Kurt Bachman

American technical thrash metal quartet formed in 1987 by drummer Joey Daub and guitarist/vocalist Kurt Bachman. I discovered these guys shortly after selling all my vinyl in 1989. I walked into a Christian store with a load of money from the records I had just sold and bought five new Christian metal CDs. Believer's "Extraction from Mortality" was one of the discs I held in my hand. When I got home and popped it in my CD player, I was blown away. I had to go back and read the lyrics to make sure it was really Christian, as the music was as intense, if not more so, than anything I had been listening to previously.

Extraction from Mortality
Believer - Extraction from Mortality
(R.E.X.) 1989

1. "Unity" (6:39)
2. "Vile Hypocrisy" (5:35)
3. "D.O.S. (Desolation of Sodom)" (4:19)
4. "Tormented" (3:50)
5. "Shadow of Death" (4:17)
6. "Blemished Sacrifices" (3:54)
7. "Not Even One" (3:33)
8. "Extraction from Mortality" (6:01)
9. "Stress" (3:01)

Believer 1990

"Extraction from Mortality" is one of the best thrash releases of 1989, if not of all time! Believer were brutal, fast, tight, aggressive, technical, and had thought provoking lyrics. Of course, as with any thrash metal release, the shout-along, gang vocals are key. With subsequent releases, the band would start writing more progressive songs. However, on this, their debut, they stick to straight forward thrash metal. Kurt's raspy, raw, gutteral vocal delivery was more in line with some of the European thrash bands, than their fellow American bands. "Extraction" sports a very cool cover as well.

For many years, the original R.E.X. pressing of "Extraction from Mortality" was the rarest Believer CD and was selling for hefty sums on auction sites. The album was re-release in 2001 by M8 Records with two bonus tracks. Fortunately for me, I already have the bonus tracks, thus negating my need to upgrade. The re-release has an inferior (read: cheap) insert. Almost as fast as it was released, the M8 Records release also went out of print with only 2,000 copies in circulation.

Believer also have a remixed version of "Vile Hypocrisy" on the R.E.X. "Argh!!!" compilation and a demo song called "The Chosen" on the "East Coast Metal" compilation.

Sanity Obscure
Believer - Sanity Obscure
(R.E.X./Roadrunner) 1990

1. "Sanity Obscure" (6:06)
2. "Wisdom's Call" (3:44)
3. "Nonpoint" (5:14)
4. "Idols of Ignorance" (4:39)
5. "Stop the Madness" (3:56)
6. "Dies Irae (Day of Wrath)" (5:41)
7. "Dust to Dust" (5:02)
8. "Like A Song" (3:27)

"Sanity Obscure" is another thrash classic from Believer. With the band's sophomore release, they experiment with their sound quite a bit, still retaining a thrash metal sound, only getting more technical, progressive, rigid, colder and quite frankly, unique. I can't think of another band that sounded quite like them in 1990.

The eight songs included on "Sanity" are less straight-forward thrash metal than the band's debut, which means less speed-for-speed sake. That's not to say there isn't any speed here, songs like "Idols of Ignorance" are speed defined. As well, unlike the debut, the songs don't seem to have that instant grab you by the jugular groove that songs like "Unite" and "Vile Hypocrisy" had. "Sanity Obscure" is daunting at first and requires a bit more attention to really begin to appreciate the songwriting. One of the standout cuts on the album is "Nonpoint", which starts off with an ominous acoustic intro that leads way into a choppy, groove-laden guitar riff that builds into a heavy, fairy progressive song. "Stop the Madness" is the single from the record and is a bit more groove laden and memorable than the majority of the material. This song isn't ultra fast, but it is crushingly heavy, both the music and the message. It is one of the few tunes that might have fit onto "Extraction from Mortality". "Dies Irae" (aka Day of Wrath) is an experimental song that blends violins, violas, a female opera singer, and a crunchy guitar riff. The song is quite dark and gothic, which fits perfectly the end-times theme and the Latin sung lyrics. This particular song always reminded me something Celtic Frost might have experimented with and is, in my opinion, an inspiration masterpiece. (The song was also a hint of things to come for Believer.) "Like A Song" is a U2 cover, an odd choice for a thrash metal band to cover, but one that worked for Believer. "Sanity Obscure" is a fairly short record as well, which works in the band's favor. I think it is a big mistake to make albums too long as they tend to get boring, especially when it comes to really technical songwriting.

