Les Carlsen – “He’s Coming”


Les Carlsen shouldn’t need much introduction as the vocalist of the legendary Christian metal band Bloodgood. However, that is only a part of his musical life. Before joining Michael Bloodgood’s band, Les had been performing since the late 60’s. A notable stop in his musical journey was landing a role in the musical “Hair” when it came to Seattle, where he would meet his eventual wife, Joyce Macek. While touring for the musical, he wrote and recorded his first solo album, “1971.” After his experience with Hair and recording, he was in a couple of bands before landing on a winning combination of working with Joyce again in The Carlsen-Macek Band around Seattle. After a dark time in their lives, Les and Joyce found Jesus and decided to redirect their music for ministry. At about that time was when Les joined Bloodgood and started a career as the frontman for one of the forerunners of Christian Metal bands.

This album takes some cues from Les’s Bloodgood days, but is less raucous in its approach. I would describe the genre as hard rock with some metal tendencies. Les infuses his theatrical bend into the music so a song is more than a musical production, but also a play. This approach makes the message of Jesus Christ that much more clear.

The musician’s performances are great on the album. Les’s vocal performance is excellent, in tune and theatrical. He helps to bring the songs alive. The rest of the band are well-seasoned musicians Les has met along his journeys who know how to play well.

The album starts with “I Wanna Know You,” a swaggering bluesy-rock tune. If I had to describe Les’s voice it would be a blend of Brian Johnson of AC/DC and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. The song (as well as much of the album) sounds like a modern production of the 1980s replete with solid guitar solos and heavy use of rhythm guitars. Overall a good opening track and intro to Les Carlsen.

The next track “Scars” is a more straight forward 1980s heavy metal tune with galloping rhythm guitar. There is a nice breakdown with clean guitars and voice layering. Emerging from the smoke of the breakdown is a nice guitar solo that lands it back into heavy metal land.

Then comes the sore spot of the album. I don’t understand why, but this track was not mixed with the others and the delivery suffers. “Judas is Dead” is a cool concept where Les is singing from the perspective of Judas Iscariot at the time of Christ’s Passion. Les provides a good theatrical performance, but the bass over powered the mix leaving Les’s voice out in the open without support.

On to the next track! “Jesus Freak Show” is the marrying of the terms Jesus Freak and Freak Show. Les takes this concept in this catchy bluesy tune to draw the audience into the Jesus Freak Show, as if it were a sideshow at the circus. He even has a circus caller section calling us to join the Jesus Freak Show. The lyrics come across a little too cheesy for me, but I can appreciate the intent of the lyrics.

“Faith Tested” changed gears to give a sense of tension with hushed vocals. The musical elements of the song follow the lyrical content of the tension between living faith and living in the the world. “How Long” is a harder metal tune that lyrically deals with waiting for the Lord, inspired by Psalm 13.

“River” is the next track and is the longest of the album for good reason. Lyrically, Les draws on the image of the river as a source of life and peace from scripture and ties to a personal story of his granddaughter, named River, who was in the NICU. The music starts dreamily with some minor second chord changes that sound unsettling. The chorus gives a sense of hope before coming back to the original unsettling chords. As the song progresses, the layers build with the entrance of drums and then melodic lead guitars. Towards the end, heavy guitars come in to deliver a heavier, albeit still dreamy, delivery of the chorus that seals that hopeful feeling. Its like an ominous dream that resolves hopefully without ever waking.

The title track is a solid hard rock song with an apocalyptic feel. With a title like “He’s Coming” you can tell that he is talking about Jesus coming back. This song serves well as the harbinger of the last song on the album.

“Return me to the Fire” is a great closer to the album and features Joyce Carlsen on the mic. One might expect a ballad, but to the contrary, the song has the best guitar riff on the album. Her voice is not raspy like Les’s, but that provides a beautiful juxtaposition with the hard riffs. The lyrics focus on rekindling faith back to when she was first a believer, something all of us should focus on from time to time.

Apart from the production on “Judas is Dead,” the album is a solid release of Christian hard rock with a retro 80’s spirit. For fans of hard rock bands of yesteryear as well as open-minded Bloodgood/classic metal fans. If you want to catch Les, Joyce, and company, they will be playing the Immortal Fest, Part 2 in Versailles, OH on September 2-3, 2023.

Rating: 8.0/10

Written by Sean Bailey

1 – I Wanna Know You
2 – Scars
3 – Judas Is Dead (feat. Oz Fox)
4 – The Jesus Freak Show
5 – Faith Tested
6 – How Long
7 – River
8 – He’s Coming
9 – Return Me to the Fire (feat. Joyce Carlsen)

Les Carlsen – Lead & Background Vocals, Guitar, Synth
Paul Jackson – Guitar
Craig Church – Guitar
Ricky B. Rogers – Bass
Oz Fox – Instruments & Production on “Judas Is Dead”
David Zaffiro – Guitar on “River” and “He’s Coming”
Dan Needham – Drums
Nathan DeGasare – Strings on “How Long”
Joyce Carlsen – Background & Harmony Vocals, Synth

Release Date: December 2, 2022

Record Label: Independent

Social Media Links

‘He’s Coming’ – Lyric Video

River’ – Music Video

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