Eyes Wide Open: Miracles and Mistakes on My Way Back to KoRn

wBrian “Head” Welch. With My Eyes Wide Open: Miracles & Mistakes on My Way Back to KoRn. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016. 214 pp. $16.36

With My Eyes Wide Open is the biographical account by Brian “Head” Welch, guitarist for the popular metal band, KoRn. Welch describes his conversion to the Christian faith, his departure from KoRn, and the days of bitter pain which followed. After several years away from the band, Welch tells the tale of his journey back into KoRn and some of the more recent events which mark his life. The author invites readers into his world – days that were marked by betrayal, loneliness, questioning, doubt, and a rebellious daughter to boot.

Welch writes with a level of transparency that is difficult to find these days. He does not shy away from sharing the painful details of his life, even as a Christian. The author is quick to point out how God’s grace transformed his life but also shares the low points of his Christian journey.

I have written nearly five hundred book reviews over the past few years. My aim is to honestly review books, commending the good and warning what may be antithetical to historic Christianity. This book is no exception. While the story presented here is inspiring and heart-warming, there are some troubling signs that need to be addressed in an honest review. I present these critiques as if Brian Welch and I had the privilege of enjoying a cup of coffee together. Perhaps one day we can make that a reality! In the meantime, I would encourage the author to three commitments:

  1. Be driven and motivated by God’s Word, not emotions or feelings. Throughout the book, Welch refers repeatedly to “signs” which inform many of his decisions. Feelings certainly have a role to play in the Christian life, but should follow the principles of God’s Word not dictate God’s Word.
  2. Get grounded in biblical and systematic theology. Read solid works by men like R.C. Sproul, John Piper, and Wayne Grudem. Such an approach will require breaking free from extreme charismatic groups that focus on mystical experience and downplay doctrine.
  3. Recognize that God generally works in the realm of the ordinary. He uses the ordinary means of grace found in the local church, namely – the faithful preaching of God’s Word and the administering of the ordinances for the building up of the body of Christ. Yes, God works in the realm of the extraordinary and continues to perform miracles and mighty acts that display his power. But the ordinary means of grace are no less powerful that a visible miracle.

It would be easy to cast aside these doctrinal concerns and focus on the redemptive aspects of the biographical tale. But setting aside doctrine is tantamount to compromise and must be avoided at all costs.

This is a book I wanted to like and pass along to music lovers. While “Head’s” conversion to the Christian faith is exciting, the doctrinal problems associated with the charismatic movement make it difficult swallow and even more difficult to endorse. In addition, the affiliation with the recent documentary, Holy Ghost raises deep concerns and should give discerning readers pause.  Then and only then will the eyes of the readers have eyes wide open.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

STRANGE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC – Joe Satriani and Jake Brown (2014)

Joe Satriani first came on my radar screen in the mid 80’s.  I’ll never forget the first 1939529646_btime I heard Surfin’ With the Alien.  Of course, I knew then that Satch was the real deal.  Since then, I’ve seen him several times in concert and have always been impressed with his showmanship, professionalism, and genuine humility.

Strange Beautiful Music is the first-hand account of Joe Satriani’s life and musical career. The book is packed with stories that chronicle his friendship with many musical greats, most notably – the great, Steve Vai.

The book confirms what I’ve always suspected about this hardworking superstar.  This is a musical memoir that is tasteful and brings Satriani cans into his personal arena for a firsthand look.

Strange Beautiful Music is a must for Joe Satriani fans, a man who has been wonderfully blessed by God and blessed with a gift that he will no doubt share with the world for years to come!

SACRED WARRIOR – Waiting in Darkness (2013)

swThe 80’s was the decade of great Christian music.  Stryper led the way and several other bands followed.  Barren Cross, Bloodgood, Holy Soldier, and Guardian set a new direction and gave musical hope for a multitude of young people who grew tired of what passed for “music” in that generation.  One band that rose up during those formative years was Sacred Warrior.  What made this band special was their no-nonsense lyrics that confronted listeners with the biblical gospel.  They were never afraid of confronting sin and speaking plainly about the problem of evil.  SW eventually broke up and went their separate ways.

Almost thirty years later, Sacred Warrior has returned with a new lead singer and a fresh, updated sound.  Their new album, Waiting in Darkness has all of the features described above.  The only difference is this: The music is faster and the rock is heavier.  In fact, this is their heaviest album to date.  It should come as no surprise that this brain-rattling music is accompanied by the same non-compromising approach to the gospel.  Each song on the album is a testimony to the gospel of grace.

Track by Track:

The album begins by addressing the problem of evil and the reality of redemption:

Desperately wicked we are born Corrupted seeds/This stronghold grips humanity/The curse of sin

Flesh and spirit raging on the war within/Life or death cursed or blessed the choice is given/In the perfect sacrifice a hope remains                                                   Redemption by shedding of blood love overcame

The title track, Waiting in Darkness is a heavy metal exposition of spiritual warfare:

Through your anger they fuel the fire/Feeding off of your flesh’s sinful desires/Lies and confusion your faith put to the test

Focusing in on all of your weaknesses/We must be vigilant to thwart their evil plight/Be strong in the lord and in the power of his might/Be prepared for war

In Dust and Ashes is a Job-like lament written in the first person that is sure to grip the attention of anyone who is enduring a dark night of the soul:

Oh lord hear my cry/I’m a man with many troubles/ In the regions dark and deep /This world lies heavy on me/Your steadfast love remains/Even though I feel abandoned/Invade my soul/Break the chains of doubt and sorrow/Skin for skin all that I am/Will bless your name in your remain

In dust and ashes I repent/Resolved to make you my content/In dust and ashes I confess/My love for you within this test

Fear Me is a bold declaration of the sovereignty of God.

