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The Complete Collection
Tooth & Nail
3 discs / 62 tracks / 2:29:42 total run time
Looking back at the Christian heavy scene in 1989, when Stryper’s polished glam was all the rage, it’s no wonder that The Crucified BLEW PEOPLE’S MINDS. Don’t get me wrong, there was some great metal produced by believers in the 80s but there wasn’t very much in the way of just straight up ass-kicking thrash. Imagine being a kid who loved heavy music, who loved Slayer, and here’s a christian band – a term that really had a different, more innocent connotation in the eighties – playing music in that style, at a quality level? Seriously. Minds blown. The Crucified’s new box set, The Complete Collection, is a detailed history lesson of one of Christian metal’s most influential groups, spread over two CDs and one DVD, all cram-packed with content.
Disc 1 contains remastered versions of the group’s demos, all of which were originally released only through mail order (yes, kids, MAIL ORDER). In addition to Take Up Your Cross, Nailed, and Live at the New Order, the group also presents the never-before-released “KGB” demos. On top of THAT are remixed versions of the two final songs The Crucified ever recorded – “The Power of God” and “Straining Life,” both from early sessions for what would have been the group’s third full-length. It’s fascinating to hear the group evolve through the demos, starting as straight-punk and progressively introducing heavier, more extreme elements. The production values are to be expected for 80s independent material. Kids today, they don’t know how good they have it with cheap and easily-accessible home recordings.
Disc 2 is the main highlight of the box set, featuring both the self-titled and The Pillars of Humanity full-length albums on one compact disc. Three seconds of “The Pit” shows a band that is firmly entrenched in the thrash metal scene, comparable to Pantera or Slayer, with elements of old-school Metallica. The production quality of the The Crucified is decent. It’s not too far removed from your average low-budget metal recording of the era, which means it’s listenable (if you forgive a few things). But really, the thing was recorded in 1989 on a tiny indie label. You’ll get over it. Now here’s where it gets really good, kids: the band was able to secure the original reels to Pillars of Humanity and have the album not only remastered, but REMIXED. The results are fantastic. To my ears, it sounds lot better than a lot of the pro tools butchered crap out there now. Musically, the material is clearly that of a band that has hit its stride. Sure, the lyrics are kind of cheesy (”Path to Sorrow” is particularly cringe-inducing), but Mark Salomon’s rapid-fire vocal delivery is spot-on, rat-tat-tat like a machine gun over the brutal assault provided by Bellew’s bone-crushing bass, Chaffin’s nuclear drumming and Minier’s enraged guitar attack.
Much like the audio discs, the DVD is both a time capsule and a real treat for old school fans. Containing almost two hours of VHS footage from the band’s collection, the DVD contains twenty-plus live performances spanning the group’s career. Interspersed with those live performances are… home videos of the band. Being young, dumb, and full of… immaturity. Seriously, the non-concert portions are akin to the embarrassing home videos you took in high school and watch 15 years later groaning and laughing at the same time. It takes some brass to be willing to put that kind of material out there for all to see, preserved for posterity. The picture quality, being VHS and between 15-22 years old, is not great, but we’re talking an era before HD handhelds (again with the KIDS TODAY). Crucified fans will love this disc. For those who WEREN’T around during that timeframe, watching the crowds go crazy, moshing and stage diving in chaotic fashion, will no doubt make you green with envy for a more idealistic, less-complicated time in Christian heavy music, before all the scenesters and soundalikes.
A piece of Christian hard music history. Well-remembered thrash which, for the most part, holds up today. A DVD that gives some insight into how things “were” in the era The Crucified came up. If you’re an old school fan, the major appeal of The Complete Collection are the KGB demos, remixed Pillars of Humanity, and the DVD. If you, like me, came late to the party and are curious about The Crucified or even just the history of christian music, The Complete Collection is an invaluable resource. It’s no wonder the band is so well-remembered by those who discovered them back in the day – The Crucified were the real deal. It’s a wonder they didn’t “make it.”
Of course, if you’ve read Mark Salomon’s book, then you know exactly why The Crucified fell apart right when it seemed that they were set to blow up. But that’s an entirely other story, one that ends with a new beginning known as Stavesacre.
Before The Crucified, American Christian hardcore punk rock was a rare, scatter-shot commodity. One might find the crap-shoot of an album track, but one would have to move the turntable stylus or hit fast-forward on the cassette player--because CD's weren't around yet--to skip over the cheesetastic new wave--or worse---that would fill an album in order for any given band to awkwardly fulfill the Pauline mission of being all things to all Christian(-to-be) kids who weren't listening to Amy Grant--or DeGarmo & Key, for that matter--in the middle of the '80s.
Beginnings were humble. Their first demo' material with their first lead singer and under their first name, K.G.B. (Kids in God's Blessing), never saw commercial release. A change in vocalists from Wayne Stonecipher to Mark Salomon brought a change in the group name's name and a solidification to a harder-edged, even more aggressive hardcore sound. And their influence began to spread.
These were the mid-1980s, days of the cassette underground flourishing in styles big CCM labels weren't touching quite yet. When bands such as The Crucified spread word of their artistry by another underground means of dissemination-fanzines (printed on paper; this was before the Internet, too)-abetted by mail order and sales at concerts. If it's tempting to romanticize those days before general market multinationals owned major contempo' Christian record companies, and publications including Cornerstone and The Cutting Edge were catering to believers disaffected by prevalent Evangelighetto aesthetics, it's best to keep in mind that it made harder work for acts making music so sonically and lyrically uncompromising, like The Cru' did.
And their mission was a dual one from the get-go. Much as they wanted to share their Christianity boldly in the equally audacious punk subculture, they called fellow believers to the elimination of compromise. The short, sharp shocks of hardcore punk song brevity were perfect for this aim, even if the results were apparently silly ("Jesus") or in total opposition to the status quo of punk politics ("I'm Not Afraid [Of Nuclear War]").
The two aforementioned songs come from the K.G.B. repertoire. With Salomon coming to the fore in The Crucified, matters got even more serious and more epically scriptural and dramatic The KGB/Crucified shift can be likened to Black Flag from their days with Keith Morris on vocals (snottier) to its better known tenure with Henry Rollins (more macho).
The increasing hardness begat a commensurate heaviness, as in metal, on the second and last of their full-length albums, The Pillars of Humanity. At no point throughout their brief discography did the guys lose their combination of humane empathy and righteous indignation that has made them so influential on so many godly hard'n'heavy rockers to follow.
The Complete Collection's first CD comprises all the KGB demo's and The Crucified's pre-label signing cassette output (the latter of which comprised a previous '90s Tooth&Nail single-CD release), which includes some live tracks. Disc #2 collects the Cru's first album (also a previous T&N reissue after its initial '80s appearance on Narrowpath) and the tracks from Pillars remastered by Starflyer 59's Jason Martin. A DVD features a slew of concert and road/backstage footage that's intermittently amazing, enlightening and/or amusing. The booklet features plenty of pictures alongside an oral history of the band told by most of its members.
Salomon and bassist Jeff
Bellew have since gone on to form the nucleus of hardcore/post-punk troupe
Stavescare. Fine as that band is, The Crucified remains worthy of the remembrance
this package gives them. Their work holds up as vital, adrenalized missives
of hope and conviction, the authenticity of which transcend the scene that
spawned the band.
Jamie Lee Rake