So, "Sanity Obscure" is thrash, but it's not just speed, speed, and more speed. It has it fast and furious moments, but it's also progressive and passionate. It's rage, fury and emotion wrapped with logic and thought. It is an original progressive thrash album with thoughtful lyrics from a Biblical perspective. It is a heavy metal classic and essential listening to any thrash metal fanatic.

"Sanity Obscure" gained rave reviews from everyone despite the fact that Believer are a "Christian band." (Like that matters to how good the music is.) The album was picked up and released by Roadrunner Records. The ensuing tour with Bold Thrower and Sacrifice helped gain Believer a bigger fan base. They remain underground cult favorites decades later, though they never achieved mainstream success.

Stop the Madness Believer - Stop the Madness (RC Records) 1990

1. "Anti-Drug PSA" (:60)
2. "Stop the Madness" (3:55)
3. "Like A Song" (2:23)

Promotional single sent out to radio stations to promote the "Sanity Obscure" CD. Both songs are from that CD, so other than the short ant-drug, spoken PSA from Bachman, there are no B-sides on this disc. However, this disc is one of the rarest Believer collectibles and fetches quite a high price on eBay. (Of course it is my opinion that eBay bidders have more money than brains most of the time.) (thanks Angel Gonzalez II)

Dimensions-Roadrunner version Dimensions-R.E.X. version
Believer - Dimensions
(R.E.X./Roadrunner) 1993

1.   Gone (5:47)
2.   Future Mind (5:34)
3.   Dimentia (5:36)
4.   What Is But Cannot Not Be (5:28)
5.   Singularity (4:24)
6.   No Apology (4:55)
Trilogy of Knowledge
7.   Intro: The Birth (2:17)
8.   Movement I: The Lie (5:27)
9.   Movement II: The Truth (6:46)
10. Movement III: The Key (6:21)

Believer's third and last offering before splitting up for more than a decade is a bit different than their first two masterpieces. The writing team of Kurt Bachman and Joey Daub is still in tact, but new members have been added including a new bassist: Jim Winters, an opera soprano: Julianne Laird, a cellosit: Glenn Fischbach, and a violinist : Scott Laird, who also played violin on "Dies Irae" from "Sanity Obscure." "Dimensions" is even more technical and progressive than anything they have done to this point. It is, at first, a very daunting listen. Even the production is colder and more digital sounding than either of the band's first two albums. However, I still find this to be another thrash masterpiece. Perhaps labeling them simply thrash at this point is a disservice, as they are probably more properly labeled progressive metal or technical metal. The overall tempos are generally a bit slower than the predominantly frantic pace of their first two releases. However, there are still some very fast paced sections mixed into the songwriting. There are also a handful of more straight forward thrash songs like "Gone" and "No Apology", the later of which is one of my favorites from the album. However, the mixture of orchestration that was present on "Dies Irae" is now even more prevalent. The violins are mixed into the songwriting of songs like "Trilogy of Knowledge" and "Dimentia". "Dimentia" is definitely a standout cut on the record, as it is a melodic and eerie song that blends acoustic guitars and violins with heavy riffs to create a sound that is compelling and quite unique. The verses of this song are spoken over acoustic passages, while the choruses are shouted in typical Kurt Bachman style overtop heavy guitars.

