Category Archives: 2011 Flashback Fridays

Flashback Friday

FOLD ZANDURA

From the ashes of christian industrial legends Mortal, came Fold Zandura. Surfacing in 1995 Fold Zandura released their self-titled debut that same year, but it wasn’t until 1997 when five songs off of that album and a few more were released as Return on upstart label Sub*Lime Records. Return was similar to the bands work as Mortal, but with a more grungy pop-rock sound to even further highlight the electronic flourishes. Later that same year the band signed to Tooth and Nail Records imprint BEC Recordings and released their follow-up to Return titled Ultra Forever. Ultra Forever took the sound found on Return and further added a more refined pop sheen to the proceedings. Ultra Forever in my opinion was the height of Fold Zandura’s greatness. The album provided the band with a larger fan-base, further validating their art. After about two years the band released their final album King Planet which proved to experiment with electronic rock more. After King Planet, the band seemed to disappear, with member’s Jyro and Jerome even releasing more Mortal material. However the legacy that the band members; Jyro Xhan, Jerome Fantamilias, and Frank Lenz added to the sterling reputation of their work in Mortal will forever keep these guys as legends in the christian rock underground.

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Flashback Friday

It’s a shame that in the independent or underground music scene some bands never get the credit and acclaim they deserve from the mainstream. I suppose that comes with the territory, but it is always refreshing to see some of “our” (as in independent christian) bands get noticed and accepted by the mainstream, especially when they don’t have to sacrifice their message and creativity to get there. Christian ska icons Five Iron Frenzy were one such band. At one point Five Iron Frenzy was arguably the most popular ska band, mainstream or christian in the scene. They released their first album, Upbeats and Beatdowns, in late 1996. The album spawned two hit singles, “A Flowery Song” and “Where Zero Meets 15”, showing FIF were a force to be reckoned with. Their follow-up, 1997’s Our Newest Album Ever, was released on the forefront of the late ’90’s ska explosion. It took the band to a new level of both acclaim and popularity. Songs such as “Suckerpunch”, “Every New Day”, “Blue Comb 78”, and “Oh, Canada” provided listeners with some of the best ska songs ever created. At the height of the ska craze the band released an EP titled Quantity Is Job #1. Although not as good as their previous album, it was a solid effort, especially for an EP. By their next album 2000’s All The Hype That Money Can Buy the ska craze had died down, replaced by boy bands and pop princesses, but FIF still managed to put out a very good, if not totally cohesive album. Five Iron Frenzy would go on to release four more studio albums, 2001’s Five Iron Frenzy Vol. 2: Electric Boogaloo, 2003’s Cheeses Of Nazareth, 2003’s The End Is Near, 2004’s The End Is Here; and a live album 1999’s Proof That The Youth Are Revolting. After a successful run that saw the band transcend their genre, staying relevant long after the ska craze died, the band called it quits in 2003. Leaving behind a solid discography that had a couple spectacular releases. Lately there have been rumblings about the band reuniting in 2013 for a ten year reunion. Hopefully, this comes to fruition.

