Back in the day, the pioneering Christian metal band Philadelphia put out two now classic albums. They were 1985’s TELL THE TRUTH, which gave birth to the Top 25 CCM hit ‘No Compromise’, and 1986’s highly successful SEARCH AND DESTROY. They played at Cornerstone Festival both of those years. They were also among the bands accused by preachers and churches of playing the devil’s music and even committing blasphemy. Philadelphia recorded and demoed several songs for a third album, but it never saw the light of day. The group broke up partly due to issues with their label. Fast forward to 2016 and they are back with WARLORD (Roxx Records). It was produced by Richard Wicander and Brian Martini and executive produced by Bill Bafford. This album features all three members of the original band: Brian Martini (drums and percussion), Phil Scholling (guitars), and Brian `Wulfie’ Clark (bass and vocals).
‘Brothers in Arms’ is a hard rock song about being ready both for physical and spiritual battles: “An ivory city on a hill/We thought we’d stand and never fall/Honor and justice all for a righteous cause/But still and yet for all this while/Our city gates were open wide/And now the enemy, our enemy’s inside/Even though we live in peace/They still would take our lives/Massed outside our walls/Hatred and slaughter/Simply for what we believe/Fight or surely fall.../Now to arms, to arms my brothers/We fight or fall, it’s fight or fall/I call my brothers/It’s fight or fall”. ‘Defender’ speaks of God’s loving care for us: “All my life I’ve been too alone in this world/Only strife/Now there’s You, You for me/And I, I can see my Defender/Always right by my side/Kicked around/I’ve been made to feel like a fool/I’ve been put down/Once I thought I’d never know/A love that could turn back time/Heal these wounds and let me grow/And now, now You’re mine/My Defender/Keeping me safe in this world/You’re my refuge, my rock”. ‘I’m Not Listening’ is an angry heavy metal track aimed at prosperity preachers who live large while their followers suffer: “Shiny new ride and your fancy suit/Fake bake tan, Italian shoes/Manicured nails/Comb your hair just so/You reach so high to sink so low/I’m not listening no, no, no more/Build a new church/Erect an amusement park/But the Man you say you admire/He didn’t own squat.../Old widow woman/Watchin’ you on the T. V./Sent you her last couple bucks/And baby that was no C.O.D./When everything is said and done/And all the votes are in/Let me tell you something, man/You gonna answer for that, Jim”.
‘Prophecy’ is a fast-paced heavy metal song on which Phil Scholling’s youngest daughter Lauren contributes an electric guitar part, which was a real treat for him! These lyrics imagine a situation where another uprising of angels in heaven occurs: “God forbid that it’s happened again, a new rebellion in heaven/Trapped in a game we never could win/Will 3 and 4 make 7?/Angels abound but their wings are so black/Black as their heart beats inside/If I should meet one before I awake/Father, please keep me alive”. ‘Wasteland’ is told from the perspective of a despondent inmate: “Drag me down in chains/Step into my grave/My whole world is pain/All my tomorrows are yesterdays/And I’ve got no hope left/I’ve done what I can/When you see me you’ve/You’ve seen a ghost man/I’m such a wasteland.../Darkness is my light/Death seems sweet and right/God help me tonight”.
‘Sane Asylum’ has a fine European metal feel to it. The lyrics admit that this world is out of control and point to God as our Refuge: “This world we live in is a crazy place/So tired of runnin’ in the human race/Bad things come to good people/Good things come to bad/Search all day for happiness/All you find is sad/The city streets look just like padded walls/Madness and violence in a free for all/I, I need asylum/A sane asylum.../Look around and find your one true Love/He waits for you so just hold out your hand/Gonna lead you to a peaceful land/We, we need asylum/A sane, a sane asylum”. ‘Son of the Morning’ is a melodic metal song that finds Lucifer talking to God, which is definitely not a common theme in Christian music. Here are some of the words: “Yes my friend, it’s the end/I’d rather die on my feet/Than to live on my knees/If you please.../You say You love me and then You leave/In my darkness/Lost in my grief/There’s no room that’s left for belief.../Did You ever stop to think just how I feel/I was born to serve and forced to kneel/Just subtract my one/From Your perfect seven/A king in hell, not a slave in heaven”. ‘Lady Fortune’ is an epic metal song inspired by words found in Psalms and Proverbs: “Her slender hands lay pressed against a bloody white dress/She’s calling in loans while she’s breaking your bones/Lady Fortune/Listen to her siren song/Believe in what she tells you/Whispering softly in your ear and smiling as she sells you/You fool, you think you’ll be the one to finally tame her”.
The next two songs each run over six minutes long. ‘Way of the Skull’ has a dark, plodding heavy metal feel to it, with drums and electric guitar at the forefront. Stylistically, think Black Sabbath, says the band. It’s an emotional song from the viewpoint of Simon of Cyrene: “They’re grabbing me now, they’re dragging me now/I’ve got to help Him die.../I pick Him up now/Look in His eyes now/Can they do this to Him?/His cross so heavy/I feel it must be the weight of every living thing.../The women crying, this place of dying/Yet He tells me not to fear/This man so holy/I think He must be sent from God to show the way/Can you hear me calling?/Help me, I’m falling/Away, away”. The album’s title track, ‘Warlord’, is the only song that dates back thirty years when the band was originally writing for album #3, before they disbanded. It’s no surprise then that the song has a classic metal vibe to it. Its subject is the Second Coming: “Comes to judge and to make war/He grips a white horse mane/Crimson red His battlecry/No man can know His Name/Thousands standing at His side, poised at His command/Death to all who rule this world with blood upon their hands/Streaking down from the sky/Vengeance is His cry/He’s a Warlord (2X)/And He’s comin’ in for the kill”. Those who believe God is only love will not like these lyrics, in fact they’ll likely be offended. Last up is a bonus demo of ‘Brothers in Arms’.
WARLORD is a splendid album of hard rock and heavy metal sounds. Blazing electric guitar parts and solos and pounding drums and bass make this a full, meaty sounding project. Songs about spiritual warfare are most common. These take the form of both good versus evil on earth, and a battle between the same two forces in the heavenlies. God is pointed to as our sure Rock and strength as believers. These are songs that will make you think, which is what the band wants. The vocals aren’t hard to decipher, as can be the case with several bands in this genre. Fans of Bloodgood, Stryper, Judas Priest, Barren Cross, and King James should acquire this album. I’m rating WARLORD 87%. I hope Philadelphia records more new material in the near future. For more info visit: www.phillymusic.us, www.roxxproductions.com, and facebook.com/PhiladelphiaMetal.