|Musical Style: Progressive Art Rock||Produced By: Jimmy Hotz, Kemper Crabb & David Marshall|
|Record Label: Star Song||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1980||Artist Website: Kemper Crabb|
|Tracks: 15||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 39:06|
ArkAngel's 1980 debut Warrior is widely considered a classic in the annals of early Christian rock. And rightly so! Drawing in a creative manner from the rich vein of progressive art rock, ArkAngel showcases influences as diverse as Yes, Kansas and Jethro Tull and combines them with occasional Tolkien imagery to create a powerful and apocalyptic mixture of the acoustic and the electric: The albums first side, "Wind Face", is mostly acoustic, while "Fire Face", its second, moves in a hard rock direction with classical overtones.
Kemper Crabb, the bands primary songwriter, contributes a rich and warm lead vocal style in addition to handling acoustic and electric guitar, dulcimer, lute, harmonica, autoharp, accordion, tubular bells, synthesizer, medieval drums and percussion. To say that Crabb is a well-rounded musician would be an understatement! Joining Crabb on rhythm and lead guitar and bass is the talented David Marshall. Randy Sanchez fills in on drums, while Richard Conine does a very fine job on synthesizers, piano, saxophone and flute. The wide array of instruments these musicians play is nothing less than impressive.
Production values are quite laudable, particularly in light of the fact Warrior was recorded on a small Christian label, Star Song, using early eighties technology.
"Wind Face" opens to "Pange Lingua Certaminis (Warrior Prelude)" as Crabb's voice is briefly carried over a classic guitar and lute blended with a recorder.
After fading in over its first twenty seconds to bagpipes backed by a militant drum beat, "Warrior" immediately advances to a grand and stately chorus in which Crabb delivers lyrics based around Revelation 19:11-12:
The Lord is a Warrior
The Lord is mighty in battle
The Lord is a Warrior
Lord of Hosts is He
The bagpipes drop from the mix as "Warrior" picks up in pace for its verse before an edgy rhythm guitar reinforces its second chorus.
As "Warrior" fades out, it transitions to "March Of The Ents": The bagpipes return and combine with a bit of lead guitar to underscore Ent voices coming across in the form of deep sounding chanted vocal harmonies. (The albums liner notes give credit to the Ent voice to Kemper Crabb, David Marshall, Treebeard and Quickbeem!)
"Dwelling Place" slowly moves through its first and second verse to orchestration underscored by a punchy bass line until it picks up in pace for a chorus driven by vocal harmonies. Conine tops things off with a very well done saxophone solo.
The acoustic guitar opening the haunting "Paradox" blends with Marshal's lead guitar after a few seconds. Once the acoustic guitar in question carries the song through its first verse, keyboards help give the chorus that follows a nice eerie feel. The lead guitar returns to highlight a thirty second instrumental break.
Bekah Crabb handles lead vocal duties on the acoustic based "Realization" in addition to the medieval flavored "Praises In The Old Tongue".
Subsequent to an acoustic guitar standing in support of Crabb during the first verse to "Greater Love", the song picks up in pace for its second when he is joined by the rhythm section and a touch of vocal harmonies.
"Ex Nihilo" introduces "Fire Face" to just under a minute of Kansas-like violin before keyboards underline Crabb as he describes the new heaven and the new earth:
Lamb and lion lay together
Eden- garden glory all restored
Come from Heaven
Golden towers glinting in the Sun
The progressive rock masterpiece "Morning's Anthem" begins to keyboards before a driving guitar riff pushes the song through its first and second verse. After a hard hitting combination of rhythm guitar and bass carries a lengthy instrumental passage, "Morning's Anthem" takes on a worshipful tone during its third and final verse as it points to the person of Christ:
On Mount Zion God's people song to their Lord
To Jesus who dwells in their midst as the King
And the song that is sung is the song of the Kingdom
The song of the Kingdom of Jesus our Lord
Come and sing, come and sing
Marshal contributes some of the albums best lead guitar work over the songs last minute.
