This Is Bride
Right up front, I have to confess that it’s challenging to review this new Bride album. After all, Bride was “done” after 2013’s Incorruptible … as they were “done” after 2009’s Tsar Bomba … as they were “done” after 2006’s Skin For Skin, etc., etc. Dale Thompson was often found saying there is no role for Bride any longer in the current music scene. Thankfully, Dale underestimated the willingness of the Spirit to keep Bride going by contributing hard-hitting and relevant music. Skin For Skin was a seriously heavy release, and Tsar Bomba remains, for me, one of the top three Bride releases ever. And even though Incorruptible had some moments, it did feel like a swan song in many regards. But God was not finished with Dale and Troy Thompson – at least as it concerns heavy, groove-laden rock/metal. Fast-forward to 2018. The story of two brothers, inseparable in their desire to create Jesus-centric rock, continues … despite their physical separation of some 8k miles (Dale relocated to New Zealand). With the help of Dale’s bass player from N.O.G. (Nenel Lucena) and the talented drummer from Brazil (Aposan Alexandre), Snake Eyes became reality.
Let me get this out as well, since there has been considerable pre-release hype. I can’t count how many times we’ve heard the, “this is Snakes 2” hype in the past twenty years. Can we please just lay that down and realize that Snakes In The Playground was the culmination of many great things coming together at one point in time – a crucial point in time for Bride’s musical career for sure – and that as special as that album was (and those songs remain today) that release didn’t represent everything Bride (the band/the brothers) had to offer musically or spiritually. There have been many great moments both before and after that release which have been discounted somewhat because of the “Snakes” legacy. Keep in mind that there was heavy influence from Plinky/Dez on that album and so these songs can’t fairly be compared.
Fortunately, Snake Eyes (about as close to a sequel as we are likely to experience) stands well on its own – these songs embody most of the best of the Bride spirit and musical vibe from the past two and a half decades. The Thompson brothers have, for sure, recaptured that great groove-infused crunch (with a bit of funk/fusion) that made their early 90’s releases like Kinetic Faith, Snakes In The Playground and Scarecrow Messiah so great. Even though I don’t think this album as a whole “wows” with greatness like some of those moments past, there are some truly breathtaking songs on this record.
“Jesus Is Knocking On The Door Of Your Heart Today.”
The “Intro” hearkens right back to the Playground with those iconic words – “Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart today.” This opening minute is filled with sounds and voices that immediately draw us back to that magical moment in time when most of us felt that we finally had a band in the Christian scene that could compete with Guns ‘n’ Roses and the like in the hard rock arena. This is immediately followed with the aggressive “Fake News” – a commentary, not surprisingly, on the contemporary media scene. This song has a great chorus section and some great exhortation (“you need agape love…”), but the funky break-out section featuring Dale’s trademark rap-like (whatever you call it) vocal scathing seals the song’s credibility. This song is immediately followed by one of the best songs on the album, “Famous When I’m Dead.” This fast-paced rocker with profound words and plenty of heat breathes new life into the Bride body. I love that Aerosmith ride-bell quarter note punch in the chorus section. This opening 3 track sequence really captures the ear’s attention for sure!
“John the Baptist” takes a few spins to appreciate, but the guitar (drum accompanied) solo really works well. Plenty of praise for the drumming and the drum sound on this record, in general, but I love the tones and rhythms on this song in particular. I can’t say, though, that I love the “who wish it” screaming toward the end. “Think I’ll Build The Bomb” is a total flashback to “Ski Mask and Handgun” with a contemporary lyrical adjustment to the way in which the “violence” mindset has now infected our youth. The notion that “nowhere in the world is safe” is one we all should heed as there are no longer any “safe” places in our world. “The Real Jesus” is, hands down, a great song. Not only is the groove/rhythm so chill, but the lyrics just scream truth. You can chase the dreams of this world (“Another life, another loss of dreams”), or you can find “the real Jesus” (“Not the one of a chain, I believe in Jesus”).
“Why is it so easy to write about pain?”
“Lost Within A Song” is another killer song with great grooves and lyrics. This would probably be the most Scriptural song lyrically and certainly the most uplifting song on the record in that regard. “Laughter Of It All” has some really great softer sections where Troy’s riffs really hearken back to the Playground days. “The Painter” drags things down to a slower pace and maybe tries just a bit too hard to sound Zeppy. I think this song is very personal for Dale, but I think it breaks the momentum of the album just slightly. Much better is “Call Out His Name.” Can you say Black Sabbath? These great doomy riffs and lyrics shine – an example of how this album isn’t all about just trying to emulate Playground. The guitar tones in this song are killer, the bluesy guitar solo is king and I love the double bass drum on the “ride-out.”
“I hear the sound of the snake.”
It seems that on every release there is that one song – the prototypical Bride song! “Other Side Of Suicide” is really great. Dale’s vocals have that raspy quality, so distinctly Bride. Like “The Real Jesus,” there are no screams here, just that edgy quality that is confrontational and motivational. I love the guitar solo too. This song contains all of the elements that make Bride so good, arguably the best track on the album. “There’s Always Tomorrow” would have to be the “departure” song on the album. There is a somewhat “progressive” vibe to this song, but it works pretty well – plenty of bass vibe and plenty of hope. I think if the pace was a bit faster this would be even better, but nevertheless, it is a solid closer to the album.
In summary, I had too much hype about this release being a return to Snakes In The Playground, which it is not. I had to go through this a few times before really being able to grasp just how funk-driven these songs are. Where Snakes in the Playground was incredibly over-produced, Snake Eyes actually represents a more raw expression of Dale and Troy’s vision for their sound. I like these songs more with each listen and the less I think about Snakes in the Playground the more I appreciate Snake Eyes (if that makes sense). The sound quality is excellent – very warm/balanced with plenty of low-end bass and kick drum punch. I would have to admit that I don’t hear much difference between the vinyl and the CD because the CD is actually very “vinyl-like” in its warmth and uncompressed nature. In addition to the regular CD booklet with lyrics and pictures, the rear tray insert contains a nice synopsis/back-story to the album by Dale. (Not included on the vinyl lyric insert). The vinyl record itself is lightweight, with vibrant blue-marble color, and a very “old-school” label (pictured). The insert has the lyrics on one side and band pictures from the past 30 years on the other side.
Fans of Bride should be able to easily connect with this release. It is great to know that even when Dale and Troy (and the musicians past and present who accompany them on their journey) see fit to end the Bride saga, God see’s otherwise. Snake Eyes is yet another musical gift and blessing that was never apparently supposed to happen, but represents that kind of “unexpected surprise” that screams joyfully.
1. Intro (0:55)
2. Fake News (3:56)
3. Famous When I’m Dead (4:02)
4. John the Baptist (4:08)
5. Think I’ll Build the Bomb (4:43)
6. The Real Jesus (4:42)
7. Lost Within A Song (3:22)
8. The Laughter Of It All (3:54)
9. The Painter (4:08)
10. Call Out His Name (4:32)
11. Other Side Of Suicide (4:48)
12. There’s Always Tomorrow (4:27)