It's quite amazing when you stop to think of the
vast amount of hard rock and metal bands that were
birthed in the mid 80s Hollywood club scene that actually
withstood the test of time. These bands that once
dominated Billboards album and radio charts and went
on to fill concert halls around the world, seemed
to all but disappear when the grunge and the corporate
alternative movements started to dominate the rock
music scene in the early nineties. Now, when you stop
think of the Christian artists who were included in
that scene that went on to stand the test of time,
you end up with just a small handful of bands that
would forever set the standard and pave the way for
generations of up and coming Christian Rock musicians
Holy Soldier is a band that has secured their position
as one of the most important and identifiable bands
Christian rock & roll history. The group, which
formed in Los Angeles in 1985, distilled so much of
the music that had come before them and has exerted
a decisive influence on so much that has come after.
Very few artist and musicians in their genre have
achieved that stature, and stand proudly among them.
Every album the group released through the early
Nineties - from Holy Soldier in 1990 to Promise Man
in 1995 -- is essential not only to gain an understanding
of the music of that era, but to an understanding
of the era itself. Through their intense interest
in hard rock, classic rock, and the blues, Holy Soldier
connected a young audience to music that was neither
anticipated nor acceptable with the narrow-minded
- middle America -church going families this young
audience came from. What is remarkable is that Holy
Soldiers sound has never been classified as overtly
Contemporary Christian, but they would still become
legendary in that marketplace. Soon, of course, Holy
Soldier had become somewhat controversial for their
lyrics, their image and even for the secular venues
in which they chose to perform, as they became synonymous
with scrutiny from certain religious leaders and religious
groups of that era.
For this reason, as the eighties drained into the
Nineties, Holy Soldier went on a creative run that
rivals any in Hard Rock music. Holy Soldier routinely
turns up on lists of the greatest Christian Hard and
Metal albums of all time, and deservedly so. In support
of the release, band launched a tour that reached
over 60 cities across the US, Japan and Canada. The
album went on to sweep the Hard Rock award categories
at the 1991 Dove Awards taking home Hard Rock Album
and Hard Rock Recorded Song of the year. Before the
band went to work on Last Train, guitarist Michael
Cutting departed for a short period and was replaced
by Scott Soderstrom- a guitarist whose melodic flair
counterbalanced guitarist Jamie Cramers insistent,
irreducible rhythmic drive, adding a different element
to the band's sound, and opened new musical directions.
In January of 1992, "Last Train" was released.
The album immediately went up Billboards CCM sales
chart to ..10. The title track "Last Train,"
went up the CCM rock charts to ..2 and received an
award from the Nashville Songwriters Association International
for "Superior Creativity in Words and Music."
Once again, Holy Soldier hit the road embarking on
a 50 city nationwide tour and tours in Europe, Canada,
Central America and Mexico. By 1993, Holy Soldier
was now an indomitable force on the music scene, and
they have continued to be to this day. At this period
Jamie Cramer departed and guitarist Michael Cutting
re-entered, adding another key element to the musical
evolution of Holy Soldier.
In 1995, the band's album, Promise Man, had to rise
to the challenge of the dominating the alternative
scene. The title track Promise Man unveiled energy
and attitude the band had defined a decade earlier.
Holy Soldier even swung with the sinuous grooves of
the delta blues on the track Mumbo Jumbo. The album
was also reviewed as one of the best of that decade-
proven in the fact that it too swept the Dove Awards
in 1996 taking home Hard Rock Album and Hard Rock
Recorded Song of the year.
More significantly, though, Holy Soldier has set
a standard for live performance during their time.
That is an achievement completely in accord with the
band's history. Holy Soldier used their release Encore
(1997) to celebrate their classic repertoire, by releasing
live versions of their greatest hits. As the final
album of their career, Encore finds the band at its
rawest and most rhythmically charged, a reflection
of elements that attracted their audience and their
industry in the first place- that being their live
The flame was lit again with a full reunion nine
years later, and it's burning still. Since 2005, the
band has been performing live again to ecstatic response.
Vocalist Don Russell, brother to Holy Soldiers drummer
Terry the Animal Russell, joined Holy Soldier in August
of 2005, replacing Steven Patrick and Holy Soldier
turned what could have been a setback in their reunion
plans into a rejuvenating rush of new energy. Holy
Soldiers live success during this new period is not
a matter world tours and box-office breakthroughs,
though the band has enjoyed plenty of both. It's about
demonstrating a vital, ongoing commitment to the idea
that performing and promoting their spiritual message
is what keeps a band truly alive.
But, for all that, Holy Soldier is best understood
as musicians, and their own acceptance of that fact
is what has enabled them to carry on so well for so
long. Don Russells incredible vocal abilities tied
into his enthusiastic performances drive home the
bands lyrics and turn them into messages. Michael
Cutting and Jamie Cramers guitar playing, solos and
melodic riffs are the propulsive engines that drive
Holy Soldier and make their music instantly recognizable.
Bassist Andy Robbins delivers both complex and solid
driving rhythms throughout their songs, and colors
and textures the band's music with melodic touches.
And The Animal, needless to say, is one of Christian
rock's most energetic and animated drummers. He is
both the rock that anchors the bands music and the
force that swings it. At times elegant in his simplicity
and other at times soaring in his impact, none of
his gestures are wasted; all are necessary.
Musicians live and create in the moment, and that's
why fans still go see Holy Soldier. Certainly there's
also a catalogue of songs that only a handful of artists
could rival. Surely there's also the desire to encounter
a band that has played a pristine role in defining
our very idea of what Christian Music is. But seeing
Holy Soldier on stage enjoying themselves live is
to see a working band playing as hard as they can,
and there's no last time for that.