Early Christian-themed extreme metal will essentially take any across-the-board “win” they can get, especially considering some of the less than sincere earliest musical efforts born beyond the advent of thrash metal, which often spiked up as “preach before practice” in terms of songcraft. The niche had a solid talent and musician in Steve Rowe (Titan Force, Mortification) early on and Believer‘s ‘Extraction From Mortality’ was a huge boon for their cause, and premiere Christian metal label/production house R.E.X. Music‘s growth early on but, when it came to finding a timely angle into death metal in the late 80’s it definitely felt like most artists were way out of step with the United States underground movement. Intense Records out of California didn’t seem entirely sure what to call Vengeance Rising but for many they’d be the first wave of Christian death metal to actually land in zines here in the states, maybe you’d seen Sacrament‘s ‘Testimony of Apocalypse‘ around that time too but I don’t think anyone’d seriously mistaken ’em for anything but pure thrash metal then and now. Point being that I don’t know that I was entirely convinced that Christian death metal had any serious merit or, conscious ability to sound like “real” death metal until this self-titled debut from Living Sacrifice made its rounds and well, even then folks were passing it off as a Slayer clone or overlooking it for the Christian angle within. This is a bit of a shame because thirty years later we can look back on ‘Living Sacrifice’ as a spirited, straight forward and balls-heavy death/thrash metal record from some still pretty young kids outta Little Rock, Arkansas.
There were a couple of key ingredients to this early sound, the first being charismatic vocalist/bassist Darren Johnson who’d stuck with the band until they’d began to move away from death and thrash metal influences towards groove and metalcore in the mid-90’s. Early guidance from Kurt Bachman of Believer was certainly important, the guy is a legend beyond the confines of Christian metal and a notable intellect otherwise, he’d produce their ‘Not Yielding to Ungodly‘ demo tape in 1990 as well as ‘Living Sacrifice’. Last but not least, the riffs, the two guitarists here went from already somewhat determined crossover-thrashing wilds on their demo tape to a force of classic thrash might less than a year later for their full-length debut and without question the “work” involved in ‘Living Sacrifice’ was hammering out ~45 minutes of wall-to-wall riffs, even if they were clearly influenced by the first several Slayer records. So, what parallels can we draw within the death metal underground circa 1991? The most common suggestion in my experience has been ‘The Ten Commandments’ from Malevolent Creation but perhaps only because we can find similarly deep hits of ‘South of Heaven’ here and there in each, the drumming and guitar arrangements on ‘Living Sacrifice’ probably lean more towards the intensity of ‘Beneath the Remains’ or Devastation‘s ‘Idolatry’ in hindsight. We’re primarily in the brutal thrash and death/thrash camp for this record but if you’re looking for an even more obscure dunk into pure death metal territory the second album from Living Sacrifice ‘Nonexistent‘, for all of its tribulations in terms of production, mid-paced sloppiness and irksome sound design back in the day, has some of the right stuff. All of this is a moot point, again, nobody would bother with these guys early on because Christian music scenes were insular and certainly not included amongst the elite mopheads back in the early 90’s. Today we should view ‘Living Sacrifice’ as a high-energy, heavy assed archive worthy relic with a ton of youthful enthusiasm driving its blazing pace.
For the 30th anniversary of the album Nordic Mission have enlisted Jeff Mortimer (JM Mastering) for a new remaster of the original recordings, the previous remaster/reissue having been done back in 1999 via Solid State Records was a bit more bluntly boosted and it seems this version is more ideal for vinyl versus the old CD only reissue, which is the copy I have in my own collection. When I’d first come across this album circa 1999 the way it was sold to me by a friend as “like ‘The Ten Commandments’ but even more Slayer and Christian”, and “totally not metalcore” like I’d assumed at the time and in hindsight if they’d reissued it around 2005 or so as ‘old school’ brutal thrash was finding a more constant stream of classic reissues it’d have been more notable despite the association with Christianity and their later metalcore style; This one will always have an uphill climb when aiming to hit the right thrashers hands and that’d be the main reason I’d take the time to spin through it again, ‘Living Sacrifice’ holds up pretty well and the new remaster has a dynamic enough punch to it to land as if it were released today. Check out “Dealing With Ignorance”, “No Grave Concern” and “Walls of Separation” for my favorites on here but it is all classic kill-riffing throughout. A moderately high recommendation.
|LABEL(S):||Nordic Mission Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||April 23rd, 2021|
|BUY:||Nordic Mission Website [EU],|
Living Sacrifice Shop [US]
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