Flashback Friday

Squad Five-O

Squad Five-O was one of those bands that I didn’t really “get” until after they disbanded. Sure, I enjoyed Bombs Over Broadway and What I Believe, but for the most part I didn’t listen to the band all that much. That has changed immensely in the past year. The first time I heard of Squad Five-O was a few months before their debut, they had an ad in a christian rock magazine advertising them as ska without horns. Being a big fan of ska I passed, thinking that it was just some inferior version of The O.C. Supertones or Five Iron Frenzy. The bands debut, What I Believe was far from second rate. The album had more in common with blistering punk rock than it did ska. Punk with ska influences would be an apt way to describe the album. The next year, 1998, the band released their follow-up album Fight The System. The album was very similar to the first, but with an even lessened emphasis on the ska influence. After Fight The System the band left their label, Bulletproof Records and signed with christian rock kingpin Tooth and Nail Records. The band underwent a major change to both their image and their sound on their next release 2000’s Bombs Over Broadway. The band explored a new glam punk direction while also delving into southern rock at times. Tragically a little over a year later, the attack on the twin towers happened. The similarities in the song and the album cover were very much apparent, leaving the label no choice, but to release an alternate cover. The band out of respect did not play the song on tour after the tragedy. In 2002, the band released a self-titled album that took the sound of Bombs Over Broadway and made it a little heavier and a little more raw. After Squad Five-O the band’s contract was sold to mainstream label Capital Records. Squad Five-O released their final album 2004’s Late News Breaking to increased fanfare. The album was a continuation of the sound explored on their previous album. Late News Breaking is also widely considered to be the bands best album. Sadly, that would be the last we would hear from Squad Five-O. Who knows what the future holds, but for now we still have some very diverse, well done albums.

Flashback Friday

SILAGE

One of the fun things about diving into music from a different era is seeing how releases that were popular at the time have aged. One of three things can happen, 1.) An album that was considered great, will still be considered great, thus making it a timeless release. 2.) An album considered great at the time, sounds dated and cheesy years later or 3.) An album that was passed over because it wasn’t trendy, ages well and becomes more relevant with time. Obviously the majority of releases fall into the second category, while the truly great fall into the first, and the truly artsy forward thinkers make up the third. The reason I started this edition of “Flashback Friday” with this subject was something that happened on my website from an album that I featured this week. That album was Watusi by the band Silage. While I think the album and band still hold up well, I’m obviously in the minority from the feedback I received, so my point in doing the “Flashback Friday” on them is to also get the readers of CMZ’s opinion on this. I first discovered Silage in the summer of 1997. They were featured in an issue of 7Ball magazine as one of the top up and coming bands. That article coupled with heavy radio play of their lead single “Watusi”, and the release of their upcoming album by the same name, had me very interested in checking this band out. As for Watusi, it was an eclectic hybrid of alternative, punk, ska, funk, and hip-hop. It truly was a snapshot of the anything goes creativity/mentality of the ’90’s rock scene. Songs like the title track, “My Car Makes Me Sin”, “Blue Igloo Cooler”, and “Drop Some Names” are still very much enjoyable to me to this day. The band released their follow-up in 1999 titled Vegas Car Chasers. The album eliminated all of the punk, ska, and funk influences and settled on a pop-rock/hip hop sound. The album was a much more mature release, but in my opinion lacked the fun energy it’s predecessor had. The album also suffered from a lack of standout tracks, however it did flow very well showing a cohesiveness that didn’t exist on the debut. After Vegas Car Chasers the band called it a day, changed their name to Parkway and released an album that didn’t make much of an impact. After the Parkway release, the band called it a day for good. Unfortunately the band never quite lived up to the hype, however they did release two solid albums. Two albums that are more than worthwhile to check out.

