Production,songcraft stepped up for 2nd release from BC
Greg Brady | Capital City | 03/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While their debut was the hardest sound in Christendom at the time, the addition of the production team of Dino and John Elefante firmed up the metal attack, making the hooks sharper on their sophomore disc.
The Elefantes stitch a thick bottom from Jim LaVerde into Steve Whitaker's rhythms to give Barren Cross a solid foundation to work from. Ray Parris contributes competent if only occasionally flashy guitar, and Mike Lee's pipes nail it all home (Check out his extended wailing on "What do you know?" in the 2nd verse of "Imaginary Music". It extends over 13 seconds climbing three times). The band roars out of the gate and only stalls a few times with a near perfect release.
Best tracks here are the anti-suicide anthem "In the Eye of the Fire", which starts off with a great descending bass riff and never lets up, throwing in some tricky time signature changes along the way, "Deadlock" paints a picture of the addict ('Hot Steel, the pipe's never cold anymore, The more you feel, the more you can't let go..") and gives Whitaker a chance to show off some double-bass thump, near thrash "Cultic Regimes" rails against phony religion ("Listen to this, the Bible it says, one God's the maker of all, If you don't believe Jesus is God, MY God made YOURS, that's all!"), "King of Kings" is worship at full volume and has probably Parris' most frenetic fretwork. It wraps up with epic "Living Dead", a call to those who don't know God.
Weak spots are the mandatory power ballad (hey, it was the 80s) on "Heaven or Nothing", which compares a woman's beauty with the afterlife: weak theology at best...really bad metaphor at worst. Another stinker is an anti-terrorist rant which seems to imply that the young children being indoctrinated should know better on their own ("Terrorist Child").
Bottom Line: Despite those two missteps, this is a great CD and criminally unknown. Every Christian metal fan should own this and openminded heavy metal fans will probably find quite a bit to enjoy here,too."
A highlight of the hair metal days
Music Lover | USA | 01/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the late 80's hair metal ruled the music scene. Spandex, hair spray and hard rock were in. On the Christian music scene there were a few bands that emerged during this time that really stuck out as leaders and Barren Cross were one of them. Atomic Arena is an amazing album that not only has great music but also deals with real issues like abortion and the unsaved. Their music resembles AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest from the secular music side. Highlights on this album include:
Killers of the Unborn
In The Eye of the Fire
Close To the Edge
Heaven or Nothing
I could have easily put all of the songs on this albums as highlights as they're all really good. The saddest thing about Barren Cross is the timing - their career had barely started when Nirvana came along and changed the entire music scene leaving bands that played anything even close to 'hair metal' as uncool. This is a great album and should be played often and loud!"
Enter the Arena
Justin Gaines | Northern Virginia | 05/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Released in 1987, Atomic Arena was the second (and in my opinion the best) studio album by Christian metallers Barren Cross. If Stryper gave the faithful a righteous alternative to Bon Jovi and Dokken, Barren Cross's blazing guitars and Dickenson-esque vocal delivery was a "gift from above" for metalheads who preferred Iron Maiden and Dio's heavier approach. Besides, there's just something appealing about a band of earnest Christians who drew such obvious influence from albums like Holy Diver and The Number of the Beast.
Atomic Arena was a big step forward for Barren Cross. The songwriting, musical and vocal performances, and production were all noticeably better than the band's debut (1986's Rock for the King), thanks in no small part to the behind-the-scenes involvement of John and Dino Elefante. Where Rock for the King was a hard rock album with a metal edge, Atomic Arena is a polished American power metal album with amazing guitar hooks, powerful soaring vocals, and some very well-crafted songs.
One of Barren Cross's best attributes is that they are viewed above all as a very talented metal band. You didn't have to subscribe to their faith to enjoy their music. Any time this band comes up in conversation, even the most jaded metal fan has to admit a grudging respect for Barren Cross's music, if not a real appreciation. There aren't a lot of Christian metal bands with that kind of reputation. That said; Barren Cross' message was never compromised. The band held to its Christian message while tacking some of the day's major social issues (terrorism, abortion, drug use, etc.) In some cases, this approach works very well ("Terrorist Child", "Close To the Edge"), and in others it just seems clumsy and forced ("Killers of the Unborn" and the laughably bad "Cultic Regimes").
Overall, Atomic Arena is an extremely strong metal album. It stumbles at times, but the sheer power on display here more than makes up for any missteps. I won't go so far as to call it a must-have metal album, but anyone who enjoys bands like Iron Maiden, Dio, Judas Priest, and Armored Saint could do a lot worse than checking out Barren Cross.
NOTE: Atomic Arena was reissued in 2004, making this long out of print title available again with digitally remastered sound. There isn't any bonus material, but the sonic makeover breathes new life into this classic album."