I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
"Gotta Get It! Get It! Get It!"
The late 1980s were the golden age of Christian hard rock and heavy metal. When the big-haired, bumblebee-attired rockers in Stryper struck platinum with 1986's To Hell With the Devil, a flood of new hard 'n' heavy Christian bands began popping up across the globe, all hoping to duplicate their successful combo of evangelism and Marshall amplification -- and record producer John Elefante was in the perfect position to ride the Christian rock wave.
A seasoned veteran of the rock scene on both sides of the aisle (Christian and secular), Elefante had toured and recorded with classic rockers Kansas for several years in the early '80s before opening a recording studio with his brother Dino. The brothers made a name for themselves for the big, arena-ready "secular" sound they gave to albums by Christian rockers like Barren Cross, Petra, and Guardian and eventually they started their own record label, Pakaderm Records. One of Pakaderm's first signings was X-Sinner, a hard rockin' Christian quartet from Southern California whose debut album, Get It, immediately got lots of attention due to its sonic similarities to secular heavyweights like AC/DC, Cinderella, Kix, and Def Leppard.
Get It grabs the listener's attention immediately with the opening track "Medicine" and keeps the gas pedal pressed to the floor for its entire run time. Greg Bishop's hard edged, bluesy wall-of-riffs guitar style draws immediate comparisons to the late, great Malcolm Young of AC/DC. Bishop's fiery playing meshes perfectly with the screechy vocal delivery of David Robbins, which is equal parts Brian Johnson and Tom Keifer (Cinderella). This guy could wail - check out the choruses of "Hearts on Fire" and "Steppin' On Toes!"
In my book, every song on Get It was a winner, but standout tracks for me included the statement-of-faith "No Way In" ("no way in unless you die with Him!"), the title cut (which has an iirresistible sing-along chorus) and "Accountable." There's also "Walking Evil," a head-banging track about Satan that displays the band at their most "metal," and the moody closer "Livin' On the Edge," a slick pop-metal tune that could have come off of Def Leppard's Pyromania. This one will be stuck in your head like glue for days afterward. Get It blew me away when I first heard it in a Christian book store in 1989 and it's been a favorite of mine ever since.
A Tale Of Two CD Covers
Get It received ecstatic reviews from Christian rock mags like Heaven's Metal and was nominated for "Best Metal Album" at the 1991 Dove Awards, Christian music's version of the Grammies. (They lost to the debut album from Holy Soldier.)
The album's success in the Christian rock market led to a "secular" distribution deal with A&M Records, a major label whose rock roster at the time included Y&T and Extreme. A&M's version of Get It sported a different cover than the Pakaderm edition -- the bright blue band photo was replaced by a simple graffiti-style close up of the X-Sinner logo on a brick wall. Unfortunately, though X-Sinner's musical firepower was equal to or better than many of the bands coming out of Hollywood's Hair Metal factories at the time, a mainstream breakthrough was not in the cards for them.
(Side note: Although both versions of the album have been out-of-print for many years, A&M label copies are harder to find and are therefore more desirable to CD collectors. I actually had a copy of the A&M version in my hand at a used record store many years ago, but I stupidly left it behind because "my cassette copy was still in good shape." Of course, that turned out to be the first and only time I've ever seen a CD copy of Get It "in the wild." Obviously I've been kicking myself for that decision ever since. Arrrgh!)
Whatever Happened to X-Sinner?
X-Sinner returned in 1991 with Peace Treaty, which featured new lead vocalist Rex Scott, formerly of Zion. It rocked just as hard as the first album and sold respectably, but the door was rapidly closing on the hair-metal era. X-Sinner disappeared as Grunge took over and '80s style hard rock fell out of fashion.
Even during their years of inactivity, X-Sinner maintained a healthy cult following among Christian rockers and collectors of obscure hair-metal. Their 21st century comeback began with 2001's Loud & Proud, an odds-and-ends collection of demos, outtakes and rarities, followed by Cracked, a 2003 release by The Angry Einsteins, a power-pop side project billed as "X-Sinner's Alternative Alter Ego."
By the early 2000s, copies of X-Sinner's initial pair of studio albums had become pricey collector's items on the second hand market. The band wanted to reissue the discs, but were unable to regain the rights to their catalog from Pakaderm Records. Since they couldn't reissue the original, X-Sinner released Fire It Up in 2006, a freshly re-recorded version of Peace Treaty that included one new song.
2009 brought the first all-new X-Sinner album in almost 20 years when World Covered In Blood was released on the Image Records label. A digital-only "final" release entitled Goin' Out With A Bang was supposed to see the light of day in 2015, but as of this writing, it has yet to surface...so we may hear one last batch of songs from X-Sinner yet!
Get It - Pakaderm/Word/A&M, 1989
Peace Treaty - Pakaderm/Word, 1991
Loud & Proud - Magdalene, 2001 (re-issued in 2007 as Loud & Proud 2.0)
X-Sinner Presents The Angry Einsteins: Cracked - Magdalene, 2003
Fire It Up - Retroactive, 2006
World Covered In Blood - Image Records, 2009
© 2017 Keith Abt