Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Surfing With Holy Soldier

Come on, man--why don't you look into Holy Soldier?

Unbeknownst to me, before I happily stumbled across the above Dio/Rainbow cover, there were TWO Holy Soldiers, albeit with some continuity in their personnel. Basically, they were High-Voiced Soldier and Low-Voiced Soldier. The High-Voiced Soldier I grew up with featured Steven Patrick on lead vocals. He had a great voice! He sang with a quivering tenor that gave every song an undertone of exquisite pain, sort of like Brad Delp of the band Boston. Patrick always sounded like he just couldn't get enough God. So when you hear a song like "Love Me," my favorite, you really feel that this guy's at his wit's end and NEEDS God in a way that only his voice can express:

Low-Voiced Soldier--remakers of Rainbow's "Gates of Babylon" and Larry Norman's "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus"--were fronted by Eric Wayne. I don't really know anything about him, aside from his hairy machismo. According to Lutheran theologian/CCM critic Mark Allan Powell, the Wayne-led album Promise Man is supposed to be really good. (But then he says they sound like "Crash Test Dummies doing Soundgarden songs," so I don't know WHAT to believe!) Me, I'll rep for the High-Voiced 1990 debut, Holy Soldier, and maybe the High-Voiced followup Last Train, which I listened to on the bus en route to a band contest once. It had a cover of "Gimme Shelter" and may have been beautiful. I can't promise anything beyond that, but it's gonna cost you, what?, a buck, so why not shell out and take a chance?

AS FAR AS THEIR TENUOUS RELATION TO BABYLON: Um, they covered Rainbow for this 1995 movie Raging Angels, an Alan Smithee film that featured Shelly Winters in a very special role as Grandma Ruth. Here's what one IMDB commenter has to say:

"The ending sees a rather over tanned Archangel take on the Devil in a rubbish sword fight, as well as some of the most rip off music.

"Buy this movie."

I think we can all imagine the depths of suck this movie would drag us through*. Nonetheless, it's worth noting that the idea of Babylon-as-hell is alive and well, even in the most dire B-movie universes. Also worth noting that although the song "Gates of Babylon" is narrated by the devil, there's nothing that says a Christian metal band can't cover it. It's sort of like The Screwtape Letters, or Petra's "Killing My Old Man" ("So I'll nail him to the wood..."). I'm admittedly out of the CCM loop, but it seems like Back Then was a more adventurous time. (sigh...) (Please prove me wrong...)

High-Voiced Soldier have one more Babylon reference, on their debut album. In the grimly eschatological "When the Reign Comes Down," Steven Patrick sings with trademark desperation about Babylon burning, the world stopping its turning, the sky raining fire, the flames rising higher, and--whoa baby, check out what's in store for rapists and killers:

"The scavenger of lost souls
It feeds as they expire
Licks the lips of the mouth of Hell
And spews eternal fire"

Tell me again, why was I allowed to listen to these guys but not Slayer?

*The soundtrack featured another (High-Voiced) Soldier tune, "The Pain Inside of Me," along with Stryper's "To Hell With the Devil" (over the end credits) and lead actor Sean Patrick Flanery's--yes--"Come In My Mind." (Now THERE'S an invitation!) Plus Boston, Golden Earring, and Candlebox! Remember Candlebox?

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