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In the name of God! - 75%

Thorgrim666, June 28th, 2012

I've never been fond of bands with an overt Christian message. In fact, for a long time it was a reason for me to dismiss someone's music, but years, aside from many grey hairs, have brought me a considerable dose of tolerance that has allowed me to appreciate the music of some great acts under the Christian flag (anyone know Trouble?).

Barren Cross was the typical '80s American metal band with the exception that, instead of raising a beer glass with one hand and grabbing some chick's tit with the other, they were bearing God's sword and the Holy Bible (morons!). However, leaving the spiritual debate apart, these guys were one of the few "white metal" bands that managed to sign with a non- necessarily Christian label as Enigma and is a good example of competent US heavy metal in the vein of Lizzy Borden, Armored Saint, and Malice with a special resemblance to the "godly" Iron Maiden, especially with the good impersonation of Bruce Dickinson done by frontman Mike Lee. In fact, this guy sounds so similar to Dickinson that sometimes you would even imagine that Bruce himself is also behind the mike here, although Lee lacks the distinctive elegance and varied range that Dickinson displayed in Iron Maiden's output during the '80s.

The competent production with a powerful and clean sound is nothing really spectacular though, courtesy of the laughably surnamed Elefante brothers (John was singer of Kansas and Mastedon was the producer of some Christian metal bands such as Guardian), and there's almost nothing else to remark about it. If you like solid '80s metal and you have no prejudices against stupid lyrics talking about God, abortion, heaven and the like, you'll find quite an enjoyable experience with Barren Cross' "Atomic Arena", but don't expect a total earthquake in your musical foundations.

Originally written for Ample Destruction 'zine.

Atomic Arena: 90. Close to the edge of perfection - 90%

Kalelfromkrypton, January 16th, 2008

If by the time Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden they would have put this guy to sing almost nobody would’ve noticed the change of singers. Mike Lee has the same power, range and operatic vocal style of Bruce’s. I could guess (according to one interview to the band’s mastermind Ray Parris once in a Heaven’s Metal video) that once he listened to the guy he said: ‘This is it, the guy we’ve been looking for, pure and straight Bruce Dickinson alike’’.

With Atomic Arena they made an album worthy of worldwide recognition due to the crunch guitar tone, the soaring vocals and the powerful drumming knocking you down throughout.

The highlights are obviously Imaginary Music which got a video and a lot of airplay in MTV and Living Dead with its exquisite guitar riffing and double bass delicious rhythm parts. RFTK was much Christian worship lyrics focused but Atomic Arena shows more mature lyrics from murder, abortion (like Dr. Hatchet from Seventh Angel), terrorism, satanic sects, violence and of course God’s praise songs. There is only one ballad in Heaven or Nothing and it is very good actually. The only problem I find with these guys is the overwhelming use of keyboards. I mean, for a kick ass metal album they are too much for me. Virtually every song has keyboards providing atmosphere but they sometimes eclipses the guitars which I find annoying with any band.

The guitar distortion is even heavier than Iron Maiden and the riffing parts I find them more interesting, sometimes like Candlemass due to the heaviness and speed but the songs fall more in the basic mid tempo like Judas Priest’s ‘Paintkiller’ and an up tempo song in Cultic Regimes, pretty much like ‘The Way’ from Stryper but a little faster.

What really sucks in here is the cover. Around the beginning of the 90’s we already had really good covers like Maiden’s, Megadeth’s, Stryper’s and some others. But in here we get total lack of creativity for an album that stands out by itself as a heavy metal banner.

Outside this a remarkable effort from one of the most underrated heavy metal band that deserves a place in the heavy metal halls. Better things were yet to come but with this they sure kicked Iron Maiden’s ass and gave us a metal pleasant experience to dig into.

Atomic Arena - 85%

Obrian, November 22nd, 2007

After their previous album Rock for the King, I was eagerly anticipating further material from the band. Not only was I pleased with the music itself but B.C. were one of the first Christian "white" metal bands I got into. They played awesome metal reminiscent of a Judas Priest with a Bruce Dickinson sound alike, in a field unfortunately littered with really bad Christian bands.

Atomic Arena didn't disappoint. Imaginary music was a nice mid tempo song to set things off too. Killers of the unborn is an awesome cut with a powerful message with an even more powerful riff to back it up. From this point the songs just continue to slay and at some points you find yourself thinking, "hmm this can't last, they are going to screw something up soon here." To my pleasure however they never really deliver a bad song on this release. Some songs do happen to be a little less powerful and settle nicely into the "good song but not very memorable" category. Which is my only real complaint with the album.

Overall the album has some awesome hard-hitting tracks (Killers of the unborn and my personal favorite Deadlock), A really great ballad (Heaven or Nothing), Some unremarkable yet good songs (Terrorist child and Close to the Edge), and a quasi-Epic closer (Living Dead). If you’re into Classic metal then by all means check it out.