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Vertical Expressions
Artist: II Guys From Petra 
Label: Indie 

When Petra frontman John Schlitt and founding guitarist Bob Hartman announced the band's retirement in 2005, an era in Christian rock music ended. One of the first and longest running bands in the Christian rock music scene, Petra was an inspiration to many. 

Worship and rock have often seemed an unlikely mix, but Petra was never afraid to worship God at high volume. So it is that the next chapter in Petra's story returns to the vein of worship music that Petra mined so richly in previous worship releases. 

In 2006, Bob Hartman was approached about leading worship for a church event. He got in touch with John Schlitt, and the event resulted in an acoustic worship tour. When the two decided to record an album of music from the tour, they decided to simply refer to themselves as most others would: "Oh, it's those two guys from Petra, isn't it?" 

The new album Vertical Expressions is a collection of modern worship songs, lifted from much the same catalog that produced Petra's Revival album. Sticking close to the current catalog of church worship music ensures that most of the songs here will be known to the audiences listening, and, it is hoped, worshiping; however, it could easily result in the album being lost in the masses of worship music currently on the scene. 

While this isn't a full-blown rock worship album, like Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out, it still showcases Bob's rock licks to full effect. Particularly impressive from this perspective is the duo's full-volume version of "We Fall Down." 

If there is any complaint about this album, it could be that the songs are too generic. There's not much to set this album above the crowd in the modern worship scene. "Trading My Sorrows" suffers particularly in this regard; Bob and John's recording starts off sounding exactly like the Darrell Evans original, and it never really takes off from there. None of the arrangements are wildly different from their predecessors. This makes the album a great worship album, but not necessarily a great album in general. 

The album closes with a pair of live cuts from the Petra era. "Judas' Kiss" was a fan favorite throughout John's time with the band, but his version of the song had not been released on CD up to this time. Although the band played it on the "Farewell" tour, it did not appear on the _Farewell_ album. The song's inclusion here is a pleasant surprise. While it doesn't seem to fit with the tone of the rest of the album, the song, as an apology to Jesus for our own repeated betrayals of Him, IS a worship song, even if it's not normally cataloged as such. Its inclusion here rectifies a glaring omission in the Petra catalog. 

While this album is not, as it has been jokingly referred to, Petra Praise IV, it's pretty close. Here's hoping that the "II Guys from Petra" will do it again, and this time, crank it up a notch or two. 

As a worship experience: 
As an album experience: 
Overall rating: 

Josh Marihugh


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