Punk rock wasn’t always the domain of photogenic young things given to emotionalism. When “hardcore” was the adjective commonly used to modify “punk” in the 1980s, primal musical aggression and tempos verering toward the supersonic demanded equally forceful lyrical content delivered with commensurate conviction.
Entering the hardcore fray in mid-decade were The Lead. Nearly all of the co-ed Florida trio’s studio output is now collected in a compilation called Hardcore For Jesus. The four years of artistic evoltion it evidences is as revelatory as its evangelistic/testimonial fervor.
From their debut four-song 7-inch EP in ’85, The Lead distinguished itself, but not only by their Christianity. Having dual lead vocalist-songwriters in guitarist Julio Rey and bassist Nina Llopis set them apart, as did a vanguely English attack on such numbers as ‘It’s Thru You’ and anti-abortion ‘Better Off.’
Drummer Robbie Christie began contributing verses and vocals with the act’s longest release, ’86’s cassette-only Return Fire. A virtuosic tightness began to develop amid the lo-fi cacaphony. ‘Lead Us To Salvation’ evinced a power-boogie spawl, ‘Emergency’ and ‘The Law Of Love’ messed with club beats before the latter skidded into a hyper-frenzied 180 with ‘Throwaway.’ Llopis begins to sound all the more feminine on numbers such as ‘Take Him Home,’ and Rey maims blues influence on ‘No Religion.’
A pair of 12-inch EPs followed, and with them, slightly cleaner production values. Automoloch delved into drum effects perhaps not replicable in a concert setting, an epic song length or two, and a Resurrection Band remake (“Alienated”). And Llopis speaks directly as ever to non-believers on ‘No One’s An Atheist’ and ‘You Don’t Need Him.’ The passion she conjures result in arguably her most powerful vocal perforances as well. Such spiritual bravado didn’t win the band any fans among writers for such doctrinairely secular punk ‘zines as Maximumrocknroll, but general market hardcore bands still called on them as an openning act when touring the country’s southermost peninsula .
The Past Behind signaled the final intermediary step between The Lead’s punk roots and culmination as an extreme metal unit. To that effect, “Puritan” blurs by in nearly abstract noisiness as a re-recording of ‘No Religion’ and ‘Jesus Became Sin’ are clarion declarations.
Second guitarist Andy Coyle joined for The Lead’s finale, Burn This Record. Perhaps proving that at least some of the chasm between punk and metal was in how the guitar feedback gets processed, this is the group’s sonically darkest record, owing aesthetic debt to their home state’s then-burgeoning death metal and contemporaneous Northern California thrash. As they had on previous outings, they recycled their own past. ‘Kill Satan Mosh’ reprises the apparently less pummelling ‘Kill Satan’ on Return Fire. Gallows humor creeps into ‘Hope You Stay Alive’ and ‘Oh No, Not Again.’ Llopis adds both gravitas about abortion on ‘Who’s The Victim’ and skirts the edge of silliness with ‘Skate Or Die’ (perhaps sillier for those of us who can’t balance with wheels on our feet to save our neck). What makes Hardcore for Jesus a nearly complete compilation, and not the whole enchilada, is the accidental exclusion of Burn’s concluding one-second track, ‘Wink Of An Eye.’ You, however, can find it as a free download here.
As a nostalgia trip for those who lived it and the Living Word wed to aural adrenaline that has maintained its urgent, plainspoken power, this is Hardcore indeed.
— Jamie Lee Rake (from his 2007 review of Hardcore for Jesus in The Phantom Tollbooth)
It’s been an unbelievably long wait for new material from pioneering punk/ hardcore/ crossover thrash band The Lead. The band’s last output Burn This Record was way back in 1989, and Again has been in the works for at least 6 years, so the resulting 4 song ep is a bit like eating a filet mignon bit by bit, because you’re not sure if you’ll get the chance to sample it again. The Lead is Nina Llopis, Julio Rey, and Rob Christie, and though the band’s sound changed and evolved with every album, they always sounded very raw, low fi, and at the outskirts (read cutting edge) of the hard music scene. Their music was polarizing- either you didn’t get it, or it resonated with you and you loved them for it.
So what does this chameleon we call The Lead sound like after all this time? The band calls its new sound post-hardcore. It sounds less like The Lead’s punk years, and more like the latter hardcore and thrash years. The four songs are quite different, but there is a cacophony of hard metal guitar and drum sounds throughout, heavily remixed in industrial metal fashion . The vocals (Nina on “Dressed in a Robe (Rev. 19)” and “Heaven Is Waiting” and Julio on “The World Tomorrow/ Adoration” and “Every Fear Forgiven”) are actually sung, not shouted in snotty punk fashion- which is one thing that is clearly different. The other is that the music is essentially worship, albeit crazy way-out-there worship for headbangers, but The Lead was always ahead of the curve, so that doesn’t surprise me. See if you can pick up the (Julio’s note: guitars that sound like) horns in “The World Tomorrow/ Adoration,” the death metal growls in “Every Fear Forgiven,” and Steve Rowe (Mortification) supplying the bass line on “Heaven is Waiting.” So to summarize, Again = post hardcore + industrial metal+ metal worship. Got it? Good. Get it.
— Chris Gatto (from his February 2018 review of Again in Heaven’s Metal)
This ep brings me back about 30 years in terms of its overall sound and makes me wish I had checked out The Lead back in those days. My one gripe is that the songs seem to go about one to two minutes longer than they needed to. It almost seems like the band had a target time for each song and needed filler for each track to get there. Now, not being familiar with the band, this might be how all of their material is and fans may like this approach. What I have always liked about punk rock is that there is typically no filler, not even guitar solos, so this just didn’t work for me. Although if you think about it, not fitting the mold is basically punk rock…
– John Jackson (from his February 2018 review of Again in The Metal Resource)
Lyric video for ‘Tunnel Vision’