Petra – On Fire [1988]

PhotobucketPetra is one of the most interesting Christian rock bands, but somehow underrated…but for those who may be unaware, Petra is, hands down, the biggest Christian rock act of all time, selling well over ten million albums, rivalling the total sold by Stryper. By the early 80s Petra had modified their sound to become more of a straight-forward rock band along the lines of Foreigner or Boston, and the band helped to change the way we perceived Christian music.
Open Fire is so far their most successful album because it has balanced songs between hard rock and melodic rock, with some of the most successful band’s ballads. The songs featured some dead-on hooks and the choruses, in keeping with producers John and Dino Elefante’s trademarks, were big, explosive, and stacked with backing vocals, blazing guitars and drums, incredible rhythm, in-your-face lyrics that continue the spiritual warfare theme.
This is the first album to feature Ronny Cates on bass who would remain with the band until 1995. With his addition to the line-up, the band started their more stable period in terms of line-up. John Schlitt continuing to bring the raspy but full ranged vocal style he is renowned for. Bob Hartman is responsible for the upfront rhythm guitar sound pushing the band into hard rock territory. John Lawry deliver us a fairly liberal dose of keyboards in the mix, but they are not a detraction from the sound on this album and actually provide a balancing point for the fans who may be more enamored by the AOR leanings of some of Petra’s older material and the drummer Louie Weaver continues to amaze us with his skills as it has done in all Petra’s albums, while a special mention should be made for the artwork of the album as it is very dramatic and really gives you a feel for what you can expect.
“All Fired Up” is a good opening song ranks with the albums better track. An energetic arena rocker showcasing a hook-laden chorus, an abundance of backing vocals brings out the best in this one and refreshing guitar driven initiative, followed by “Hit You Where You Live” and “Mine Field”, two of the albums highlight. “Hit You Where You Live” starts with pounding drums join with a choppy rhythm guitar. The chorus is very catchy making you turn the volume on high, while the tinge of keyboards highlight the background. The metallic “Mine Field” is a smoking rocker, reached number one on the Christian rock charts. A melodic based guitar solo brings out the best in a song focusing on trusting in God having a strong powerful chorus. These three songs show the strength and power of Schlitt’s vocals, the soloing skill of Hartman on guitar, and the thunderous sound that the Elefantes coaxed out of Weaver on drums. “First Love” is a bombastic ballad with a beautiful message, penned by John Elefante offer us a blend of piano and keyboards enriched with the emotional and heartfelt vocal performance from John Schlitt. Then “Defector” is a very good hard rocker tune having a metal edged rhythm guitar sound. Great hooks, strong refrain while the chorus backed by low key backing vocals, and “Counsel Of The Holy” is surely one of the best song of the album…just a killer tune indeed. Is a great, great mid-tempo hard rock song which again pushes the boundaries of metal and showcases some of the strongest vocals Schlitt had delivered up to this point, starting with an amalgamation of rhythm guitar and organ only to slow to a piano upon reaching its first verse. The melody, the harmony backing vox and the catchy chorus will definitely blown you away. “Somebody’s Gonna Praise His Name” is simply wonderful, starts with a beautiful singing chorus before the powerful chorus join to finish you, features one of the albums better stretches of lead guitar. “Open Book” is another goodie, where the keyboards are even more pronounced here, having a style closed to pop with nice rhythm guitar and memorable chorus. “Stand In The Gap” is putting things to a golden end, returns to its hard rocking ways. A keyboard driven tune where the rhythm guitar steps forward to lead the way to a touchy chorus guaranteed that will stuck in your head for a long time. The last song “Homeless Few” is also quite interesting having a radio friendly Soft Rock vibe, social lyrics and a passionate keyboard based harmony.
This is a rockin’ album without a doubt. If you like a big rock sound that gets you pumped this is your album and a prove why I enjoy listening that kind of music…no because of long hairs, tattoos, piercings, all of this background…but this music has so much happy, feelgood feeling that it makes me cry because such diamonds don’t come out in nowdays.

Band Members
Bob Hartman – Lead guitar
John Lawry – Keyboards
John Schlitt – Lead vocals
Louie Weaver – Drums
Ronny Cates – Bass guitar

Additional musicians
John Andrew Schreiner – Keyboards, programming
Tim Heintz – Programming
Bob Carlisle – Background vocals
John Elefante – Background vocals
Rikki Michelle – Background vocals (“Homeless Few”)

1. All Fired Up
2. Hit You Where You Live
3. Mine Field
4. First Love
5. Defector
6. Counsel of the Holy
7. Somebody’s Gonna Praise His Name
8. Open Book
9. Stand in the Gap
10. Homeless Few

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