Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Shining Force [Artist Review]

When it comes to heavy metal, it’s difficult not to envision incomprehensible, devilish sounding lyrics and something out of a Rob Zombie film, but the latest band to come our way is a group who calls themselves “Shining Force”, and they are not your typical metal band. Shining Force is no stranger to the Christian metal scene. The come straight our of Pasadena, Texas. Now “Christian Metal” is not a genre I regularly listen to but I have to give credit where credit is due. These guys were able to grab and hold my attention with well crafted riffs and solos in every song, reminding me of artists such as God Forbid, Judas Priest, and Devil Driver. Randy Dickey’s vocals sound much like that of Bruce Dickinson (vocalist of Iron Maiden). These guys need no introduction but lets talk a little about how Shining Force came to be.

Shining Force is made up of Billy Vaughn Sr (on guitars), Richard Navarro (on guitars and lead guitar), Ralph Mendez (on drums), Randy Dickey (vocals), David Lentz (on bass), and Dan MacFarland (on keyboards). Shining Force first began in 1995 through what Billy calls “a vision from God”, to do outreaches primarily in parks in the poverty stricken wards of Houston, TX. In 1997 Billy teamed up with vocalist Randy Dickey through a peculiar and miraculous media source who shared the same Vision; “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16

At this time Shining Force was performing at Bible Study Groups with aspirations of putting out their first album. Through one of the outreaches where they performed, they meet the Aguilars, who paid for their first demo entitled “More Than Conquerors” (1998). For the next three years the band played several hundred events which included the Westheimer Arts Festival, (where they have played several times), the Star of Hope for women and children, several outdoor rallies for the poor and homeless, Car Shows, Churches, Youth Groups and Christian themed clubs to name a few.

Billy and the band kept cranking out song after song and after making some changes to their line up, they were able to get get signed up with “Bloodbought Records” out of New Jersey and recorded their self- titled album “Shining Force”. The album had a stronger sense of musicianship and was well received. The band began breaking into the mainstream due to their hard hitting chord structures, incredible leads, crunchy hooks and catchy riffs and supported by a powerful double bass attack on drums.

Of their latest tracks, I had the privilege to listen to “Rapture”, “Demon Fighter”, “By The Blood”, “Resist The Devil”, and “Resurrected”. Each song here is nothing short of epic, fast paced, and heart pounding. Randy’s vocals soar up into the heavens and Billy and Richard’s heavy guitar licks could certainly wake up the Gods. These songs hold the essence of metal within ever riff. You can even hear that the elements that make up Shining Force are derived from their major influences, Dokken, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Lamb Of God, Sacred Warrior, Recon and Deliverance. It was hard to do but here are my top three favorites.

After listening to these five songs I have to say my favorite is definitely “Demon Fighter”. It was a tough pick but this song really stood out to me the most. A well composed song from start to finish. It really held elements of one of my favorite metal bands, God Forbid. This shines through during the guitar solo towards the end of the song. “Demon Fighter” is a relentlessly heavy track the whole way through. Props must be giving to Ralph Mendez on drums for his outstanding performance.

Coming in at number two on my list is the hit song “By The Blood”. Now this track is full of energy and guitar riffs that soar through the roof. I cranked this one up real loud so I could get the concert like feel from it. Randy’s impeccable vocal performance completely engulfs the listener and takes them on a wild ride. This track shows the enormous talent of the band as a whole, with an epic guitar solo and mind blowing breakdowns. “By The Blood” is not a track to pass over.

My third pick is the song “Resurrected”. This song continues to be as heavy and as the rest of the tracks. I really enjoyed the lyrics in this one, which are well written and clear. The song as a whole is flawless from beginning to end. I really liked the guitars as the song first starts off. Randy perfectly executes switching pitches through out the song from deep to high displaying his talent as a vocalist. The double bass drums really gives this track a lot of force.

I definitely enjoyed my listen of Shining Force despite the fact that I am not huge fan of Christian metal. I thought their music was more creative than other bands in this genre and I really liked hearing elements of other metal influences coming our in every song. Shining Force is definitely a band to be reckoned with and I hope to hear more from them in the future. Their musical talent is up there with many major mainstream artists today. If you are a fan of Christian metal in the Texas area, I would suggest you go see them live. This is one band you should not miss.


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