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Whitecross - Equilibrium / 1996 / Japan Edition


01. Faraway Places
02. Rubberneck
03. Collide
04. This One
05. Fallen
06. The Balance
07. Plowed Me Down
08. Now
09. Full Crucifixion
10. Windows

Scott Wenzel - Lead Vocals, Guitar
Michael Feighan - Drums, Vocals
Tracy Ferrie - Bass, Vocals
Barry Graul - Guitar, Vocals [Lead Vocal On "Full Crucifixion"]

Whitecross debuted as an AOR Heavy Metal band in the late 1980's. (At least, that's when their first album came out.) The band was known for: the excellent, raspy singing of Scott Wenzel; the brilliant guitar work of "axman" Rex Carroll; decent songwriting with memorable choruses as well as great guitar hooks.

Will the real Whitecross please stand up? This project breaks from the riff oriented rock of the band's past and creates a whole new sound for the band. It was recorded without guitarists Rex Carroll. I miss Rex a lot on this project, but it is still an excellent album. Scott Wenzel's vocals are there so it still sounds like Whitecross but the style changed. Without Rex Carroll the strong guitar riff oriented rock is not present as with past recordings. But what they created instead is a slightly more modern, less riff dominant rock sound that I enjoyed a great deal. I wish they had continued to create more projects that sounded like this one.

"Equilibrium". Some albums are inextricably tied to certain eras of one's life that objective critiquing is sometimes not possible - this record is one of those for me. At the time of its release I went to a Christian school (graduating in 1998) in a (very) small town of about 3500 people. The strong undercurrent of my upbringing was that rock and roll music was evil and to stay away. Despite that strong admonition, my brother who graduated in 1994 had a bunch of "evil" records that I would sneak listens too frequently (always guility), especially the first three by Pearl Jam ("Ten", "Vs." and "Vitalogy".) I remember one time my brother bought the first album by Stone Temple Pilots and my mother made him return the record due to a risque picture in the liner notes. And "Vitalogy" really must have been [was] bad - Eddie Vedder sang about oral sex with Satan in the song "Whipping"! And the medical book that "Vitalogy" came with even talked about (shock of shockers!) masturbation.

Anyway, in 1996 a new girl started coming to my (very small) school. Very cute, Pentecostal, daughter of a woman preacher. Hot, [to say the least]. [To say the least] Naturally I was in love. I'd hang out with her a lot and her friends as well, went to a church camp with her, attended her mother's church at night and Wednesday services when I wasn't there at my own church. We would go to a local armory (a group of myself, the girl, and several friends) and practice gymnastics and blast this album. Sounds pretty killer in an auditorium.

Apparently (and I don't know the full story unfortunately), the band Whitecross had come to one of her church's events (or she went to a concert or something). They had just released "Equilibrium". She had gotten the band's signatures' on the liner notes and album cover - I remember seeing Scott Wenzels' writing on the front and thinking wow this is autographed. The group always had this album blaring.

Eventually, the girl even let me borrow the record (autographs and all) for my own personal usage. This, along with The Doors' first album, were constantly playing in my late adolescent years. What really spoke to me about this album was how HEAVY it really was, yet it was endorsed by the girl and her pastor mom (both of which were VERY VERY Pentecostal, spirit-filled, etc etc). It's like I was getting to hear this really "kick ass" worldly evil music, but sanctioned from a Christian context.

Although the lyrics were Christian, musically "Equilibrium" sounds exactly like what was playing on mainstream hard rock radio during the mid 1990s, for better or for worst depending on your point of view. Here was a band using that "evil rock grunge" sound that so enthralled me and my brother and "legitimized" it by making it Christian. I just remember endlessly marveling that a Christian band would actually make an album as awesome as this was and yet still retain the Christian message. The album is far more memorable than The Nixon's "Foma".

Well, I figured if Whitecross's music is this awesome, I would should go get some more of their albums. I bought the 1992 album "High Gear" and the best of "To the Limit" compilation. Obviously, I was quite disappointed. This was the best of and it didn't sound like the band I had been listening too for months! And "High Gear"? Is that even the same band?

