SILOAM - Sweet Destiny (Limited Run Vinyl/Gold Disc Edition)
1991. Ok, so Siloam may not be the first band name that pops into memory during that year of stellar releases. Afterall, below is just a brief list of titles that might surface from the recesses of your cerebral cortex from that eventful 360-day cycle.
Angelica – Rock, Stock & Barrel (more on this one soon), Betrayal – Renaissance By Death (recently reviewed HERE), Bloodgood – All Stand Together, Bride – Kinetic Faith, Deliverance – What A Joke, Haven – Age Of Darkness, Love Life – Goodbye Lady Jane (reviewed HERE), Mortification – Mortification, Randy Rose – Sacrificium, Sacred Warrior – Obsessions (recently reviewed HERE), Seventh Angel – Lament For The Weary (reviewed HERE), The Crucified – The Pillars Of Humanity, Tourniquet – Psychosurgery, Whitecross – In The Kingdom. Oh yeah, and then on the secular side there was the Galactic Cowboys debut, Ozzy’s No More Tears, Savatage – Streets, Tesla – Psychotic Supper, Rush – Roll The Bones and of course, Metallica’s black album (just to name a few).
This list, of course, is by no means all-inclusive, yet is presented here in order to set the stage and context for the debut album from Canadian melodic hard rockers Siloam. As can be appreciated from the above list, Sweet Destiny could easily have been lost amidst the many brilliant works of its time. I, for one, had not thought of the album for years (maybe even decades, yikes!) until news of the reissues. And I don’t think it helped that the album was released on the smaller Image 7 label – one that didn’t exactly push out a lot of harder or more metal-tinged bands. In fact, I would say Sweet Destiny was probably the heaviest output in their catalog during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. All this to say, despite the competition at the time, and despite the label limitations, Siloam’s debut is an album which clearly deserves to see the light of day again and to be appreciated not only for its greatness within the context of the world into which it was born, but also for the music’s endearing qualities, message and impact which remain relevant to this day.
In essence, Siloam was a hard rock/melodic metal band created by Brian Lutes – an ex-drug abuser turned street wise Christ-following musician with a heart for the down-trodden, suffering and abused souls in his community and abroad. (See label head Matt Hunt’s blurb on the back tray of the Gold Disc Edition/rear vinyl jacket for more details). In order to gain as much musical credibility as could be mustered to carry out the works of his ministry, he recruited a very talented bunch of musicians from all over North America. To say that it was successful is a bit of an understatement because Siloam was able to score big name sponsors for their shows from the likes of Pepsi, McDonald’s and even the Canadian government! Check out the blurb below (from the Metal Tracks section of Heaven’s Metal #32) for a detailed account of these amazing events along with vivid descriptions of the types of ministry in which these guys were engaged.
Reflecting back on that era of Christian heavy music, I can’t help but recall how excited the artists were to change lives, to be able to reach out to their audiences and not only entertain but make an impact on their lives. And a band with that kind of passion for mankind will almost always have great lyrics whereby they can powerfully connect with their fans in a visceral, provoking and exhorting manner. In this regard, not only was Lutes a gifted songwriter and musician/drummer, but his words got down n’ dirty to the heart of the matter – unfettered discussions about spiritual bondage, addictions, temptations, waywardness, wars and living in the end times – many times through the eyes of real-life characters. In doing so, not only did the music stay “real” in an era where music’s lyrics were plagued with pretentiousness and escapist hedonism, but it has remained relevant to living in our fallen and increasingly nasty world.
If all that doesn’t whet your appetite, then the music itself should. Retroactive Records have released these timeless tracks, which have been remastered by Rob Colwell, in two glorious formats – Limited Run Vinyl and Gold Disc Edition CD. Only the original 10 tracks are included with no bonus content (none needed). They are both of exceptionally high quality both in terms of content/presentation (see pictures throughout) and sound and each format will be discussed below.