Of course the centerpiece of the album is  "Trilogy of Knowledge," a 20+ minute epic song in four parts that tells the Biblical story of Christ by mixing the vocals of Kurt Bachman with the melodic, operatic, soprano vocals of Julianne Laird. The band integrates string arrangements throughout the entirety of the song, some parts being more dominated by guitars, while others are more orchestral dominated, such as the opening minutes of the first movement. This track alone is worth the price of admission for this collection of songs. If I had to put a label on this particular song I would classify it as "symphonic, progressive thrash!"

If forced to choose favorites of the first three Believer albums, "Dimensions" would come in third of the three. While I find much to like about this album, I tend to prefer the more straight-forward thrash albums when I am in the mood for some Believer. Still, despite being dauntingly progressive, Dimensions is one of the seminal technical thrash metal albums of the 1990s.

"Dimensions" was released on two different record labels, Roadrunner and R.E.X., with two completely different covers. Both are pictured above. "Dimensions" was re-released by Retroactive Records limited to 1000 copies in December 2004 with three bonus tracks which were recorded live on the 31th of October 1989.

Gabriel Believer - Gabriel (Metal Blade) 2009 

1. "Medwton" (7:23)
2. "A Moment In Prime" (6:07)
3. "Stoned" (4:32)
4. "Redshift" (5:21)
5. "History Of Decline" (3:49)
6. "The Need For Conflict" (5:14)
7. "Focused Lethality" (3:46)
8. "Shut Out The Sun" (5:38
9. "The Brave" (4:19 )
10. "Nonsense Mediated Decay" (8:49)
11. untitled (:28)
12. untitled (:23)
13. untitled (4:57)
Promo Poster
"Gabriel" promo poster

The return of Believer was exciting news for me. I've been a fan since hearing them on the East Coast Metal compilation back in 1988. "Gabriel" was certainly one of the most anticipated releases of 2009 for me, even though I was also a bit nervous about the release. Believer haven't released any new material since 1993. I wondered whether Kurt Bachman and Joey Daub would stick to doing what Believer are known for or if they would venture into new territory. After all, Joey Daub has been with gothic band Fountain of Tears for the past few years, and we've heard nothing new from Kurt Backman for over a decade. However, there was no need to worry as "Gabriel" is exactly what anyone could have hoped for from Believer. Frankly, "Gabriel" is an outstanding follow-up to "Dimensions".

That's not to say that "Gabriel" is all straight forward thrash metal like the latest Kreator release. There are some samples and keyboards jumping out here and there on this album. Ex-Sardonyx keyboard player Jeff King is listed as a member of Believer and adds a bit of an industrial tone to the whole thing. As has been the case for Believer since album one, there is some orchestration mixed in as well. However, there is plenty of good 'ol thrash metal to be had as well. "Focused Lethality" and "Stoned" are both solid straight up metal songs. "Focused Lethality" is an incredibly fast thrash metal song, whereas "Stoned" has tinges of death metal mixed in. Both songs have solid guitar riffs, punishing guitar tones and plenty of double bass work. Thankfully, it doesn't sound like Believer down tuned much on this CD. Rather than relying on heavily downtuned guitars for a heavy sound, Believer have accomplished a heavy sound by writing heavy riffs!  The guitar tone is raw and crunchy, but clearly distinguishable and has an odd hollowness that adds to the overall dark atmosphere of the music. The bottom end is held up by the heavy bass guitar tone, as it should be. 

One thing that Believer has over the current crop of thrash bands coming out of the woodwork is that they don't just play thrash for thrash sake. The band knows how to mix up tempos, song writing, and other elements so that the album flows as a whole without every song sounding the same.

The lyrics this time around aren't as openly Christian as past albums, although I am in no way saying that the lyrics are bad. Rather, they have gone for a more poetic approach this time around. I must confess, however, that at the time of writing this review I hadn't spent a lot of time reading through the lyrics and am only basing this opinion on hearing the lyrics alone. For the most part Bachman spits out the lyrics with his high, raspy voice and doesn't really sound all that different than he did on past Believer albums. "The Brave" features some clean male vocals. Again, this isn't really surprising for Believer as they have mixed in other vocal styles in the past. 