That just shows its all about expectation. You find reviews about fans who were so disappointed in this, "Unveiled", and "Flytrap" because of the Grunge/alternative sound and how they don't like Whitecross without Rex Carroll. My experience was the exact opposite - coming of age in the 1990s, I loved "Equilibrium" because of how alternative it truly sounded. I was very disappointed in the two records that I did buy (pre-Napster days, so these records were expensive for a boy of limited means who only had money by mowing lawns) didn't sound alternative at all. Due to my "bad" experience with the earlier material, I never bought any more Whitecross albums in the 1990s, though I think I remember seeing "Flytrap" when I was rifling through the records at the Christian bookstore (the same type of store that sold the unlicensed Wisdom Tree NES games), but didn't pick that up. Didn't hear "Flytrap" (and indeed, any other Whitecross album other than "To the Limit" and "High Gear") until 2012.

Now that I have gone through the rest of Whitecross's discography, well over a decade later (closer to fifteen years), I can appreciate the viewpoint of those who found the new Whitecross without Carroll puzzling and disappointing. However, their viewpoint is not mine, due to my first exposure to the band. And likewise, most likely the reason they don't like the alternative material Whitecross put out in the mid 1990s is because they grew up with the hair-metal Whitecross. All depends on what you grew up with I guess. Yes, Rex Carroll is a killer guitar player, but Equilibrium sounds fantastic to me without him.

(As far as the album itself, this is very much GRUNGE/alternative, albeit with a Christian standpoint. "Faraway Places" is the most secular of the material here and ironically enough (given my history with the record) one of the highlight tracks. However, everything else is explicitly religious. "Rubberneck" always stuck out to me, and long after all the other songs had faded, years later I could still here the main riff to "Rubberneck". The best song is "Full Crucifixion", both musically and lyrically from a Christian standpoint. "Windows", though a good message, is my least favorite track here. All the rest are great.

One thing to note is that Scott Wenzel was the only original member left. This lineup featured bassist Tracy Ferrie who would later join Stryper. Likewise, Barry Graul who provides guitars is a member of the popular band MercyMe, who has been far more successful than Whitecross. Barry actually does lead vocals on "Full Crucifixion" (which is probably the best song on the entire record), with Wenzel providing the backup and chorus. Scott pretty much sings in the lower key register, though there are some higher range vocals like "Collide". "Falling Star" is primary acoustic drive. A couple of the tracks (like "The Balance" and "Now" would be quite at home on a Stone Temple Pilots release).)

So what was the end of the story? Well, in 1997 (a few months before I started listening to The Doors for the first time, and then dovetailed into The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Jimi Hendrix, and countless others), I sent the girl a rose at my school. She flatly made me aware the feelings weren't reciprocal. She moved away to another town at the end of that school year and I never saw her again. Somehow, I *THINK* that she left the autographed "Equilibrium" CD with me and it got lost somewhere along life's journey. I don't remember giving it back to her and pretty sure that I kept it when she left. However the record went missing since the late 1990s. The latest that I heard the album would have been in 1997 or possibly 1998, though I'm pretty certain it was `97.

In the ensuing years, I never forgot the album, but never had access to the music. Oh, don't doubt that I periodically searched for the music in the ensuing years, but never found them. While The Doors led me to so many other things, "Equilibrium" proved to be something of a dead end for me as far as listening patterns go. I didn't get into Christian music like I did "classic" rock due to The Doors' first LP.

Then in 2012 I found some nifty files, downloaded them, and fell in love with the album all over again. It had been a good fourteen to fifteen years since I last heard the album. When I first pushed play, I wonder how much of the album would come back to my memory. Turns out pretty much all of it. During that first listen I found myself singing lines I hadn't heard in forever. Must have been due to how much I really did listen to this album during that brief time back in the 90s. This time I also listened too all the other albums by Whitecross as well.

Best offert could be acepted as well

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