Not including an Altar Boys record in the Five 80’s Albums You Must Own series was very difficult for me, as their music had a profound impact on my teenage years. So many Altar Boys tunes were personal rallying cries that I would sing to myself in order to fire up my faith. As I moved into my college years my taste in music matured. Fortunately, the song writing and musical approach of former Altar Boy’s frontman Mike Stand, began to mature as well.
After closing the book on the Altar Boys and a few solo records under his belt, Stand teamed up with Rob Goriab (Kosmos Express), Steve Latanation (Brighton,This Train, Ragamuffin band), and Bob Wholer (Breakfast With Amy, Uthanda) to form the band Clash of Symbols. The Symbols quickly released the EP: Sunday is an Altogether Different Proposition, but really hit their stride with the BAI release Begging At The Temple Gate Called Beautiful.
With the release of BATGCB some wanted to compare COS to Weezer, based solely on the very “Weezeresque” tune “Absurd”, but the majority of the band’s music was post punk/modern rock. If I were forced to compare them to anyone it would be STP, or Soul Asylum.
Comparisons not withstanding “Absurd” has always been one of my favorites as well as the radio hit “Free”. As I mentioned earlier, Mike’s songwriting had begun to mature, so gone were the “wear your faith on your sleeve” Altar Boy anthems. With COS you had to dig deeper and listen closer if you wanted to grasp what Mike was saying. The themes were a little darker and on this record the band dealt with topics like anger and war, which makes sense considering that as country we were just starting to recover from Desert Storm.
But lest you think all of BATGCB was doom and gloom, Mike’s effervescent faith is well represented with songs like “Saved” and “Portrait of A King.” And despite the darkness and depression that seemed to mark the early 90’s, Mike and crew made sure that the light of Christ broke through in spite of the tortured navel gazing that seemed to dominate the culture at the time.
Sadly, when you bring such a group of talented musicians together it is almost impossible to make it last. Such is the fate of COS. Although Mike recorded another record in 2002 using the name Mike Stand & Clash Of Symbols. The players featured on BATGCB were not a part of that project.
You might be an Alter Boys fan, or maybe you just dig great Christian modern rock music. Either way, Clash of Symbols: Begging at the Temple Gate Called Beautiful is “A Must Own”.