Barren Cross
Barren Cross are a heavy metal band from California, USA that was formed in 1983 by
Mike Lee (vocalist), Jim LeVerde (bassist), Steve Whittaker (drums) and Ray Parris (guitarist).

Barren Cross - Believe
(independent) 1985

Side A
1. "Believe"
2. "He Loves You"

3. "Just A Touch"
Side B
4. "Give Your Life"
5. "Light The Flame"
6. "Going Nowhere"

Before "Rock the King" was released on Star Song, the band released a self financed vinyl EP titled "Believe." The music contained herein is very similar to the Star Song version of "Rock for the King," although it sounds as though the mix or recording is a little rougher than that version. All six songs contained on this album showed up on "Rock For the King" as well. This EP was printed in two editions. Edition 1 was pressed by independently on the MPPA label and had a blue cover with white text and logo (that's the one I have, pictured above). The second pressing was licensed to Erika Records and had a white cover and blue text and was pressed on blue vinyl, and possibly black vinyl as well. (Scroll over the cover above to see the white version.)

Up until a few years ago, I didn't even know this album existed and certainly did not have hope of ever finding a copy of it once I did discover it. Well, what do you know but one day I get an email from Barren Cross guitarist Ray Parris who offers to give me his extra copy of "Believe". How cool is that? Thanks Ray. Had it autographed at Cornerstone Califonria by the entire band. Note how Mike Lee signed his name then put his new name (Mike Drive) in parenthesis under it.

Rock for the King Barren Cross - Rock for the King (Star Song) 1986

  1. "Dying Day" (3:27)
  2. "He Loves You" (4:37)
  3. "It's All Come True" (4:05)
  4. "Believe" (2:16)
  5. "Going Nowhere" (3:49)
  6. "Rock For The King" (5:02)
  7. "Give Your Life" (2:49)
  8. "Just A Touch" (3:29)
  9. "Light The Flame" (5:34)
Barren Cross' debut was influenced by classic heavy metal bands like Judas Priest, Queensryche and especially, Iron Maiden. The music is melodic yet heavy and contains some killer hooks, yet it's not overtly commercial. I remember bringing this one into my dorm room and playing it for a bunch of my friends. Many of them thought it was awesome until I broke the news to them that it was a Christian band. Pretty funny how that little tag can change someone's opinion about a band. In anycase, vocalist Mike Lee has a strong voice, reminiscent of Bruce Dickinson but certainly not a carbon copy of Bruce. The lyrics on "Rock for the King" are definitely coming from a Christian perspective, not unlike contemporaries Stryper, but Barren Cross are a much less pop oriented musically than Stryper and a bit heavier as well. Almost two decades later this disc is still one of my favorites. For years I held onto my vinyl copy as I had thought that this CD didn't exist. Eventually, however, I was set straight by fellow CD collector Ralf Walter. Of course I immediately set out to find an original CD copy. I bid on this disc on eBay several times and watched the bidding go up to $35 a few times. I managed to pick up this copy for under $20. Autographed at Cornerstone California '07 by Mike Lee, Jim LeVerde and Steve Whittaker

"Rock for the King" LP autographed by all four members

Mike Lee

Atomic Arena Barren Cross - Atomic Arena (Enigma) 1988

1. "Imaginary Music" (4:26)
2. "Killer of the Unborn" (3:28)
3. "In The Eye of the Fire" (4:27)
4. "Terrorist Child" (3:30)
5. "Close to the Edge" (4:55)
6. "Dead Lock" (4:18)
7. "Cultic Regimes" (2:48)
8. "Heaven or Nothing" (4:10)
9. "King of Kings" (3:30)
10. "Living Dead" (6:50)

I LOVE this album! It is one of the greatest Christian heavy metal albums to come out of the 80's. The band received some MTV and radio play over this one. The sound is a mixture of the heaviest Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The lyrics are less Stryper-Rock for the Rock, type of lyrics and deal more with social issues like abortion ("Killer of the Unborn"), drug abuse ("Dead Lock"), destructive cults ("Cultic Regimes") and the responsibility of the musician to their audience ("Imaginary Music"). The one exception would be "King of Kings," which is a heavy song about Jesus. Good production with a very big drum sound and some raw Mesa Boogie guitar tones.

Had this CD autographed by Jim LeVerde when I ran into him at Cornerstone '05 in the Sanctuary tent. Just happened to have my copy of "Atomic Arena" sitting in my car.

