Shining Force are a Christian rock/metal group hailing from Pasadena, Texas. They were formed in 1997 when guitarist Billy Vaughn met vocalist Randy Dickey through their shared faith and Shining Force was born. After completing the line-up, their first performance was at a Bible study and they then performed hundreds of gigs, some in aid of the poor and homeless.
This eventually led to the release of their first full-length album Holy Nation, which received critical acclaim and gained them fans worldwide. The pace became too much for some band members, and so, with a partly new line-up, they recorded their eponymous second album after signing to Bloodhound Records. With improved musicianship, they found they were breaking into the mainstream.
It led to recording this third album, By The Blood, recorded at Heald Studios which turned out to be their heaviest and most intricate work to date. Their music is essentially heavy metal, bringing to mind bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, mixed with elements of new metal to create a powerful sound. This is displayed by the title track, which starts the album.
After a short intro, it develops into the first verse in 6/8 time featuring a meaty low-end riff, the beat alternating between half-time and full-time effectively. Randy Dickey’s striking vocals manage to impose themselves over this wall of sound and he delivers a memorable performance. After an anthemic vocal section there is an epic guitar solo, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a rock record.
Rapture also starts with a dramatic intro before heading into a hectic-paced verse leading to a poignant chorus: “Rapture weeps for my children, their blood flowing in the street…”. Dickey shows his huge vocal range on this track, as well as featuring some nifty double-kick work from the drummer. Demon Fighter again combines metal and rock with a ferocious riff that leads to a huge singalong stadium rock chorus. I particularly enjoyed the harmonized guitars on this one.
Resist The Devil starts with an awesome syncopated riff and develops into another strong track, featuring a lengthy extended solo section where the lead truly gets to let rip. Resurrected is an intense, cathartic song with a very Iron Maiden-style vocal performance and musically, they make clever use of triplets, as well as a complex middle section in 11/8 time which is highly impressive.
Overall, these are a very good set of tracks that shows a band at the top of their game in terms of songwriting and performance. They combine aggression and passion with a strong musical and melodic sense which is often missing from a lot of modern metal. Shining Force are here to carry on the best elements of heavy metal and should appeal to a large number of rock/metal fans, regardless of their faith.
Verdict: 8.3 out of 10