I’m sorry, but there is no way I can do a “Five 80’s Christian Rock Albums You Must Own” blog and not include a Petra record. The problem is trying to decide WHICH Petra album to post! I love so many Christian bands, but no band touches my heart and means more to me than Petra. I’m not alone, there are legions of fans just like me who would name Petra as not only the first Christian rock music they ever heard, but their favorite band as well. At this point many of you might be thinking “ok Bill, I get your choice of Petra, but On Fire? Seriously?” Stick with me as I make my case for why On Fire! is a “must have”.
On Fire! was, and is, an overlooked musical delight sandwiched between two other notable Petra records. John Schlitt’s breakout project This Means War, and the career defining Beyond Belief. So considering the circumstances I can understand how On Fire! might have slipped through the cracks, but C-rock fans would be remiss to not give the 1988 release another listen.
I’m just going to put this out there, but I think On Fire! was a metal record…ok maybe not metal like Sacred Warrior, or Barren Cross, but I think it was Petra coming as close to doing a metal record as they could. For proof I ask you to listen to this sampling of 4 of the first 5 songs from the On Fire! record. Just humor me and do it, you won’t be sorry.
Ok I’m going to assume you listened to the sample. Now, do you see what I’m saying? Take the throbbing, in your face, HUGE Ronnie Cates bass line on the opening song Fired Up. I mean, it is THUMPIN’!
On cut 2 Louie’s kick and Bob’s nasty distortion makes you want to pound your fist and shake your head. John’s vocals just snarl at you as he shouts “Hit you where you live, you can’t hold back, when your struck by his love you will know…hit you where you live, it’s so close to home, when your all sold out the mark will show…”
Cut 3 is by far the most metal song Petra has ever recorded. I mean come on people, did you not just hear John Schlitt drop a hardcore scream on the intro?? The rhythm section hits like a precision military unit in lock step. It seems fitting as John’s vocal explodes with my favorite line “…better keep your head down, better keep your eyes peeled, because life is, life is minefield!”
After a breather with classic Petra ballad First Love, cut 5 is the last shot in one of Petra’s best opening salvos. Again, Ronnie’s bass opens with machine gun intensity and when played at maximum volume, each note thuds against your chest like the old school medicine ball we used to toss around in gym class.
Of course I can’t leave out other noteworthy tracks Counsel of The Holy, Somebody’s Gonna Praise His Name and Stand in the Gap. Let’s face it, there’s not a bad apple in the bunch on this one. Lyrically Bob is at the top of his game. As a teen I could easily understand and be ready for action with the militaristic “get ready for battle” imagery he uses in Minefield and Defector.
I can’t really explain it, but On Fire! has been and continues to be, one of my favorite “go to” Petra records. When you consider the bands incredible body of work, that’s really saying something. Petra On Fire! is a must have.