I speak and the waves obey I am governed by none, sovereign over all  Wisdom begins and ends with me/All authority is mine and I’ll put an end to evil’s reign   For vengeance is mine says the lord/Fear me like you’d fear a raging fire/You’d never run into the flames/Respect keeps you from the pain/Or the ragin of the ocean/You’de never jump into the waves and sink to your grave

Fear me

To deny that I exist/ Suppress the truth for a lie professing to be wise/The wrath I hold will be revealed/This world I will destroy                                                                 Judging all who reject my name

Fans of A.W. Pink will immediately wonder if the guys in Sacred Warrior have been meditating on the classic, The Sovereignty of God!  

Long Live the King continues to confront the listener with the sovereignty of God over all things.

He is the lightning he is on high/Always and eternal and his love will never die/He is forever the answer to the rhyme                                                                                      Of what will be for you and me before the start of time

I hear the thunder I hear the call/The armies of his angels from the royal temple hall/One day is a thousand years, still he’s drawing nigh/Lift up your voice unto the sky/shout the battle cry

Long live the king, Long live the king

Jealous Love is a ballad that glories in the Cross of Christ.

sac

Day of the Lord is the token eschatological metal anthem and is rerecorded from their first studio album, Rebellion.  This one is a real blast from the past!  This is the kind of music that put Sacred Warrior on the map.

Fans of Sacred Warrior will only be encouraged by their latest record.  The music is tight, sounds current, best of all – exalts the Lord Jesus Christ!

BLOODGOOD – Dangerously Close (2013)

bloodgoodAlmost 30 years ago, I saw Bloodgood open for Stryper at the Paramount Theater in Seattle.  Even though I was fired up to see Stryper for the first time, I’ll never forget being blown away by Bloodgood.  They brought an energy to the stage that I’d never witnessed before.  But more important than energy was the gospel.  These four guys made it very clear they were Christians who just happened to be musicians who loved to rock.  The music never eclipsed the gospel; rather the gospel was only magnified by their music.

Bloodgood has returned stronger than ever with their first studio album in 22 years, Dangerously Close.  The rockers from Seattle are older and more seasoned.  David Zaffiro left the band years ago and has since been replaced by the virtuoso, Paul Jackson and more recently, Oz Fox from Stryper.

The album starts off strong with Lamb of God, an anthem that delights in the person and work of Christ:

He stretched out His arms to hold you/Gave up His life to know you/Lamb of God

On His knees He washed our feet/Poured His blood on the mercy seat/Told us to love one another/Lay down your life for your brother

Child on Earth  (a song that may prove to be the best track on the album) contrasts the righteousness of God and sinfulness of man in stark terms.  The Messiah is presented as the Virgin born, Son of God – the only One who can cover a sin-stained world.   It is a celebration of the protoevangelium (the first gospel) that articulates the redemptive purposes of the Messiah that Scripture prophecies in Genesis 3 and Isaiah 9:

My sin, my sin, has gone away/The Lord has set me free/My friend, my friend beginning and end, the Lord has died for me/Virgin birth, child on     earth/Crucified, pierced his side

The child grew and the cradle fell, crushing the head of the snake from hell

Several songs have a vertical dimension that catapult listeners to Scripture soaked lyrics.  I Will has a psalm-like feel that exalts the living God and expresses trust in his Providential care.  Bread Alone expresses complete confidence in God’s all-sufficient grace.  Pray is call to humble submission before a holy God who delights to answer the cry of His people.  And Run the Race challenges Christ-followers to live faithfully before God.

On a musical note: The guitar work on Dangerously Close is a feast for the ears.  These guys are a real delight to listen to.  I’ll admit my biases up front.  I’m a huge fan of Paul Jackson and Oz Fox, two guitar players who are underrated and deserve more attention.

Bloodgood is a different band with a different sound.    But one thing remains the same.  Bloodgood is committed to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, a message that rings loudly throughout their new album.   The cross stands at the center of the lyrical content – an emphasis that is missing in a lot of Christian music these days.  Dangerously Close is a solid offering that should please longtime fans and welcome new listeners to a very good band.

4 stars

MY LIFE WITH DETH: Discovering Meaning in a Life of Rock and Roll – David Ellefson (2013)

9781451699890_bSeveral years ago, I developed an interest in reading biographies.  My favorite biographies are about dead theologians and pastors, guys like Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, and C.H. Spurgeon.  David Ellefson isn’t one of the dead guys but he does recount his life experiences with “Deth,” that is Megadeth, the popular heavy metal band.

David Ellefson is a born again Christian, a Christ-follower who writes in vivid terms about his life as the bass player for Megadeth.  He guides readers on a step-by-step journey from humble beginnings on a farm in Minnesota to his introduction to drugs during his days in Los Angeles.

Ellefson offers an honest look at the consequences of life without Christ and explains how his conversion radically changed his life.  His approach is humble and transparent – a real breath of fresh air that should challenge readers of every persuasion.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book is Ellefson’s explanation of his decision to return to his band mates in Megadeth – a life that includes recording and touring.  Here is a man who understands what is means to be a light in a dark world.

3.5 stars