Dark War Xalt - Dark War (Retroactive) 1988

1.   Ariel [intro] (:41)
2.   The Cross (3:19)
3.   God In A Box (2:53)
4.   Where Victory Storm [instrumental] (3:03)
5.   Angry Fire (4:11)
6.   Ready For The Fight (2:32)
7.   A Warrior’s Honor (2:49)
8.   Looking Down A Loaded Gun (4:24)
9.   Palace Daydream [instrumental] (2:08)
10. Soldiers In The Midst [instrumental] (3:08)
11. Dark War (5:30)
BONUS TRACKS (1989 demo)
12. Under the Ruin (4:04)
13. Wounded Heart (4:36)
14. The Kingdom Within (2:43)
15. Lift Him Up (3:31)
16. The Fortress (2:35)
17. Through the Night (3:40)

Xalt's first album was originally released by the band independent of any record label and was only ever released on cassette tape. Until 2017 the album had not seen the light of day on any other format until Retroactive managed to secure the rights to release the album on CD. For those into the very small underground Christian metal scene, this album is somewhat of a classic. It really deserved to be released on CD and vinyl back in 1988 when it was first released. The album did manage to secure the band a label deal with Pure Metal Records, which they recorded two albums for.

"Dark War" is no-frills, American heavy metal. Modern labels may have the band labeled as melodic metal or even power metal, thought I think neither really do the music justice. There is no better way to describe this album than "heavy metal". The album features a few speedy, upbeat songs like "The Cross", Soldiers in the Midst" and "Ready for the Fight", the later being a near speed metal number. Overall, however, the songs are more mid-paced with a strong melodies and catchy hooks. The instrumentals are also a big highlight on this album.

Unfortunately where this album is marred is by the lo-fidelity recording/production. The 2017 remastered does improve over the original demo cassette tape, but over all there is only so much you can do with a rough recording. Sometimes these raw recordings work in a bands favor. (Raven's "Rock Until You Drop" comes to mind.) That is not the case here, though anyone listening to this sort of underground Christian metal album probably isn't overly concerned with stellar production. Frankly, for a demo from 1988 it's very listenable, but don't expect perfect sound quality.

The 2017 release also contains six demo cuts, all of which were re-recorded for the band's Pure Metal debut "Under the Ruins". As might be expected, these recordings are a bit round around the edges as well. Being a longtime fan of the "Under the Ruins" album, these tracks were cool to hear, just to gain some historic perspective on the more slickly produced album tracks. Some of the guitar solos actually punch though better on this demo than on that actual album.

It should also be noted that this release contains some extensive liner notes from guitarist James Eardman, including track by track comments. While there are only a couple of photos included in the 12-page booklet, the liner notes more than make up for it.

Available from BoonesOverstock.com

Under the Ruins Xalt - Under the Ruins (Pure Metal) 1990

1. "Through the Night" (3:47)
2. "Forgiven" (2:48)
3. "Under the Ruins" (4:03)
4. "Waste Your Life Away" (3:31)
5. "Lost Without You" (4:06)
6. "Piercing the Darkness " (4:50)
7. "The Fortress" (2:48)
8. "Wounded Heart" (4:47)
9. "The Kingdom Within" [instrumental] (2:53)
10. "Lift Him Up" (3:33)
11. "Take A Look" (2:25)

"Under the Ruins" was Xalt's sophmore release and their first to be released on a nationally distributed record label. "Under the Ruins" is good, no frills, 1980's style heavy metal platter. Comparisons are often made to bands like Judas Priest and Accept, although I honestly don't hear that in this band. I am more inclined to compare them to a band like Riot. For the most part the material here is pretty rockin' save for the power balled "Lost Without You." Unfortunately for Xalt, their best two albums, this one and "Dark War" were very poorly and thinly recorded. Had this one been given a beefier, heavier production it probably would have ruled. As it is, it isn't bad, but hasn't really stood the test of time very well and sounds very dated. Much of this is the fault of the production, over the actual songwriting or musicianship. Actually, the guitar work is very good. James Erdman was a hot lead player who was unfortunately trapped in a band that wasn't give a proper recording budget. Lyrically, Xalt are straight forward, evangelistic, Christian. I have read other reviews that critisize the band lyrically. I can see how some might read the band as being a bit preachy, but to me it just seems the band was expressing their love for their Lord and had an honest desire to share their faith with others. The lyrics were actually pretty typical of the 80's Christian metal scene. The lyrics to "Wounded Heart" for example, "Go and tell the starving millions, that his love is still alive, or how he came back and took up the form of a man, then rose again when crucified...Jesus is still the answer, and he's the only way to start." Similarly "Lift Him Up" is a straight up praise song; "Lift Him Up, give all praise to the Father, Lift Him Up, He is the King of Kings...He's the reason that we sing." I must also make mention that I have always thought that this album had a cool cover.

"Under the Ruins" as long been out of print and as of 2006 had not been reissued. I've seen this CD sell on Ebay for around $40 - $50. One other note about this album is that song eleven is a CD-only bonus track that is not listed on the track lising.

History Xalt - History (Pure Metal) 1991

1. "Standing" (4:02)
2. "Heart of Stone" (4:32)
3. "Babel Again" (3:45)
4. "Walk Away" (3:07)
5. "Unconditional Love" (5:02)
6. "History" (2:58)
7. "Build My World" (4:30)
8. "The Tree" (4:30)
9. "Reflection" (4:14)
10. "Lord, Lord" (1:25)

Xalt started life as a fairly proficient, simplistic, traditional heavy metal band. Their first two albums "Dark War" (1988) and "Under the Ruins" (1990) may not have been groundbreaking or innovative, but they were enjoyable, fairly heavy and featured some good guitar work. "History" was Xalt's stab at commercial, pop metal. Personally, I prefer their earlier work as this CD is just sort of generic sounding to me and isn't something I find myself returning to very often. Pop metal really needs big hooks and charismatic vocals. While they have some decent hooks, the vocals don't really stand out. One very positive aspect to this album is that the lyrics are very uplifting. Another postive part of this CD is that guitarist James Erdman cranks out some choice leads. Standout cuts are "Standing" and the title track.

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