BARREN CROSS – Rock For The King ’86 (Remastered Edition Digipak)
And to complete some essential BARREN CROSS, here’s the band’s first full length album, 1986‘s “Rock For The King“, in its remastered edition managed by the band themselves and housed into a digipak case.
“Rock For The King” set the stage for many great releases by the band however none of them carried the collect-ability, energy and drive quite like this one. So much that it caught the eye of Enigma Records (Stryper) record label back in 1985.
Produced by Dino Elefante, “Rock For The King” showcases BARREN CROSS early influences from classic bands like Judas Priest or the first Queensryche. The music is melodic yet heavy and contains some killer hooks.
Barren Cross can trace its history to 1981 when drummer Steve Whitaker and guitarist Ray Parris met through a musician’s ad in a Los Angeles area music paper. Following the recruitment of vocalist Mike Lee (from an ad in the same paper) and bassist Jim LaVerde, officially commencing on November 13, 1983, Barren Cross went on to gain a large following in the Los Angeles area from playing local clubs.
The group’s initial release, a six song EP entitled Believe from 1985, preceded it signing with small label Star Song and recording three more songs to turn Rock For The King into a full length album.
Opener “Dying Day” delivers big doses of classic US metal with its churning rhythms and fiery mentality, while “It’s All Come True” proves every bit robust from its technical variations and time signatures of a progressive nature. Such intricacies are one of the reasons Barren Cross has invited comparison to Iron Maiden. Another, of course, is the Dickinson influenced lead vocals of front man Mike Lee here.
“He Loves You” represents another slugfest with its bluesy metal tone, and gives lead guitarist Ray Parris the opportunity to showcase his fast fingered soloing abilities during its extended instrumental run (“Dying Day” also stands out in this capacity).
The album’s title track comes across as a hulking mauler with its crushing riffs and shouted backing vocals – and hints of other heavy set tracks in the groups repertoire to follow such as “Living Dead” (Atomic Arena) and “2000 Years” (State Of Control).
Also notable of “Rock For The King” is how it allows rhythm guitar of Jim LaVerde, highlighting his punishing bass lines, and drummer Steve Whitaker, from his steady as it gets timekeeping skills, to stand out.
“Believe” brings two minutes of fury in a hook driven package, while “Just A Touch” and “Give Your Life” give rise to every bit as much exuberance in taking the more straightforward heading. What the three have in common is providing foreshadowing for other fast-paced tracks to come from the group in “Killers Of The Unborn” (Atomic Arena) and “Love At Full Volume” (State Of Control).
Acoustic guitar makes its presence felt as well. “Going Nowhere” opens its first minute acoustically prior to taking off and moving its distance at a near feverish clip.
“Light The Flame” can best be described as an emotional acoustic semi-ballad, with hints of keyboards and generous placement of backing vocals. Yes, this might be the albums lightest but also no less able – and a concert favorite as well.
Production to the original Star Song release might have been a bit raw but held its own when factoring the album was recorded independently using mid-Righties technology.
This remastering cleans things up with a sound on the brighter, crisper and cleaner side of things. As is often the case with remastered albums, gain levels have increased but you also have the greater bass presence and guitars that deliver added edge and bite.
The main benefit to this reissue is having ”Rock For The King” available on CD after being out of print for several decades. Collectors have bemoaned the fact the album was near impossible to find at a reasonable price – the rare CD copy on eBay often went in the $50 to $75 range or higher.
On ”Rock For The King”, Barren Cross exhibits the potential which led to it signing with mainstream label Enigma Records – not to mention ranking alongside other foundational Christian metal bands of the time such as Stryper, Bloodgood, Saint, etc. Ultimately, the album adds up to a solid and consistent package I can see appealing to those whose tastes trend towards a wide array of classic melodic metal / hard rock.
If Rock For The King has eluded your grasp over the years then now is the time to make it a necessary listen in this remastered form.
01 – Dying Day
02 – He Loves You
03 – It’s All Come True
04 – Believe
05 – Going Nowhere
06 – Rock For The King
07 – Give Your Life
08 – Just A Touch
09 – Light The Flame
Mike Lee: Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitars
Ray Parris: Guitars, Background Vocals
Jim La Verde: Bass, Taurus Pedals, Vocals
Steve Whitaker: Drums, Vocals
Produced by Dino Elefante