Flashback Friday

The O.C. Supertones

When I was a teen, there were many a time I wished I lived in Orange County California. There was one reason and one reason only for that, and no that reason had nothing to do with that dreadful Fox show The O.C. (besides my day dreams of “the O.C. concert going life” predate that show by about 7 years). The reason was the music. Many of my favorite bands growing up resided there; Plankeye, Joy Electric, Starflyer 59, and by far the most popular of all, The O.C. Supertones. The O.C. Supertones played a style of music called ska. Ska was created in Jamaica during the 1960’s as a fusion of Reggae and Rock N’ Roll. By the ’90’s the genre had been reborn again thanks to punk bands getting bored and listening to a lot of reggae and old ska. Thus this new “third wave” of ska had a slant toward punk rock, or as one colleague of mine put it, “It took something awesome, punk rock and added a trumpet full of poop”, while I totally disagree, I’m sure there are more people that think that style is a little cheesy to say the least. Well enough of the “Introduction To Ska” class and let’s get down to whom this article is about. The O.C. Supertones debuted in 1996 with The Adventures Of The O.C. Supertones. The album although suffering from rough production had many great songs which showed a young bands potential. Their next release 1997’s Supertones Strike Back was a much more mature, well produced album. Some of my all-time favorite ‘tones songs are on this album. This is also my favorite album from the band. Their next album 1999’s Chase The Sun featured a more hip-hop/rock sound, with ska playing a secondary role. Their next two albums, 2000’s Loud and Clear and 2002’s Hi-Fi Revival would continue in a harder rock/hip-hop direction with the ska influence becoming lessened. The bands final album 2004’s Revenge Of The O.C. Supertones was a continuation of this sound. At that point in their career the band had accomplished quite a lot, including playing before The Pope, and decided to call it a day. In 2005 the band put out a greatest hits album, Unite, and played their final show that October. That wouldn’t be the last we would hear from the band as they reunited for a tour in 2010 and put out another greatest hits album, Reunite, to accompany the tour. Hopefully we will get some new music from them soon, but if not, we will always have their classics.

Flashback Friday

REALITY CHECK

The music industry is a strange beast. Styles and sounds coming to popularity then fading away as fast as they appeared. Some bands trudging along for 15-20 years without making it big, while others become huge with their first album. Reality Check is somewhat an example of the latter. I remember in the spring of 1997 listening to the mainstream alternative radio station on Sunday afternoons. They had a two hour long program dedicated to “christian rock” where they would play the top christian alternative, punk, modern rock, and heavy music songs according to the Pure Rock Report. On one of these occasions I heard a catchy, poppy, funky song called “Masquerade” by a new band called Reality Check. Every week I heard the song and fell more and more for it. On my birthday that year, I purchased their debut, self-titled album. It did not disappoint. The whole album was filled with grungy guitars, sweet rhymes, and melodic hooks that could catch a school of fish. I played this cassette non-stop for almost a year until the unthinkable happened. As I was flipping through the latest copy of 7Ball Magazine, I read that the band had broken up. I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe what that small print was telling me. So I had my mom check the bands website when she went to work the next day, the horrible news was confirmed. To put it into perspective, this was a big deal. At the time Reality Check were touring on one of the highest selling albums in Star Song Records history. They had two hit radio singles, and were considered to be the next DC Talk. A few years later, their frontman Nathan Barlowe reappeared with a cool new brit-pop band called Luna Halo, which I thoroughly enjoyed. At times the urge to listen to Reality Check pops up and I indulge that urge, all the while wondering what could have been. Reality Check were gone as fast as they arrived.

Flashback Friday

STAVESACRE

Very few bands both active or disbanded have connected with me like Stavesacre. Their brand of heavy alternative/post-hardcore music is timeless. Starting with their Tooth and Nail Records debut Friction in 1996 until their latest effort, last years Against The Silence EP the band has put out numerous releases of the highest quality. Friction was a raw, heavy hardcore influenced rock album, with plenty of dynamics to keep the listener interested. Their ability to go from rocking out to quiet interludes was unmatched, even on their debut. Their sophomore release 1997’s Absolutes further matured their sound, bringing a flow to the songwriting that only maturity can bring. 1999’s Speakeasy was perhaps the bands highest point. It was an album that was more laid back than their prior work, also bringing a polish that made the album stick out from their first two albums. These first three albums are by far my favorite work of the band, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that their latter work, 2002’s Stavesacre, 2005’s Bull Takes Fighter EP, 2006’s How To Live With A Curse, or last years Against The Silence EP are anything less than solid, if not spectacular. Stavesacre helped to pioneer a genre, post-hardcore, and also wrote songs that were among the best in another, nu-metal. Stavesacre are simply legends in christian rock.

