The Warning Trilogy of Damnation (Roxx)

Eightball Cholos Satan’s Whore (Roxx) 

It may be cool that Fozzy’s Chris Jericho was a wrestler. But, David “Burrito” Vilallpando sounds like one; that is to say that he comes on like a gruff, burly, brawling bruiser ready to land a piledriver into Lucifer’s solar plexus in the multiple hours of punk-informed metallic craziness compiled on the CD reissues by his often enough ground-breaking, at least as often mind-boggling bands, The Warning and Eightball Cholos.  

To get the full story, thorough students of underground godly rock are going to want Roxx Records’ limited-edition double-CD iterations of The Warning’s Trilogy of Damnation, collecting the act’s three ’80’s indie long EP/short album cassette releasees, and Satan’s Whore, the more professionally-produced, lone long-player by Eightball Cholos 

And then, it’s best to start the listening journey with Trilogy‘s bonus disc. It’s labeled (only on the disc itself and nowhere in the packaging) as containing a concert by Burrito’s pre-Warning hardcore punk band, Moral Majority. However,  the group had to change their name due to legal action by Jerry Falwell’s political action organization of the same name. Under the moniker of Public Obsession, they play a Southern Cailfornia church incorporating the kind of mosh-ready sounds that could have landed the guys a contract with, say, Mystic Records were the hardcore scene of the time not nigh wholly Christophobic. The faith proclamations in their lyrics are bold and simplistic as those in the paeans to social and political disgruntlement of their sonic peers, though they adapt a public domain hymn and a minor key Messianic praise & worship chorus, too. Sonically, on at least one number it sounds like Public Obsession may have heard what Flipper were doing to irritate San Fran’ punks with their fitting of sarcasm and ennui to tempos so slow they could be mistaken for messy doom metal. Burrito’s between-tune pronouncements take to task both the unsaved world and the hypocritical church. The latter gets an especially hard hit in a number dedicated to the congregation that kicked out oner group member for his haircut. 

By 1986, Burrito had divested himself of his Obsession to team collaborate with former Dio guitarist Tracy G (nee’ Grijalva) to form The Warning. From the Repent or Die!, with hilariously amateurish artwork from Burrito’s own hand, through to the A Virgin In The Midst Of Whores and Cut The Crap!-or Cut The Garbage! if purchased at a Christian bookstore with more sensitive ownership-‘Rito refined his attacks on two-faced professing saints, the abortion-industrial complex and Beelzebub. His punchy sing-speak is delivered in a a gritty growl serious enough not to diminish his evangelizing and edifying intent, but just light enough to find the joy in a hearty, rush-like “Yeah!” or telling a non-believer to lighten up and accept Christ’s love.

Though I heard The Warning’s triptych of tapes from half a continent away from their Sunshine State base as heavy-duty punk assaults at the time of their release, G’s metal pedigree and his propensity to shred put the duo’s work in the realm of thrash. And in lieu of adding a drummer to make the act a trio, a drum machine provides programmed blast beats and paradiddles with a mechanistically inhuman aplomb that not only added to The Warning’s blunt appeal, it may have set a precedent; Burrito and G were already doing their thing a couple years when Godflesh made their recorded debut as an avant-garde metal duo supplemented by a drum machine.   

It would take eight years, a name-change and a recording budget from an actual, if short-lived, label for The Warning to meet the challenges put forth by the aforementioned English twosome and everyone else who was staking hard rock into myriad different directions, As Eightball Cholos, G’s guitars and Burrito’s vocals, the latter sounding to be treated with myriad effects, were significantly more polished than The Warning’s decidedly lo-fi transmissions (and the even lower-fi interview with Burrito capping off Trilogy‘s bonus disc) The money from Morphine Records–also briefly home to acts including Erase, Crimson Thorn, Antestor and Blenderhead (?!) –was spent well to create a more harrowing, seemingly more personal and more musically adventurous statement. Though still rooted in speed metal’s locomotive chug, G takes more liberties with tempo, occasional employing mathy bass notes, and walls of distortion and drones that pull the Cholos away from the thrash pack. For his part, Burrito assays his songs/recitations often as not from characters, such as a demon and an aborted baby. Whore’s cumulative effect is impressive as a monument to what two guys can accomplish in the studio to make a statement about Christendom and society, but it’s tough not to miss the fun of which they seemed to be having more as The Warning. 

Again, the bonus disc offers treasures and context aplenty…and should be listened to before putting on Whore. An eleven-track demo recorded as The Warning, The Struggle Within, points to the expansive aesthetic direction and textural themes of conflict and condemnation that would follow from the rechristened Cholos. The second CD concludes with what looks to be an unreleased live album from The Warning in what must have been a rare live appearance. herein Villalpando gives a shoutout to Billy Graham, and otherwise be no less fiery and candid than he is elsewhere throughout the other three discs here chronicling his musical career. 

The economy of scale being what it is for the sale of Christocentric rock, it’s understandable that neither of these sets is appointed with more notes that could give a deeper look at this historic material. But that they’re available in themselves is blessing enough for listeners who want to relive The Warning’s and the Cholos’ heyday or hear what the fuss-what there was of it at the time-was all about.  

-Jamie Lee Rake 

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