Altar Boys – No Substitute (2018 Low-Fidelity Records)
***** out of *****
I first heard the Altar Boys during the summer of 1986 during a session of the North American Christian Convention. The subject of the session was Christian alternatives to secular music. I was a sixteen year old kid who had been raised in the church but loved rock and roll. I also learned about Petra and Stryper at the same seminar. I don’t remember what songs (if any) were played then but I sought out several of the bands once I got home to rural North Carolina. I was able to find Petra and Stryper in the local record store but that was about it. The next year I picked up a K-Tel compilation called Righteous Metal that contained the song You Are Loved. That was my first real experience with Altar Boys and unfortunately would be my last until I picked up Mike Stand’s excellent solo album Simple Expression in 1990. I immediately picked up 1989’s Forever Mercy.
It would take four more years before I actually acquired anything else by the Altar Boys. That finally happened in 1994 when I was freshman at a small Bible College. A previous student had left some of his tapes at a friend’s house and they were given to me. Just like that I had When You’re A Rebel, Gut Level Music, and Against The Grain. I was converted immediately. There was just “something” about the songs that spoke to me. I appreciated the simplicity and sincerity. Although I was more of a metal guy, the Altar Boys became one of my favorite bands. I did continue to follow Mike Stand as he did other things but I always felt like I had missed out because I discovered them after the fact.
Fast forward to 2018 and the announcement that Mike Stand and company are planning to finish and release new Altar Boys’ songs that were written back in 1991 and 1993. This wasn’t the first time that inactive bands put out new projects or finished up old songs. Often times it was just a song or two or re-recorded versions of older tunes. This was promised to be a REAL Altar Boys album. A successful Kickstarter was launched and the album was completed and released. I have been streaming it on Spotify since it came out and it is honestly one of my favorite albums of the year. I recently purchased it digitally and plan to order it on vinyl soon.
Sonically, this is classic Altar Boys. There are shades of Gut Level Music, Against The Grain, and Forever Mercy all throughout the twelve songs. Things kick off with Rebel Rock and it’s like being transported back in time. I don’t believe there is a weak track to be found. The title track keeps the energy level up and things never dip. This collection of songs sounds as fresh and relevant as they would have when originally written. This sounds like a band on fire with passion not only for the music but for the message presented. The production is better than the majority of things produced in today’s Christian music industry which says a lot since it is a independent release. I’ve been trying to pick three or four songs to suggest but can’t. This is a solid release and each track is as good as the one before. I definitely recommend this for anyone who is a fan of straight ahead guitar-driven rock and roll.
You can buy a copy HERE.