Flashback Friday

DC Talk

Sooner or later you knew it was coming. What you may ask? A “Flashback Friday” featuring possibly the most popular christian pop or rock band of all-time. Still don’t know? Look three lines above the top of the paragraph. Get it? Got it? Good. Where do I begin. DC Talk was the band (read: group) that got me interested in christian rock music way back in ’94 when I heard Free At Last at the “home church” my family was attending. Their first two albums, 1989’s DC Talk, and 1990’s Nu Thang were good, if not spectacular rap/pop albums, but it wasn’t until 1992’s Free At Last that the guys hit their stride. Free At Last was a catchy, upbeat hip-hop album with smooth r&b harmonies, and tight danceable grooves. Toby McKeehan was at his rhyme spitting best. Vocally Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith never sounded so good. The album featured such hits as “Jesus Is Just Alright”, “Luv Is A Verb”, and “The Hardway”. With their follow-up, 1995’s Jesus Freak the guys switched gears. With the lead single “Jesus Freak”, fans were caught off guard. The song was a heavy, grungy pop/rock opus with hip-hop highlights. The rest of the album was just as great as title-track. Jesus Freak took the group to a new level, both artistically and in popularity. The group signed on to Virgin Records for mainstream distribution. With their next album 1998’s Supernatural the group abandoned all hip-hop influence in their music favoring a moody brand of pop/rock. Artistically, the guys had never been better. The move to Virgin worked out as well, with the lead single “Consume Me” getting heavy radio play. Sadly after Supernatural the guys would release a greatest hits album and take a “hiatus” that is still in effect some ten years later. All of the members have had varying success since DC Talk, but it is my opinion that they were so much better together.

Flashback Friday

SEVEN DAY JESUS

A funny thing about the music industry is how at times some of the bands and artists you love are gone within a few short years of forming, while at other times ones you are indifferent to or just don’t like seem to stay around forever. For me Seven Day Jesus was the former. These guys should have been HUGE. They began as a cover band, but decided they wanted to pursue music more seriously. After a couple of years they released an independent album entitled Sustenance, which got the band noticed by small christian label 5 Minute Walk Records. In 1996 the band released their label debut entitled The Hunger. The album was an aggressive blend of post-grunge and heavy alternative. The band enjoyed a bit of success with the album, but the best was yet to come. In 1997 the band was signed to Forefront Records, a much bigger label than their previous home. Forefront was at the time the label home of DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline, Code Of Ethics, and a few up and coming bands at the time; Bleach, Skillet, and Small Town Poets. In late 1997 the band released their self-titled follow-up to The Hunger. The album was a total 180. The aggressive post-grunge alt-rock was replaced with a more radio friendly power pop sound. The album was a hit, between the new sound and the label backing the lead single “Butterfly” flew to the top of the christian rock charts. The most striking change was seen in vocalist Brian McSweeney’s voice. He had a great set of pipes before, but his vocals on this album are among some of the best I have ever heard on a rock album, they were pitch perfect, melodic, and powerful, with a warm tone quality that could make you feel ever ounce of emotion he would sing with. Sadly, after this album the band would call it quits. They would however reunite for a one time only show in 2004. Seven Day Jesus is definitely on my short list of bands that died too young.

Flashback Friday

THE W’S

A strange thing happened in 1998. A swing band of all things became the hottest new act in the christian rock scene. That band, The W’s found immediate success with their debut album, Fourth From The Last. I too suffered from W’s mania. I spent many a cold winter day in my room putting this album on repeat while trying to perfect a catchy, deep swing voice, honed by many hours of “practicing” (singing along to) to vocalist Andrew Schar’s accessible vocals. Well enough of my embarrassing youth confessions. The main reason for The W’s success was the fact that they were really good. Their hybrid of swing and ska was a perfect blend among those yearning for a fun upbeat sound. Their next album 1999’s Trouble With X, although not as popular as their debut was still a good album. The W’s disbanded the following year. Although having a short existence, the band along with us fans will always have that magical run in 1998 to look back on. The perfect band for that moment in time.

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