought back to YHWH to rid them from this hell.”  Please note that Ani is Hebrew for ‘I AM’.

The title cut ‘Assimilation’, penned with David Gilbreath, seems to speak of the dangers of our over-stimulated, technologically driven society: “Screaming in digital, the movement so vast/Feeding the night never meant to last/Writhing in ecstasy, sequential overload/Shuffle of darkness just outside the know/Mutation will finally take its course/When the drive’s path returns to its course/Blurred vision, correction of the filtered stream/The wiping of data by the program seen.”  ‘The Circle’ references Judas Iscariot: “Living in the night, not wanting so the light of day/Only fooling yourself, ignoring the only way/How much does it take for a man to feel rich?/Is a bag of silver enough to betray me with a kiss?/The wandering fool searches for his pot of gold/He doesn’t know what is bid upon has already been sold.”

‘Sell Your Soul’, one of my favorites, offers hope to the abused and downtrodden: “You don’t have to sell your soul/And give up all that you are/Condemned to conform/The mind and the thoughts of this world have raped your heart/You don’t have to sell your soul/And give up all that you’ll be/Better to die awake than to live asleep/Take His hand and feel pain no more/Be who you will be, even living among the thorns.”  ‘The Search’ gets scientific: “Far from this land of dismay/Is where I want to be/Take me to the reaches of the mind/Let my eyes again see…/Wise men still seek to find the truth in us/But they use the Hubble to discover/What their feet have already crushed.”

‘The Learned Man’ reminds us that if we seek God we will find Him and that He is true Knowledge: “Quiet now, a recluse who questions being/Why and where do we belong?/What aren’t my eyes seeing?../To catch a glimpse of the Saviour/Through this multi-coloured smear/Wipe away the tears/The learned man.”  ‘Between 2 Worlds’ speaks of how God is the true driving force of life as we know it: “Split my brain, how could this be?/The central theme of life brought by this seed/Let me see cerulean skies chase the rain/The tale of sinful thought ride the course of the bane/Raise the bar once again, challenge my soul/The limitless light ignites the coals/Real, I ask for real/I heard one say/The hands of YHWH form the clay/Between two worlds.”

Brown wrote ‘Impressions’ with his beloved wife Helen.  This song points to true religion as described in the Word, as something we should practice: “Can I love my neighbor as myself?/The cry to Adonai as always to change me/Don’t let my stare become a fearful glare/When I see their humanity, will it change the scenery?../Or does the prejudicial eye leave none to tell?../Can I love my neighbor?”  A song of total surrender to Christ, ‘Save Me From…’, closes the album: “A searching soul in search for a sign/My journey began before I was born…/I hear the rainfall, see it through my eyes/Cleave to the truth, let go of the lies/My will to be, I will be, centered Messiah inside of me/To live to breathe, sacrifice myself/Save me from myself, touch me, make me, love me.”

ASSIMILATION is not the type of metal where the vocals are screamed and unintelligible.  The vocals here are sometimes sung, and sometimes almost spoken.  The lyrics are written in a way that will make you think.  They aren’t right in your face.  In his thanks Brown writes: “And to my truest of all my inspiration, nothing I can do or say can reflect or describe what You mean to me.  You are the Breath I breathe, the Bread I eat, the Warmth I feel.  In You I have found my healing, my mending, my restoration, my life.  Let me flow from You to this world…YHWH and His Son YHSWH.”  Fans of the musical stylings of David Bowie, Tourniquet, Passafist, Skillet, and latter-era Steve Taylor should buy this album.  I’m rating it 84%.  For more info visit

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Randy Stonehill’s first two albums were BORN TWICE (1971) and GET ME OUT OF HOLLYWOOD (1973).  He followed these with what CCM magazine would name the thirteenth greatest album in Christian music history, WELCOME TO PARADISE (1976, Solid Rock).  Larry Norman produced, while Andy Johns (The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin) was the main engineer.  Norman is also credited with electric guitar, piano, and harmonies.  Jon Linn also plays guitar.

A breezy pop song ‘King of Hearts’ starts things off.  It went on to become one of Randy’s most loved songs ever.  Here are the opening words: “All alone drifting wild/Like a ship that’s lost out in the ocean/Everyone’s a homeless child/And it’s not hard to understand/Why we need a Father’s hand/There’s a rainbow somewhere/You were born to be there/You’re just running in circles/Till you reach out your hand to the King of hearts.”  ‘Keep me Runnin’ is a light rock number with a long instrumental break.  The song puts the spiritual mentality of a pre-Christian into words: “Keep me runnin’ from the sins I can’t erase/Like an outlaw with a mask to hide his face/Once I was told that love could fly/Yeah but it’s been so long that I just don’t remember why/Keep me runnin’, keep me movin’/Keep me always on the go/Keep me makin’ sure my footprints never show.”

