BURRITO: A Christian Metal Legend Has Died. RIP, Brother

The Christian metal scene lost a legend this week to covid-related complications.  David Villalpando, or “Burrito” as most people knew him had been active in the Christian punk, metal, and hardcore scene(s) since the early 80s.  While the number of bands he contributed to numbers around 10 (give or take), the most famous were The Warning, Eightball Cholos, and Grace for the Fallen.  Musically, each of his projects rode the line between punk, thrash, and hardcore, but in different ways depending on the project.

However, more important than his musical contributions was the impact Burrito had on all of those who knew him.  Within 24 hours of his passing, his Facebook page saw tributes from members of The Lead, Living Sacrifice, The Blamed, Klank, Focused, 44evergiven, Stryper, Mohler, and seemingly countless others.  Although Burrito was a layperson, he had a strong pastoral impact on all those around him.  Bands far and wide looked to Burrito for prayer and guidance, often even those who took a different approach to music and ministry.  Personal friend, Ruby Shannon stated, “Burrito was such a common denominator in so many friendships.”

It wasn’t just the underground music scene though, Stephen Poore, former vocalist of hardcore band Ten33 recently told me about Burrito’s work as a volunteer youth leader in his youth group: “Burrito actually served as a youth volunteer when I was in 9th grade at the youth group I attended here in Richmond. I distinctly remember him taking me and my buddy, who just marginally got into alternative and punk music, into his Geo Tracker to listen to Eightball Cholos. From there, I developed a love for hardcore. Eventually, I got super involved in the hardcore scene here in Richmond and started a band that would later sign to Blood and Ink Records, under Jamie Nester.” 

Burrito, and his musical projects, were always incredibly outspoken.  He was one of the old school “turn or burn” types when it came to lyrics, frequently covering topics like abortion, the rapture, divine judgment, and the needs for the salvation only found in Jesus Christ.  And yet, in person, he was known for being a big teddy bear.  While intimidating in appearance—his huge frame, long beard, and dozens of tattoos—people everywhere refer to him as ‘one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.’  

Jaime Patterson, former intern at Blood & Ink recounts, “[This news] stings. Because of how much he helped form my late teens to my early 20s.  He would give you the shirt off his back of many times he did. I met him at a church in the middle of nowhere during a hardcore show. I was home from college when I saw this round, tattooed, bald-headed, Dickies shorts wearing ball of energy. We became fast friends, and he was a mentor, a pastor, friend, and big brother to me in very short order. Through him I met some of the most wonderful people and experienced some of the most impactful, and transformative things through my 20s. I can safely say that who I am now was greatly influenced by Burrito, his passions, and his faith. Thank you for seeing something in me that I didn’t and for teaching me how to love hard, and fully. Thank you for the impact you had on Christian music and the impact that you still have. I hope that we can continue to live out your legacy and all that we do. We love you, and we miss you already. See you soon friend.”

One time band member, Mark Miller (vocalist for 44evergiven and Grace for the Fallen) told me a story of how they came to play together: “When we decided to start a band (44 Evergiven) I asked Burrito to help us find a Bass player. I figured he knew a lot of people in the music scene and could help with that. Instead, he went to the music store and bought a bass guitar. I found out through our pastor’s wife (she said he was really excited) I contacted him and said, ‘Welcome to the band dude!’” 

Another way David expressed his love for the Creator and his compassionate care was his passion for rescued pit bulls.  He was actively involved in re-home dogs who had formerly been used in dog fights.  In many ways, this is a snapshot of who Burrito really was—a ‘scary’ man with a big heart, and a love for those whom many others would find unlovable.  If you ever met him—even once, like I did in 2006—you would notice his passion for the Lord, and his desire to reach the lost.

RIP Burrito.

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