The last few tracks here are total filler, oddball stuff. The nearly nine minute track titled "Nonsense Mediated Decay" is exactly that, a nine minute collage of nonsense. I guess this shouldn't be surprising for Believer as they have always had at least one oddball track on every CD. However, it tends to makes make a very strong album end on a very weak note. The last three untitled tracks are also odd little noise tracks that really don't add anything to the CD. Frankly, I'd rather that this CD have only been the nine actual songs, which is how it will be on my iPod. 

It's also worth mentioning that there are a few special guests on this album including Rocky Gray (Soul Embraced, Evanescence), Deron Miller (Cky), and  Joe Rico (Sacrifice), who plays a guitar solo.

Transhuman Believer - Transhuman (Metal Blade) 2011

1.   Lie Awake (5:03)
2.   G.U.T. (3:39)
3.   Multiverse (4:44)
4.   End Of Infinity (4:12)
5.   Transfection (3:55)
6.   Clean Room (4:50)
7.   Currents [instrumental] (2:50)
8.   Traveler (4:23)
9.   Ego Machine (4:29)
10. Being No One (4:47)
11. Entanglement (4:15)
12. Mindsteps (6:52)

Believer were one of the late 80's/early 90's bands that really dominated my CD player. "Extraction from Mortality" and "Sanity Obscure" are technical-thrash masterpieces, in my opinion. After that the band decided to go into more experimental directions. With "Dimensions" Believer stretched themselves musically, but still retained their identity, sound and in some cases, their speed. Still, with these three albums the band became known for their complex and technical metal. With their reunion and the subsequent 2009 release "Gabriel", the band pretty much still retained their sound, though they were obviously still stretching musically and going off into metal tangents, not wishing to be placed into any sort of genre box. With "Transhuman" I think Believer have stretch their sound to the point that they barely sound like Believer.

The album opens with a song that seriously sounds like something on mainstream radio, both vocally and musically. Thankfully, the song isn't an indication of what the entire album sounds like. There are some small traces of that old Believer sound in songs like "Transfection", "Entanglement" and especially "Ego Machine". However, it's an understatement to say that Believer 2011 is a very different animal than they were before they reformed. After giving the album a few spins, I started being reminded of Voivod. It's not that Believer sound like Voivod, but much like the Canuck thrashers did on albums like "Angel Rat" and "Outer Limits", Believer have experimented and completely changed their sound, abonding thrash metal and adding in psychedelic, goth and industrial elements. While the band have always been described as "technical", I'd say that "Transhuman" is more progressive in nature than anything the band has attempted in the past.

Even Kurt Bachman's vocals are very different from anything the band has done in the past. His style is a bit off-kilter and often very heavily processed, adding to the industrial tone. Keyboardist Jeff King really adds a lot of the band's sound. Wimpy flower metal keyboards this is not. Rather, it's King's keys that push the industrial and goth influences even further. As a matter of fact, the keyboard-led, goth/industrial instrumental "Currents" sounds more like somthing I would have expected from Fountain of Tears than Believer.

Another big change in the band is their lyrics direction. "Transhuman" leaves the door wide open for interpretation and certainly cannot be pigeonholed into being a "Christian" album.

Metal purists may be put off by this album, though make no mistake, this is a heavy record. However, the words "traditional" and "thrash" cannot be used to describe this album whatsoever. Being that I like this band so much in the past, I really gave "Transhuman" quite a few spins to allow it to sink in. I wonder if this had been an album released by a new band if I would have given it the same courtesy or if I would have just put it off to the side? Regardless, it did grow on me and I found "Transhuman" to be an enjoyable, challenging and creative album even if I am a bit disappointed that one of my favorite thrash bands is not longer playing thrash.

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