‘The Winner (High Card)’ is the story of a seemingly self-sufficient man: “It’s not easy to see me/I’m an influential man/And I never needed anyone/To build my promised land/So don’t tell me about Jesus/’Cause He’s just too hard to sell/And I never trust in strangers/That’s the first rule I learned well/I’m the winner and made it to the top/And I took it all just like I planned/I’m the man who holds the high card in his hand.”  ‘Lung Cancer’ is a rocker.  It is also an early example of Randy using humour to make a serious point, as he would do many times during his career: “When she had her first cigarette/A puff or two was all she could take/Now if she doesn’t have one in her hand all the time/You’ll notice it begin to shake/And even though she’s nonchalant/And acts as if her habit’s a joke/She won’t do too much laughing/When her life goes up in smoke/She’s been smoking that C-I-G-A-R-E-T-T-E/That cigarette’s got her on her knees/C-I-G-A-R-E-T-T-E/That darn tobacco won’t set her free/Oh run, suck baby suck/Suck on that cigarette/Go on and light up that fag and take a drag/It’s bound to snuff you yet.”

‘Puppet Strings’ is a masterful ballad that speaks of both Eden and Calvary: “We are all like foolish puppets who desiring to be kings/Now lie pitifully crippled after cutting our own strings/But God said ‘I’ll forgive you/I will face you Man to man/And win your love again’/Oh how could there be possibly a greater gift of love/Than dying for a friend?”  ‘First Prayer’ yearns for purpose in this life: “I see people in a world of lies/Staring out through lonely eyes/Watching as the years go by/Knowing they’re living only to die/There must be something missing somewhere/So if You’re listening answer this prayer/’I will follow if You’ll lead me/Help me make a stand/If You’ll breathe new breath inside me/I’ll believe You can (2X)’”.

‘I’ve Got News For You’ is an adult rock song that urges us to quiet ourselves and turn our minds to things spiritual: “Can you look inside yourself and tell me/That your emptiness is just a state of mind/And you’ll feel better if you just keep busy/If you leave your feelings all behind?/I’ve got news for you, this is not a game/I’ve got news for you, are you listenin’?”  ‘Song for Sarah’ is a pretty ballad that includes orchestration and tells of the greatest Love of all: “Sarah Someone loves you in a way I never could/He laid His life before you on a cross made out of wood/Oh and in His hour of anguish our dreams were given birth/I hope you finally realize/How much your love is worth.”

The mid-tempo ‘Christmas Song For All Year ‘Round’ shares the Gospel: “And I know that if Saint Nicholas was here he would agree/That Jesus gave the greatest gift of all to you and me/They led Him to the slaughter on a hill called Calvary/And mankind was forgiven when they nailed Him to the tree/But most of all the children, they’re the ones I hope will learn/That Jesus is our Savior and He’s going to return.”  In 1987 Kenny Marks would cover ‘Good News’, a song of anticipation and celebration for believers: “Good news, well I feel alright/Good news, He’ll come like a thief in the night/Good news, He’s gonna take us in flight/When Jesus comes to bring us on home…/Good news, we’re gonna live forever/Good news, floating light as a feather/Good news, we can all be together/When Jesus comes to bring us on home.”

In later years this album would be released on CD with varying numbers of bonus tracks.  Of note is a demo of a song called ‘Janet’, which seems to be an early version of what would become ‘Song for Sarah’.  Here are a few of the lyrics: “Janet can I love you/Will you open up the door?/I know you heard that misused word a lot of times before/But I think that you need Someone/Who can firmly take your hand/And love you in a way that you can really understand.”  ‘Let Me Do It’ is essentially Larry and Randy goofing off.  Another bare bones acoustic track finds them working on an incomplete song called ‘Heart Lock’.

WELCOME TO PARADISE is a skillful, bona fide Contemporary Christian Music album.  It is a must for Christian music historians.  The songs ring as true today as they did in 1976.  Fans of Rick Cua and Phil Keaggy will enjoy this album.  It has a good mix of seeker-friendly, and Savior songs.  I’m rating it 95.5%.  For more info visit and

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Christian music pioneer Randy Stonehill released his debut album BORN TWICE on One Way Records in 1971.  Over the years it has appeared in different versions.  The one I am reviewing was released on CD by Solid Rock.

Five live tracks, each received with much applause, start off the album.  Randy humorously introduces himself before singing the great Jimmy Owens ballad ‘I Need You’ from the musical SHOW ME!  The song admits to a spiritual void in one’s life: “Well, God, it’s me/And I never thought I’d see/The day when I’d say ‘I need You’/But I know now it’s true/And I’ve come straight to You/Just to say that I want to meet You.”  Next Randy gives us a nice acoustic version of the popular mainstream song ‘Hand in the Hand’ which has a catchy chorus: “Put your hand in the hand of the man that stilled the water/Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea/Take a look at yourself and you will look at your brother differently/Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.”