First, though, I would be remiss if I didn’t say more about the music. My original review from 1992 was so bad that I decided to scrap it and start over. It’s not that I didn’t like the album at first, but there was so much going on during that era of my life, both musically and with training, that I never really devoted the proper amount of time and energy to describe what I was hearing. I actually dismissed it at first as trying to sound like Guns n’ Roses. In retrospect, although these songs do share some of that grit, there is a much a polished, more “commercial” quality to the music. If comparisons are needed, Sweet Destiny reminds me of a cross between Cinderella and Whitesnake (circa late ‘80s/early ‘90’s). But in fairness, Siloam has a very solid and original sound – very diverse, well-executed with plenty of catchy riffs and quality melodies. Lee Guthrie’s vocals still shine through on these tunes with big charisma, big arena authority and big-time clarity. This band should have been bigger in the States. Great melodic hard rock and metal.
“So here I am again, one more time/running from a life that I’ve left behind/looking for the road that I can’t find/Well, help me Lord, I’m running out of time.” – “Here I Am Again”
“Here I Am Again” is the perfect album opener because it not only sets the stage musically with a nice dynamic mid-tempo rocker, but the lyrics introduce the listener to the humble nature of the lyricist – the recognition that the believer’s life is a journey filled with twists/turns/doubt/guilt and a constant need to keep seeking the Lord for strength and direction.
“Miss Lizzy” – An up-tempo burner about living life with no concern for the consequences of our actions or for the future. I can’t help but think about this song in a whole new light in era of the Covid-19 virus – this kind of recklessness now more than “just a lifestyle,” as these choices and actions can lead to the reckless spread of sickness and death to self and others.
“Child Of Mine” – I love how this song – the quintessential power ballad – is the perfect answer to the “Miss Lizzy” dilemma and its placement in the song order here is not a coincidence. God is always with us, “there from the start” and always there with open arms to “heal the broken heart.”
“Chemical King” was obviously a personal song to Brian Lutes, speaking from his firsthand experience with substance abuse. Guthrie’s edgy/raspy voice expresses the urgency in the situation as he deftly works his way through complex lyrics. Musically, this is one of my favorite songs because of the ebb and flow of aggression with the more open sections and that bass guitar line, which has always been a highlight of the song, really jumps out of the speakers with this new master, especially on the vinyl.
“Eastern Skies” – Such a departure from the more hook-laden, commercial tracks so far, the opening narrative and Eastern motif gave this song a much more progressive/heavy metal vibe. That opening guitar solo is both perfectly placed and perfectly executed. I always thought the lyrics (for Christian artists at that time) were harsh, especially “Mothers lose their babies, children learn to die.” But when you listen to this song now its just expressing a basic truth/observation – yes, we are there. It’s certainly the most musically complex track on the album, with great guitar leads, killer vocals and dynamic drumming.
“Hey man, you think you’re free tied up in my chains/I’m the bad little boy next door and I won’t go away” – “Deceiver”
“Deceiver” – If there was ever a Siloam song that could get in your head and stay there for years it would be this one! Total shred musically and total conviction lyrically. There are too many spiritual truths in one song to digest in one listening. Brilliant. That “bad little boy” line above is comical, yet oh so full of truth.
“After The Fire” – The one song where the vocals feel just a bit off in the chorus. It’s subtle, and I like this song years later better than I did way back when.
“Lethal Lady” – The sister song to “Miss Lizzy.” I have always thought it was cool how there are all these colorful characters on this record and how they are metaphors and real people at the same time. Miss Lizzy might be the lethal lady of temptation to some, and while we always think of that kind of “lethal lady” as one to avoid, the lyrics to Miss Lizzy suggest God is concerned for her well-being and soul, and so should we.
“Sweet Destiny” – The title track is another cool semi-ballad – the victory song on the record without a doubt. The opening drum groove with the choked cymbal has always been a highlight of the song for me and sonically sounds better than ever on the vinyl. This song has perfect lyrics and great melodies perfectly delivered by Guthrie. I was always surprised it wasn’t the last song on the album because it just has that perfect closer build-up and culmination.
“Descent Souls” – Points out the failure of Christians to serve our communities in times of need. It’s a gut-wrenching ballad and that question, now more than ever, sadly still hangs in the air, “Where are all God’s children in the storm?”
