Living Sacrifice formed in 1989 in Little Rock, Arkansas with a lineup of bassist/vocalist D.J., guitarists Bruce Fitzhugh and Jason Truby, and drummer Lance Garvin (all of whom were teenagers at the time.) The band recorded a demo that ended up in the hands of Believer's Kurt Bachman, who inturn hooked them up with R.E.X. Living Sacrifice recorded their self-titled debut for R.E.X.; two others followed with Bruce eventually replacing D.J. before the label went bankrupt. Living Sacrifice then signed with the Solid State, which released their 1997 album "Reborn," and in addition re-issued the group's entire back catalogue.
Living Sacrifice (R.E.X.) 1991
Until "Reborn" this was my favorite Living Sacrifice disc. For a long time this disc was worth some money as it was out of print and rare as heck. In 1999, however, Solid State re-released the disc with the original cover art but with new photos, extra liner notes and notes from the band.
"Progressive Change" a song off Living Sacrifice's first demo tape was released on the R.E.X. "Argh!!!" compilation.
"Inhabit" follows in the footsteps of "Nonexistent." Heavily dowtuned death metal. The vocals are much better on this album than "Nonexistent," which makes this album far superior. The music is still consistently technical and over the top. Solid State re-released this disc with different cover art, however, I prefer the original artwork. My copy is autographed by Bruce and Lance.
Living Sacrifice - Reborn (Solid State) 1997
Living Sacrifice return to their thrash roots, mixing in a whole lot of groove and a tad of hardcore attitude. In other words, metalcore. Put this CD on and BAM, immediate and spontaneous whiplash occurs! This album is one of the best metalcore albums ever released and one of my favorite discs of any band! It's one of those pummeling discs, like Sepultura's "Chaos AD," that I just can't sit still for. It has kept me awake on many long over-night drives! Funny thing about this disc is that I read more bad reviews than good reviews because people can't deal with the Christian lyrics. Too bad for them 'cause the music shreds!
Living Sacrifice - The Hammering Process (Solid State) 2000
1... "Flatline" (3:21)
This disc would probably be labeled neo-metal and could possibly be put in the same school as Machine Head, Messuggah or even Sevendust, with a more aggressive vocalist, but I really just think it's hardcore with some metal influences. On first listen, "The Hammering Process" is not as infectious as "Reborn." Still the rhythms on this disc are unique and the energy level is very high. I think that was the idea. It's all about the energy, and no longer about the songs. I thought that over time that this disc would grow on me. However, several years have passed and my opinion hasn't changed. "The Hammering Process" just doesn't grab me like the band's debut or even "Reborn".
Living Sacrifice - Conceived in Fire (Solid State) 2002
1. "Imminent War"
I decided to hold off buying this disc as I was not impressed with "The Hammering Process". I decided to pick it up after reading several stellar reviews. Several reviews said this was the band's best disc ever. Another review I read said that "Conceived in Fire" was a return to the band's thrash metal roots. This couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, "Concieved in Fire" is very similar in style to the metalcore and hardcore of "The Hammering Process." I don't know, perhaps I was just setting my goals to high after being so impressed with "Reborn", but I find this album to be boring. It's certainly heavy, and the musicianship is quite good as well, but overall the songs all sound the same and the vocals are especially monotonous. As with "The Hammering Process" I decided to give this disc several spins to see if it would grow on me with time, but so far, it just doesn't have the same infectious songwriting that "Reborn" had. Killer cover art.
Living Sacrifice - In Memoriam (Solid State) 2005
1. "In Christ"
A very uneven compilation due to the fact that Living Sacrifice never could make up their mind what style they were. However, as a career retrospective, this is actually a good sampler of the band's best material. The songs are in chronological order from the three new songs to the band's first self-titled album. Living Sacrifice followed the trends in heavy music, starting off life as an incredible thrash band, then morphing into a decent death metal band. After bassist/vocalist DJ exited the band, the remaining members re-emerged with the fantastic metalcore/thrash hyrid "Reborn". The opening track from the album, "Reborn Empowered" is one of the most powerful songs the band had ever written. If only all their material had stayed like this. Unfortunately the band settled on being an average metalcore/mallcore band. A good half of this CD is songs from those albums. Of the new material, opening tack "In Christ" is good metalcore (if there is such an animal). If all the band's stuff was that good, I'd probably like 'em a bit more. The other two tracks sound like they may have been leftovers from "Conceived in Fire". Thankfully "Enthroned '98" was put on this disc so I can now get rid of that crappy Solid State sampler the song originally appeared on. It was the only reason I was holding onto it. Of course my favorite tracks are the two included from the band's fantastic debut. "In Memoriam" marks the end of Living Sacrifice. I was blessed to see them touring for their first album and for "Reborn" which are my two favorite albums by them.
1. Screwtape (5:36)
Living Sacrifice are regarded as one of the best bands to come out of the Christian metal scene. People seem to love everything they do and hail them as innovators. To me they have always been a band that chases trends in the underground. They started off as thrash, morphed to death metal when thrash metal was waning in popularity, then moved to metalcore as it's popularity overtook death metal. That's not to say that their music is bad or a poor copy. Just because someone follows trends doesn't mean they cannot do it well or write good music. Living Sacrifice are just one of those bands that constantly changes with the times but manages to do so convincingly.
With "Ghost Thief" Living Sacrifice continue to follow those trends. "Ghost Thief" is heavy (ie. down-tuned) and sees the band moving away from the metalcore sound of their past few albums and adding in more death metal and groove based riffs. The sound here is strikingly similar to Killswitch Engage. Living Sacrifice still incorporate the metalcore breakdowns in just about every song. Some of those breakdowns give way to a short guitar solo, such as in "The Reaping" and "Straw Man". "American Made" features a smokin' guitar solo laid overtop of an upbeat, thrash metal section. I wouldn't have minded if they had added even more solo work. Though in no way would I label this as thrash metal, there is a subtle return to the band's thrash metal roots.
I must admit, the first two tracks deliver a knock-out punch. "Screwtape" and "Ghost Thief" deliver heavy riffs and some experimentation with dynamic, energy building intros. (Not unlike what I loved so much about "Reborn".) The former track features a cameo from Demon Hunter's Ryan Clark. Unfortunately as with most of the last few Living Sacrifice releases, as the album moves along the whole thing starts to blend together and sound rather samey. This is despite the fact that some of the best individual tracks are found later in the album. The rough and heavy "Your War" and the previously mentioned "American Made" are two standout tracks. The issue is not that the songs are not individually enjoyable, it is that they start to sound too similar due to similar tempos and the band leaning too heavily on chugging breakdowns, which repeatedly pop up in every song and would have been better served with some more tasteful and purposeful guitar solos from Rocky Gray.
Bruce Fitzhugh roars with a tone that is less scream and more growl. He spits out nails as he reflects on lyrics pertaining to life, death and spirituality. He even delivers a song based on C.S. Lewis' classic "The Screwtape Letters" on "Screwtape."
"Ghost Thief" incorporates elements of all the band's past. In my opinion it's probably their most interesting since "Reborn" as I found most of their albums since then to be boring and forgettable.