CONTAGIOUS

Country USA

Style CCM Hard Rock/Melodic Metal
PhotobucketThis band really rocks and the message is outstanding. Two original members are now in a band called soundmind,Cool White metal album. Not the best Christian album ever but only because the cover its already good to buy it. Cool Melodic metal/HARD ROCK for early GARDIAN(GUARDIAN) and SOLDIER(usa) fans.After forming in Southern California during the mid-eighties,Contagious independently released a six song EP entitled Be Ready which, despite no promotion, went on to sell 3000 copies. Impressed with the sales of Be Ready, Regency Records signed Contagious in 1987. I might describe the bands 1988 Regency debut, Free Indeed, as a combination of straightforward hard rock and eighties influenced melodic metal.Guitarist Scott Sifton, a first rate talent who deserves to be mentioned when discussing the top metal guitarists of his era, brings to mind the likes of Yngwie Malsteem, Carl Johan Grimmark (Narnia) and Slav Simanic with his fast fingered playing. Bassist Mark Lewis and drummer Ryan Crampton round out a solid rhythm section. Lewis also handles lead vocals but, with a flat sounding and limited range voice, his effort more often than not falls short of the mark. Randy Thomas (Allies) produced Free Indeed on a minimal budget with the end result being an uneven and muddy sounding effort. While the drum sound is solid, the bass tends to get lost in the mix.

The rhythm guitar lacks the needed polish and crispness, but the lead guitar cleanly rises above the instrumentation. I like the concept behind the album cover, but the quality of the artwork is not the highest. In addition, the track listing on the back of the jewel case does not follow the order the songs are played back.Opening the album to an aggressive guitar riff, “Free Indeed” proceeds at a hard rocking mid-tempo pace until it crests for a chorus I might describe as average-to-good at best. Sifton, however, steps forward with several seconds of his trademark lightning fast lead guitar work.Then guitar driven momentum propelling “Fighting The Good Fight” forward from the start quickly takes it to a strong chorus that repeats its title four times in an energy-laden manner. Sifton contributes just under a minute of fast paced lead guitar work to a song talking about victory in the life of a Christian:Taking off at a slower more mid-tempo pace, the lackluster “Backslider” plods along until it reaches an emotionally charged chorus diminished by Lewis’ uneven vocal delivery.

Sifton’s lead guitar work closing out the songs last minute is nothing less than jaw dropping. I wish the music to “Backslider” were as good as its lyrics:Sifton’s incredible minute long open air guitar solo introducing “Building On The Rock” is nearly worth the price of the album alone. Kicking in to a driving guitar riff, the song moves forward with an abundance of energy until it transitions to a very fine groove flavored chorus. Sifton returns with another minute of blazing lead guitar work.”The Provider” advances through its first verse strong and steady only to hit a wall upon attaining a chorus carried in a repetitious fashion by pounding drums. As its title implies, “The Provider” points to the person of Christ:After “Hebrews 13:8” gets underway to clashing symbols, a heavy duty guitar riff shores up its first and second verse at a catchy upbeat tempo. A bass guitar solo opens an instrumental passage closing to several seconds of bluesy lead guitar work. The message to “Hebrews 13:8″ is every bit as powerful as its music:”Turn” opens to a drum solo and a hard rocking rhythm guitar sound before tapering off upon reaching its first verse. As the song regains its momentum, the rhythm guitar enters the mix in time to underscore a chorus held back by its all around lackluster feel. Sifton’s wonderful lead guitar work is not enough to allow what otherwise is a musically tiresome number to hold up under repeated play. The acoustic based ballad “To The King” reveals the limitations of Lewis’ voice in that he lacks the range to complement a number moving in such a commercial based direction. (Think of the ballads performed during Rex Carroll-era Whitecross).

But that is not the point. If a band is recording a hard rock album then why not write a hard rock ballad? It only makes sense. While certainly not bad from a musical standpoint, “To The King” would sound better in the hands of White Heart or Petra rather than a gritty hard rock band like Contagious.The melodic hard rocker “Children Of The Father” begins in a tongue and cheek manner to the voice of a TV preacher:It is worth noting that Free Indeed was recorded at the time of the televangelist scandals. Hence, the songs subject matter. (Bloodgood also touched upon the issue with the track “Shakin’ It” from its 1988 effort Rock In A Hard Place.) Once “Children Of The Father” fades in to an effective mix of keyboards and rhythm guitar, the keyboards drop from the mix leaving the rhythm guitar to carry the song to an ordinary sounding melodic flavored chorus. With “Fighting The Good Fight”, “Building On The Rock” and “Hebrews 13:8” being the lone exceptions, Free Indeed is inconsistent in that the remainder of its material fails to hold up under repeated play. A weak lead vocal performance and average production job serve to detract from the albums appeal further. The one bright spot worth mentioning, nonetheless, is Scott Sifton’s wonderful lead guitar work. Sifton left Contagious following the release of Free Indeed only to be replaced by the bands original guitarist Mike Gribionkin. While Sifton went on to join forces with vocalist Josh Kramer (Saint), the two, frustratingly, never recorded.

It is disappointing a musician of Sifton’s ability was never heard from again. The remaining members of Contagious began work on material for a third album but broke up before entering the studio

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– Be Ready [1987]
– Free Indeed [1988]
– Long Time Coming [1991]

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CONTAGIOUS, 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating