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).
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.
Barren Cross - State of Control (Enigma) 1989
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.
Barren Cross - Hotter Than Hell Live! (Restless) 1990
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.
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.