Those following the LRV series are aware that there have been some issues with the first generation of pressings – largely the spine “blow-outs” during shipping due to the weight of the record itself, and then the lack of or limitation in inserts with lyrics in some versions. There were also a lot of similar colors coming out as well – the “random colors” essentially not so random. In response to these issues, and in effort to continue to improve the overall quality of the releases, the labels have each made some changes – most abandoning the 180gm weight in favor of 140gm discs. The random marbled colors have been replaced with “predefined” colors, often in splatter patterns. Furthermore, inserts are now included with all the releases going forward, but each company has retained their own preference on how to deliver that insert – separate 2-sided sheet vs. full inner printed sleeves. In the case of Retroactive Records, Matt Hunt elected to use a thick layer full printed inner sleeve. Therefore, this “second generation” of Limited Run Vinyl (Trytan, Guardian and Siloam) all feature these new inner sleeves and 140gm splattered vinyl in different colors. The Paramaecium release – because it boasts a double gatefold with printed lyrics on the inside of the jacket – will retain the black poly-lined inner sleeves (full review to follow).
All that aside, how does it sound? Rob Colwell continues to make these older recordings sound spectacular with the vinyl EQ. Quite frankly, these songs have never sounded better. And not only that, the warmth and power of the lower end in the bass and kick drum totally changes the listening experience. Sweet Destiny was so “treble-y” when it was originally released – one factor that may have shortened its play cycle back in the day. I actually first heard this album on the cassette and was impressed by the recording quality, but when I heard the Image 7 CD I found it lacked low-end presence. No worries now – this vinyl version smokes, so you can really push the volume up now without distortion and shrillness. One negative with the 140gm discs, and I’ve noticed this on Trytan and Guardian as well, is there is more surface noise (“pops”) between and even during some songs. Those 180gm slabs were pristine! There really shouldn’t be this kind of variance in quality unless the manufacturer has changed with going to the lighter splatter vinyl. In any case, it doesn’t detract significantly from the overall listening experience, its just surprising to note the change because man, those 180gm LRV are killer – they sound amazing! [And yes, I clean all my vinyl before playing using the same technique, I clean my stylus with the Onzow Zerodust gel between sides and its all filtered through the same high-quality Parasound pre-amp].
I have been asked if the gold CDs make a difference in sound compared to their aluminum/silver companions. I am not an audio expert by any means, but I’ve read all the opinions on both sides of the issue. The conclusion I’ve come to is that the mastering of the audio mix is more important than gold vs. silver plating. You can take a great recording and put it on silver and it will sound great, and likewise a bad master won’t sound any better on gold media. Some think the human ear can detect differences in how the audio is transmitted from silver vs. gold, but unless you are listening through a discerning audio with 20 year-old ears, good luck! Given that the gold discs may be more durable over time (with great care), it just seems reasonable to have these classic titles on gold. Besides, gold just looks really cool!
I will say that so far, all the gold discs from Roxx and Retroactive sound great through a wide range of volumes, so the “over compressed loudness” has been removed. It’s usually a good sign when small incremental turns of the volume knob don’t result in huge jumps in the volume. I don’t want to over analyze this, but when I A/B the ripped FLAC versions of the old/new versions playing them through my DAC (which eliminates clocking errors), I hear a more dynamic sound with this new “gold” remastered version.
Finally, the 12-page booklet has been neatly redesigned by Scott Waters with legible lyrics/credits. For those who don’t like the gold trim cover, just flip the booklet over and you’ve got the original cover. The picture at the top of the review is the actual vinyl jacket cover, which turned out fantastic, and that inner printed sleeve is boss – nicely weighted with lyrics/credits on both sides.
1. Here I Am Again
2. Miss Lizzy
3. Child Of Mine
4. Chemical King (Big Fight)
5. Eastern Skies
2. After The Fire
3. Lethal Lady
4. Sweet Destiny
5. Decent Souls
1. Here I Am Again (3:01)
2. Miss Lizzy (3:36)
3. Child Of Mine (3:53)
4. Chemical King (3:35)
5. Eastern Skies (6:37)
6. Deceiver (3:16)
7. After The Fire (4:54)
8. Lethal Lady (5:03)
9. Sweet Destiny (4:28)
10. Decent Souls (4:12)