Randy puts his own twist on another popular song that we grew up singing as children.  He slows down ‘He’s Got the Whole World’.  This version includes these words I’m unfamiliar with: “You know, He showed it to me right in His hands/How real my life could be in His hands/He’s gonna set you free in His hands/He’s got the whole world in His hands/I’m so glad (2X).”  Randy tells the crowd he is a baby Christian and wants to do more than entertain.  He passionately delivers ‘Help me Lord’, one of his own songs that has him crying out to God for assistance: “You’ve got  to help me Lord/Save my soul/Lucifer has control/And I’m a lost man/Yes I am (2X)/And I’m drownin’/Yes I am (2X)/But I’m not too far gone not to know/How bad I need You Lord/Set me free/Touch my eyes/Let me see/Cause I’m a blind man.”

Randy says he wrote ‘Thank You’ about a week after he was saved.  He felt so alive!  He jokes about his typing skills, saying: “I sat down at my typewriter and grabbed a pen.”  This song gives all glory to God: “And in the times when I become impatient/The times when I feel angry or alone/I may be lost and blinded in those moments/But I know for sure You’ll bring me home/God, I know for sure/You’ll bring me home/Thank You Jesus (2X)/Your golden light shined down through the rain/Yes it did/Thank You Jesus (2X)/You took away my sorrow and my pain.”  Next up are some studio recordings.  ‘Never Can Repay’ by Stonehill is a rocker with electric guitar that should please fans of early Resurrection Band material.  It is a song of gratitude for God’s all surpassing peace: “The things of the world may be all right/But I really don’t need ‘em since I’ve seen the light/People all runnin’ round getting’ uptight/Well, I’m okay-I sleep well at night/Thank You, Thank You/What can I say?/Thank You is not enough/There’s no way to repay/I can never repay.”
‘All Right Now’, a rocker with good bass, speaks of the evident difference Christ should make in our lives: “People look at me/Like they’re trying to figure out/Just what it could be/What it is that I’m smilin’ ‘bout/Ain’t it funny/Well, it’s a joy that I can’t hide/You love me/And it’s shinin’ from inside.”  Randy quiets things down with the lengthy ‘Passing Stranger’.  It makes me think of the crucifixion: “Searching for the footprints of the man who wears the sandals (2X)/Oh, Lord, look what they’ve done! Yeah…/Oh, Lord, look what they’ve done to You now/Look what they’ve done to You now (2X)/Can I believe my eyes, can it be true?/So gentle and wise/Look what they’ve done to You.”

‘I Love You’ would later reappear on Larry Norman’s IN ANOTHER LAND with lyrical variances.  Here are some of the lyrics from Randy’s version of this warm pop song: “Brother and sister, Mrs. And Mr./I love you/I love you/He made me feel it, and I can’t conceal it/I love you, I love you/Jesus came into the world to show us the way/To set us all free, and when He died, He was sayin’/I love you.”  A raw recording of ‘Norman’s Kitchen’ follows.  Larry is on harmony vocals.  The song begins on a humorous note, but goes on to speak of how unbelievers don’t understand the change one experiences when born again: “Now my parents they ignore me/They say I’ve gotten strange/But when you’re touched by Heaven/You know dat somethin’s bound to change/Well, I can see, I am free/And I’m who I want to be/Mercy me (3X).”
Two bonus tracks are next.  A live recording of ‘Sunset Road to Nowhere’ is first.  It contains these rather earthy lyrics: “I’ve done my share of hustling on the street/Well you know a man is judged by the shoes upon his feet/So I always made damn sure I got my share/Cause if you don’t clean up your plate someone’s bound to be there/But I’m old and I’m dying now/And I only have one care/I hope that where I’m going’s gonna be a better place (3X)/Than this sunset road to nowhere.”  A faster version of the holiday rock number ‘Christmastime’, a song that would later appear on Norman’s SO LONG AGO THE GARDEN, is included here.  The song hits hard against the commercialization of Christ’s birth: “Oh, now it used to be the birthday of a man who saved our necks/But now it stands for Santa Claus, they spell it with an ‘X’/Whoo…Christmas time, yeah!/Whoo…it’s Christmas time!/Now I gotta buy a present, can’t remember who it’s for/But I’ll see you in an hour when I get back from the store.”

BORN TWICE is a must have for Christian rock collectors!  What makes it a true treasure is that the newness and excitement of Randy’s Christian faith comes through loud and clear.  It is neat to hear how this now legendary artist got his start.  I would love Randy to pen an autobiography, as he could provide great insight into the early days of the Jesus Movement and the music it inspired.  I’m rating BORN TWICE 97%.  Fans of Johnny Cash and the Rolling Stones should like this one.  For more info visit and