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Joshua 17:16 - 55%

Tanuki, December 7th, 2017

There's something admirable about the implications of Christian power metal, if only on a conceptual level. Something about a band hedging their bets on Pascal's Wager by using the infernal impetus of metal to espouse Christianity. Or something like that. I wouldn't know, I've never bothered with all that jazz. The way I see it, let's say I end up in Heaven. The angels wouldn't let me play my Sarcófago mixtapes, so what's the point.

They may, however, allow some Apostle on the odd occasion. Matt Harding, founder of both Apostle and Steel Armada, passed away a few years ago. Sadly he never managed to make too big a ripple in the power metal scene, despite being one of the more bombastic and flagrantly Christian frontman. In part this was due to some unfortunate timing, but deserving the majority of the blame was the utterly horseblowing production that plagued his every release. 1987's Chariots of Iron is no exception, sounding rather like how it looks: Felix the Cat in Tiananmen Square.

I promise I won't belabor the bad production; I'll just skim the key details. The treble with melt your brain, the acoustics are suspiciously reminiscent of some underground doomsday cult's armory, and not even Jesus himself could forgive the outrageous amount of clipping. I'd like to stress that the shoddy production and non-existent mastery didn't factor into my score, but I have a feeling most of you won't believe me, or care.

I'm pleased to report that from a songwriting perspective, Apostle presents a rather good showing. Correctly identified as something of an underground gem of Christian power metal, Apostle is bold and audacious with its riffcraft, and Harding has some serious pipes. 'Rock' and 'Lake of Fire' sees some truly outrageous falsetto action, in addition to certian vocal lines flexing into some impressive melodies. It works, in a fashion, though he noticeably struggles with the lower registers, and I'm not entirely convinced all of his vibrato is intentional.

His fretwork is less of a mixed bag. Riffs, even during the slower songs like 'Power in the Blood' and 'Lamb of God', have a pleasantly consistent chug to them that manages to keep the pacing nice and rigorous. Leads are somewhat on the simple side, thinking specifically of the faux-neoclassical affectations of 'Sword and Shield' and the title track, but it's enough to cut the mustard. However, Mr. Harding must have conveniently forgot Exodus 20:15 whilst writing the hook to 'Lake of Fire'. If you want to hear a bold-faced theft of one of the most easily-recognizable metal hooks in existence, have a listen for yourself.

But I'm willing to overlook these transgressions in favor of enjoying an earnest, nonsecular romp through classic USPM. There are much better examples out there, even if you're specifically looking for USPM that spreads the message of the gospel. Try Theocracy, for starters. And then try Messiah Prophet's Master of the Metal, for its album cover alone.