Ray Parris
Ray Parris

Jim LeVerde

State of Control State of Control Barren Cross - State of Control (Enigma) 1989

1. "State of Control" (3:52)
2. "Out of Time" (4:09)
3. "Cryin' Over You" (4:53)
4. "A Face in the Dark" (3:55)
5. "The Stage of Intensity" (6:36)
6. "Hard Lies" (4:18)
7. "Inner Wars" (4:09)
8. "Love at Full Volume" (2:28)
9. "Bigotry Man (Who Are You)" (4:42)
10. "Two Thousand Years" (7:09)
11. "Your Love Gives" (3:46)

11. "Escape in the Night" (3:54)

Jim & Me
Barren Cross bassist Jim LeVerde and myself.
Barren Cross
Following in the footsteps of "Atomic Arena" Barren Cross created another heavy metal monster. This time around however, there were a couple more melodic, commercial sounding songs like "Hard Lies," but a majority of the disc is just quality American heavy metal. "Two Thousand Years" and "Stage of Intensity" are two of my favorite Barren Cross songs ever! Both are epic heavy metal numbers with some killer vocals and guitar work. "Stage of Intensity" starts off as an acoustic number before kicking into a full throttle rocker. "Two Thousand Years" is a heavy galloping number with a strong message about their faith. 

When this first came out I purchased the cassette that didn't include "Two Thousand Years". It wasn't until later that I found out that there were multiple track listings for this album. There are two versions of the CD, a more common version that has "Escape in the Night" instead of the ballad "Your Love Gives" and a second version, distributed to Christian stores through Benson that contains "Your Love Gives." instead of "Escape in the Night." I had the "Your Love Gives" version autographed by all four members at the Extreme Martigras Festival in Anaheim, CA in August 16, 2001. I also own the more common "Escape in the Night" version. 

Hotter Than Hell Live Barren Cross - Hotter Than Hell Live! (Restless) 1990

1.   "Imaginary Music" (5:30)
2.   "Dying Day" (4:01)
3.   "Killers of the Unborn" (3:22)
4.   "Close to the Edge" (4:56)
5.   "Going Nowhere" (4:53)
6.   "Dead Lock" (4:11)
7.   "Opus to the Third Heaven" [instrumental] (4:21)
8.   "King of Kings" (6:45)
9.   "In the Eye of the Fire" (6:52)
10. "Rock for the King" (5:25)
11. "Light the Flame" (7:40)
12. "Terrorist Child" (6:13)
13. "King Jesus and Blues Jam" (4:24)
14.  "Give Your Life" (5:06)
Jim LeVerde
Jim LeVerde

Pretty ironic album title for a Christian metal band. Not a bad live offering, although it is quite obvious that Mike Lee is a bit strained after a long tour as his voice sometimes is struggling to reach the higher notes. This is one of those live discs that has not been doctored in the studio. I actually prefer when bands fix the mistakes, but I can understand the honesty factor as well. I think this disc was released to fulfill the band's contract to Enigma Records.

Rock for the King Barren Cross - Rock for the King (Medussa) 1986/1990

1.   "Dying Day" (3:29)
2.   "He Loves You" (4:38)
3.   "It's All Come True" (4:02)
4.   "Believe" (2:17)
5.   "Going Nowhere" (3:47)
6.   "Killer of the Unborn" [live] (3:57)
7.   "Rock for the King" (5:05)
8.   "Give Your Life" (2:54)
9.   "Just a Touch" (3:27)
10. "Light the Flame" (5:25)
11. "Dead Lock" [live] (4:20)
12. "Cultic Regimes" [live] (2:47)
13. "He Loves You" [live] (4:14)
14. "Living Dead" [live] (7:11)
15. "Heaven or Nothing" [live] (4:59)

The 'secular' reissue of "Rock for the King" was released, most likely, to fulfill an album contract with the struggling Enigma Records and was released on Enigma sub-label Medusa. The reissue contains new artwork, the nine remastered, premixed studio tracks and six live bonus tracks. The remix was done by Ronnie Montrose. I thought it was quite annoying that they stuck in a live track right in the middle of the studio tracks. I would rather have had all the live tracks at the end of the disc. Personally I like the original mix better. I even like the original cover art better.

Jim LeVerde
Jim LeVerde at Extreme MartiGras 2002
photo by Scott Waters

Mike Lee
Mike Lee at Extreme MartiGras 2002.
photo by Jeff Gross.

