The third album by the now-fully-heavy-metal band Barnabas continues the remaster series from Retroactive Records. Approaching Light Speed is a no-holds barred heavy metal assault on the senses that leap-fogged the band over most metal competition of the day by a long shot.
Title: Approaching Light Speed (Legends Remastered)
Label: Retroactive Records
Time: 8 tracks/37:50 min.
This is where the metal started for Barnabas. Find Your Heart a Home and Hear the Light flirted with metal in certain ways that some would consider heavy, but "No Freedom" jumps out of the gate with screaming guitars heavier than any Barnabas song to date. And this wasn't second rate metal like so many Christian metal releases were guilty of. This was "metalheads" metal that would have gotten even the most jaded mullet moving in 1983. The next track "Stormclouds" features a killer plodding riff and thundering rhythm section. "If Love Brings Love" might seem to break from the metal mold... but don't forget this is 1983 and power ballads were still a very metal thing (although probably a few years from being called power ballads). "Waiting for the Aliens" tricks you into thinking that it is another keyboard ballad, but then the keys go a bit darker and the rock begins. While there are flourishes of progressive metal in the first two songs, this track is the most prog-rock influenced track of the album. Probably the only weakness on the album is that this song tries to cram too many words into each line. But it was also a common issue back then for many bands. "Warrior" starts off what used to be side 2 by leaning a bit back to the hard rock that was big at the time thanks to bands like Van Halen blurring the hard rock/metal lines. But like Van Halen, the solo is just too fast and heavy for most rock fans. I can't emphasize enough how talented all the musicians and performers on these Barnabas albums are. In a more just music world, Nancy Jo Mann, Brian Belew, Kris Klingensmith, and Gary Mann would have been featured in every metal musician magazine at the time. "Never Felt Better" shows that Barnabas had enough song writing chops to provide an awesome song even on the second track of side two - usually reserved for the weakest track on the album (most bands wanted to end albums on side 2 with stronger songs back then). Of course, that stronger song was " Subterfuge," a complex song that uses keyboards and guitars weaving in and out masterfully. The album closes with "Crucifixion" - a passionate song filled with strong bass guitar work and impassioned vocal performances that surely left a mark on anyone listening to it back in the day. I could just see metal heads staring at their turntables with jaws hanging down as the last track ended on their Approaching Light Speed record.
Of course, fans at the time had to see this transition coming - just compare the cover art for Approaching Light Speed with the previous two albums. If there was an award for "most metal album covers of all time" - this one would be a contender (only to be beaten out by the next Barnabas album cover). The re-issue captures the artwork perfectly, as well as including everything that you would possibly want to know about the release (band pics, full credits, complete lyrics, and historical write-ups). The remaster itself is stellar - never sounding like it came from a vinyl rip (only a few minor pops here and there give it away). The big question at the time would have been: was this a one-time side trip into metal for Barnabas, or a permanent change of style? They answered that definitively on the next album... in a very loud fashion.
(continued in the Feel the Fire review)
4.5 of 5 of tocks