Forgotten Hard Rock Albums: Messiah Prophet, "Master of the Metal"
Messiah Prophet, "Master of the Metal"
(Pure Metal Records, 1986)
This might be old news to some of you, and the rest will probably say "who?" ...but I was bummed to learn recently that Charlie Clark, lead singer of the '80s Christian metal band Messiah Prophet, passed away in early 2018 after a lengthy battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS). He was 55 years old. Messiah Prophet's Master of the Metal album is a long time cult favorite of mine. When I heard the news, I naturally wanted to give it a few spins to honor Mr. Clark's memory. The problem was, I only have the vinyl LP and I no longer own a turntable!
Fortunately, I soon found an upload of the long out-of-print album on YouTube. When I hit "play" to take a trip down metal memory lane, I was impressed at how good Master of the Metal still sounded. I was also a bit surprised that I could still remember most of the song lyrics even after all these years!
Who Was Messiah Prophet, Anyway?
Hailing from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Messiah Prophet started out in the late '70s as an acoustic duo (!) known as the "Messiah Prophet Band." They changed members and musical styles numerous times over the next few years before settling on a five-piece lineup that played hard edged commercial metal similar to fellow Christian rockers Stryper, Saint and Barren Cross.
After releasing their debut Rock The Flock in 1984 for the tiny Morada Records, they dropped the "Band" from their name and became one of the first groups signed to the newly-formed Pure Metal Records label. Pure Metal released their second LP, Master of the Metal, in 1986.
I first became aware of Messiah Prophet back in the day thanks to a budget-priced Christian rock compilation album entitled Righteous Metal which featured Master's title track. It quickly became one of my favorite songs on that collection, so eventually I tracked down the album so I could hear more.
Master of the Metal kicks off with the speedy rocker "Hit and Run," a hard and fast number similar to Judas Priest or Krokus. Charlie Clark's vocals soar over the top of Andy Strauss and Brian Nicarry's flashy guitar work, getting the album off to a killer start. With his button-down shirt and feathered hair, Charlie Clark may have looked like he belonged in Air Supply, but he could certainly belt with the best of 'em! That classic title track is next and it's a riff-heavy, fists-in-the-air metal anthem with a chorus made for audience sing-alongs. Guitarist Nicarry takes over the lead vocals on "For Whom Does the Bell Toll (Ps. 23)," a moody metalized rendition of the 23rd Psalm, with Clark coming in to add higher-pitched counterpoint during the choruses. Quite a few Christian metal bands have put Psalm 23 to music over the years, but I think Messiah Prophet's take is still my favorite. (Deliverance's "23" is another excellent version, and the Christian metal grand-daddies of Stryper also did a nice job with it on "The Valley," from their current album God Damn Evil.) The hard-charging "Fear No Evil" is nearly seven minutes long, but it never drags or wears out its welcome. "Heavy Metal Thunder" (not to be confused with the Saxon song by the same name) and "The Friend" provide more quality head-banging fodder and then Clark and Nicarry take turns trading off lead vocals on the epic "Battle Cry," which starts off slow and melodic with the guitarists playing acoustically, as it eventually builds into an explosive, all-men-play-on-ten electric call to spiritual warfare that would do Manowar proud. The album closes with "Voice That's Calling," another simple but effective praise anthem loaded with heavy riffs and stellar vocal work by Charlie Clark.
Master of the Metal was certainly not the most original album to come down the pike, even in 1986, but in this heathen metal head's book it's still a solid set of cheesy-but-fun rock-warrior anthems that has held up surprisingly well.
R.I.P. Mr. Clark, and thanks for all the cool tunes!
Whatever Happened to Messiah Prophet?
A third M.P. album (which was to be titled Metal Messiah or Living on the Edge, depending on which resource you consult) was in the planning stages when the band unexpectedly split up in 1988. Messiah Prophet's final recording with Charlie Clark as front man, a track called "Blinded," surfaced in 1989 on the compilation album Ultimate Metal.
A new Messiah Prophet album called Colors was released in 1996, but it featured an all new lineup with no participation from any of the Master of the Metal era band members.
Master of the Metal was reissued on CD in the early 2000s, but it's gone out of print again and copies now command collector's item prices on the secondary market. I am officially on a mission to find one of those CDs so I can retire my vinyl copy. Wish me luck!
Messiah Prophet - "Blinded" (1989)
Messiah Prophet Discography:
Rock The Flock (as "Messiah Prophet Band") - Morada, 1984
Master of the Metal - Pure Metal, 1986
Colors - U.C.A.N., 1996
© 2018 Keith Abt