"Elohim Considers Antedeluvia", an adaptation of "Tocatta and Fugue in D minor", is a fluid minute and a half open air guitar solo allowing Marshall to display his abundant abilities.
The bizarre "The Nephilim Disembodied" combines a bell tree and piano with groaning "nephilic" voices featuring band members Richard Conine and Kemper Crabb backed by a Nazgul. (That's what the albums liner notes say!)
A biting hard rock rhythm guitar drives "Ark" through its first verse at a mid-tempo pace as Crabb details the faith of Noah:
This morning when I went out from the Ark
I got down on my face and worshipped you Yahweh
For You brought me through the dark night
There were times when I thought You had forsaken me
Times when I thought You'd left me
But the sun broke through and the dove returned no more
The song continues in its guitar driven direction during its second verse as it portrays God's judgment during the time of Noah:
Oh, Lord, how the people laughed when I built Your Ark
But how the people screamed and when the storm-clouds turned the sky dark
I knew Your judgment was fallen on men
And there was hope for them no more
For the clouds were opened to wash Earth clean again
Following several seconds of blistering lead guitar work, "Ark" closes by presenting the salvation message:
Jesus will come like a thief in the night
To take all the ones who love Him away
The Body of Christ is the ark the Lord has given us
Come and get on board today
"Beastia Ex Machina" features thirty seconds of counting down "various mechanized tones" that start out fast before ending slowly.
Set in motion by a flute solo, the apocalyptic "To A Sleeping Infidel" slowly advances through its first verse to a quietly played guitar line. Abruptly picking up in pace to an upfront mix of crisp rhythm guitar, the song transitions to a sweeping chorus that opens to an aggressively delivered riff only to slow in tempo at its end. Conine's flute returns at the start of an instrumental passage highlighted by a heavy duty combination of rhythm and lead guitar. "To A Sleeping Infidel" also conveys a no-nonsense salvation message:
You've been hiding from the Lord for quite a while now, my friend
And you know it's getting closer to the end
But you say...
I've got days, I've got nights
There's still time for me to give my life to Christ
There's still time to give Him my life
The songs ending comes in the form of a warning:
Don't take the number, don't take the number, don't take the number...
The albums closes to a short acoustic based reprise of "Morning's Anthem".
It has now been twenty-five years and we are still yet to hear a follow-up release from this talented band. Why? Did Conine and Crabb suffer an untimely demise as a result of singing harmony with the Nazgul? Seriously, the quality of the music on Warrior is such that a lack of talent on the bands part has not led to the delay of any potential follow up effort.
Please note that in the early nineties Kemper Crabb recorded an album with band mate David Marshall under the name Radio Halo, while in recent years he joined Atomic Opera and performed on its fourth and most recent release Gospel Cola.
Warrior was issued on CD for the first time in the early nineties with live bonus tracks in "Realization" and "Warrior"; however, in order to gain a full appreciation for the albums packaging a purchase of a vinyl copy is essential.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Pange Lingua Certaminis" (:41), "Warrior" (4:15), "Dwelling Place" (4:29), "Paradox" (3:23), "Realization" (1:19), "Greater Love" (3:18), "Praises In The Old Tongue" (1:19), "Ex Nihilo" (1:57), "Morning’s Anthem" (5:50), "Elohim Considers Anteldeluvia" (1:42), "The Nephilim Disembodied" (:41), "Ark" (4:28), "Bestia Ex Machina" (:41), "To A Sleeping Infidel" (3:20), "Morning’s Anthem Reprise" (:24)
Kemper Crabb – Lead Vocals, Classic Guitar, Lute, Recorder, Drums, Tambourine, Finger Cymbals, Acoustic Guitar, Kalimba, Dulcimer, Bell Tree, Tubular Bells, Board Slaps, Electric Rhythm Guitar, Full Frontal Guitar, Psaltery, High Strung Guitar, Autoharp, Accordion & Fender Rhodes Electric Piano
David Marshall – Electric Rhythm Guitar, Bass & Full Frontal Guitar
Randy Sanchez – Drums & Mall Toms
Richard Conine – Synthesizers, Organ, Saxophone & Flute