Modification:  A Tribute to Steve Rowe and Mortification 
Artist: Various 
Label: Independent 

Most Christian metal fans know of Steve Rowe's fierce struggle with cancer over the past few years.  Praise the Healer that he seems to have finally beaten it off!  Medical bills have a way of stacking up, however, and so a group of Steve's musically-inclined friends got together to make this tribute album to help pay his debts. 

First off, this is not just for metal fans.  The album has an intriguing combination of different styles covering Mortie songs, from funk to alternative to hard rock to the usual death metal and so on.  There has unfortunately been next to no press on this very likeable project, so I'll go ahead and give you the complete breakdown: 

Rosanna's Raiders start the fun with "One Man," an original song they wrote as a tribute to Steve.  It's a late 70's/early 80's hard rock tune, with tough female vocals. I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought, those dated power chords sounding strangely fresh.  Petrol Money takes "Liquid Assets" into heavy alternative/funk territory, with music sometimes similar to the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Dig Hay Zoose and cool, radio-friendly alternative vocals.  Next up is Pots of Plastic's version of "Love Song," a sort of alternative rock with unique fuzzy electric tones and pretty acoustic strumming, and moody, somewhat low female singing. 

We finally get a metal band on track four, when Phil Gibson (who played drums for Mortification on Blood World) pounds out an awesome version of "Nocturnal."  It begins with foreboding, resounding drums and a crushing riff.  The speedy sections have hardcore shouts and spoken parts, but the chorus features death growls with goth keyboards and ska guitar sounds!  It's weird, but it works really well.  The drumming and percussion are totally cool throughout, making this one of my favorite tracks (and prompting me to check out Phil's hardcore band Callous sometime).  Cybergrind, led by Michael Carlisle (guitarist for Lightforce and Mortification from 1990 to 1994), continues the metal with a pretty straight death cover of "Scrolls of the Megilloth."  The music isn't changed much, but the vocals are more like the understandable hardcore style of Blood World instead of the low growl of the original.  A solid track.  

Tripping in next is Roma.  She really captures my attention with her magical, strongly-accented voice and strange, psychedelic-goth folk version of "Your Life."  The structure of the song doesn't always lend itself to a smooth delivery on her part, and the music may come across as amateurish when I think about it, but I'm caught up in her spell just the same.  I need more Roma!   

After her comes Teramaze (the only "known" band on the album) doing "Northern Storm."  They don't change the original sound much, except for their more pronounced 80s power/prog metal vocals.  I was a bit underwhelmed by their contribution.  Then  Wrench, which is Jayson Sherlock of Paramaecium (drummer for Mortification from 1990-93), barges in to give a crushing rendition of "Impulsation," adding a bit of doom plod to the tune, and some atmospheric spoken vocals in the background. 
Wise Guys take the humor award with a youth group/acoustic/worship team version of "Noah was a Knower" (except they change it to "Noah was a Noah").  Those who already find Mortification's lyrics to be  cheesy will see that it can be much worse!  The Wise Guys have a lot of fun with the tune, adding hilarious sound effects, jokes, and silly vocals.  They change the lyrics a lot, switching to "Arky, Arky" at one point.  I'll bet Steve got a good laugh from this one, for sure. 

Rounding out the project is the current Mortification lineup (minus Steve) doing an old Lightforce song--"Metal Missionary." It's been awhile since I've heard the original, but it sounds just as I remember it.  It's got that 80's Christian power metal feel to it, which any serious mainstream metal fan would think a total joke lyrically and musically...but that doesn't really matter here because it perfectly describes Steve Rowe's heart and calling for using metal to bring light to a dark world.  I personally know the importance he had on my young life years ago, and the role Mortification played in opening my best friend's eyes to Christ. 

It would have been nice for some more well-known Oz bands to appear on here (I was hoping for Ethereal Scourge myself), but I'm happy with what I hear on this.  I'm not sure how much appeal it will have for those who don't know the originals, but Mortification fans should definitely pick this up, as well as anyone willing to support a brother who's given his life to serving God in the best way he knows how.  The bands might be unknowns and the material nothing brilliant, but the homemade, friendly spirit of Modification is irresistable. 

By Josh Spencer