Rattle Your Cage Barren Cross - Rattle Your Cage (Rugged) 1994

1. "Rattle Your Cage" (4:19)
2 "Here I Am" (3:29)
3. "Unsuspecting" (3:57)
4. "No Time to Run" (3:35)
5. "Sick" (3:27)
6. "Somewhere Far Away" (2:52)
7. "Feed the Fire" (3:37)
8. "Let It Go Let It Die" (4:49)
9. "Time For Love" (3:10)
10. "J.R.M." (3:52)
11. "Your Will" (3:47)
12. "Midnight Son" (5:19)

After a five year break, Barren Cross get back together and record three songs for Patriot/Rugged Records compilation "Premium Cuts" before releasing this full length studio album. As if all those years hadn't past, Barren Cross records a great follow-up to "State of Control." The music is still traditional heavy metal but has a more modern production which gives the overall sound a heavier edge than anything they had done in the past. The heavier numbers such as the title track, "Sick" and "Unsuspecting" are hooky, riff-oriented and some of the finest in the band's catalog. Vocalist Mike Lee seems to be more aggressive vocally than on previous Barren Cross platters, especially on these songs. As with every Barren Cross album there are some ballads as well. This time around there is the worshipful "Your Will" and the acoustic "Somewhere Far Away". "J.R.M" is a funny song about an encounter with a woman with an attitude.

The Unsuspecting" also showed up in an acoustic version of Mike's solo disc (Mike Naeyert) as well as on a demo CD he recorded in 2002 under the name Drive.

Barren Cross also appeared on: California Metal compilation, Premium Cuts compilation and, more recently, the Extreme Martigras Compilation.


Barren Cross bassist Jim LeVerde signing my LPs, Cornerstone California 2007.

Myself with Barren Cross vocalist Mike Lee (aka Mike Drive), Cornerstone California 2007.

Birth Pangs Barren Cross - Birth Pangs (independent) 2014

1. Intro (:24)
2. Living Dead (7:15)
3. The Stage of Intensity (9:16)
4. Close to the Edge (5:14)
5. The Unsuspecting (5:36)
6. Two Thousand Years (8:16)
7. Return of the Light (5:16)
8. Believe (2:24)
9. Light the Flame (5:54)

10. He Loves You (5:33)
11. Dying Day (3:23)
12. Bigotry Man (4:37)
13. Here I Am (6:12)
14. A Walk With God [instrumental] (4:19)
15. Whitewashed "Love" (2:58)
16. Rattle Your Cage (4:14)
17. Deadlock (4:30)
18. Cultic Regimes (3:59)
19. Killers (3:44)

I am a self-professesd Christian metal fanatic. There are many bands, such as Barren Cross, that I hold in high esteem and on the same level as some of my favorite metal bands of all time. However, when it comes to live albums from these classic bands, there really hasn't been an album that could stand up to greats like "Live After Death", "Unleashed in the East", "Tokyo Tapes", etc. Indeed, even Barren Cross released a live album at the height of their Atomic Arena prime, but that album seemed like a bootleg that was put out to satisfy a contract with Enigma Records, rather than an intentional live recording. The thing is, a live record should capture the energy of a band and the crowd and give the songs new energy and renewed life. That is exactly what I enjoy about some of the greatest live albums of all time.

"Birth Pangs" is a 30 year anniversary live release on 2-CDs and captures the band live at the Elements of Rock Festival in Switzerland. Having played that stage and to that crowd in the past, I can say the energy the crowd gives is infectious and should charge up any band. You can definitely tell that Barren Cross were performing and feeding off that energy. The set features the original band members, Michael "Lee" Drive - Vocals, Ray Parris - Guitars, Jim Laverde - Bass and Steve Whitaker – Drums. 

The song selection comes off all four Barren Cross studio albums with several songs never having been performed live by the band. There are also a few songs that never made and Barren Cross record such as "Return of the Light", which is apparently a song that band wrote together in the early 80's but never officially recorded. As well there is an acoustic guitar instrumental titled "A Walk With God" and a new song called "Whitewashed 'Love'" that has a punky edge. Some of my favorite tracks are included including "Two Thousand Years", "The Stage of Intensity", "Killers", among others. Basically this set included the entire performance and has a stellar track listing. Unfortunately where this album falls a little flat is in the recording. The guitar sound is weak at best and lacks any real punch or crunch. I found myself constantly wanting to turn up the volume to be able to hear the guitar which is secondary to the vocals. Unfortunately for the band they had to use whatever amps were provided for them since this was a "one-off" show and the band wasn't actually touring Europe with their own equipment. Thus I think the problem lies more in the initial record as opposed to the mixing or mastering. Despite this flaw, I still found the show to be enjoyable, especially with such a strong set list. Mike Drive's vocals sounded spot on, the guitars, bass and drumming are all fairly tight, but you can also tell this is not a doctored recording. Every rub and flub is left in, which is how a live album should be unless it's something completely unbearable. In this case the human factor is felt in the recording.

The package includes a 20-page booklet with plenty of live photos from the performance. The cover art and layout leaves a bit to be desired and doesn't really fit the classic metal feel of the music.

All in all I still don't think that there is a live Christian live album that is legendary and takes the songs to the next level. Barren Cross comes close with this release.

Related collections:
Mike Naeyert
| Bare Bones | P.K. Mitchell