Sunday Old School: Vengeance Rising
For all the controversy heavy metal has generated, one of the biggest and sometimes most divisive talking points within the genre itself is the concept of Christian metal. For a genre which has been accused time and time again of attacking the values of Christianity and portraying Satan in a more positive light than he’s used to, the idea of using the music itself to promote devotion to God may seem like something of a contradiction. However, a number of bands have not only found commercial success with their musically heavy spiritual themes, but also established a large, devoted fan base and respect among secular fans. This week (on a Sunday, appropriately enough,) we’ll be looking at one of the heaviest examples of early Christian metal, albeit one whose story takes a considerable turn, Vengeance Rising. The band was formed in 1987 by vocalist Roger Martinez, initially under the moniker, “Vengeance,” before their name was lengthened to their more familiar tag. Martinez was heavily involved in the Pentecostal Foursquare Church, eventually becoming a pastor in the denomination in Hollywood, California. He was joined in the band by guitarists Larry Farkas and Doug Thieme, along with drummer Glenn Mancaruso and bass player Roger Martin. Merely a year after forming, they released their first album, "Human Sacrifice" through Intense Records, which is considered by many to be one of the most radical albums in the history of Christian metal, adopting a brutally heavy take on thrash. Despite the promotion of their religion, they found that the favour was not returned by Christian stores, who found the sound and front cover to be demonic.
The lyrics were also a heavy topic of conversation. Despite some of the more positive (daresay Stryper-esque) titles such as "Salvation," "He Is God" and "I Love to Hate Evil," it also featured tracks with such names as, "Beheaded" and "Fill This Place with Blood." This was another reason why the record was pulled from many stores, though the same themes can be heard from most borderline insane preachers in the street. The band soon embarked on a tour to promote the album, where they caused more controversy for essentially staging their own Passion Plays on stage, depicting the death of Jesus Christ in a very graphic manner.
Vengeance Rising soon got to work on their next album, "Once Dead," which once again caused a shock when it was released in 1990 thanks to the original album cover featuring violent imagery of Christ's death, though this was later replaced with pictures of the band. Like their previous release, "Once Dead" featured a selection of grizzly song titles such as "Frontal Lobotomy," "Cut Into Pieces" and "The Whipping Post," along with a cover of the Deep Purple classic, "Space Truckin'." Once more, the group hit the road in support of the album, but were hit by major financial difficulties as a result of low ticket sales. This caused a huge rift within the band, causing all the members bar Martinez to quit and form a new group named, Die Happy.
Martinez recruited a whole new lineup of musicians, many of whom would not stay with the band long. Vengeance Rising recorded and released two more albums, 1991’s, "Destruction Comes" and the 1992 effort, "Released Upon the Earth," both of which were met with negative reviews, with the Christian publication, Cross Rhythms simply labelling, "Destruction Comes" as "rubbish." The dismal returns the band found caused them to fold almost immediately after "Released Upon the Earth," with a posthumous compilation album entitled, "Anthology" released in 1993.
Despite the demise of Vengeance Rising, their story doesn’t end there, in fact it becomes even more intriguing and perhaps, provocative. In 1997, Martinez confirmed in an interview that he had abandoned the Christian faith, thanks seemingly to his experiences from the “Once Dead” tour, where he felt his bandmates had forsaken him to deal with the finance problem himself. He first proclaimed himself to be a Satanist and then an Atheist and even created a website denouncing Christianity, before allegedly making death threats to former Vengeance Rising members as well as other prominent Christian musicians such as Mortification frontman, Steve Rowe. He further raised eyebrows after the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001, when he made albums free to download on his website for military personnel, in the hope that it would encourage "a holy war against Christians." Martinez still owns the rights to the Vengeance Rising moniker, and claims that he plans to release new music under the name in future, which will have a strong anti-Christian theme, though no such material has surfaced.
Vengeance Rising - "Beheaded"
Vengeance Rising - "Can't Get Out"
Vengeance Rising - "Before The Time"
Vengeance Rising - "You Will Be Hated"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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