Jekyll & Hyde

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Petra returns -- yes, some will say "oh no," while others will chant "yeah!" mightily -- with the band's 25th album (not including greatest-hits collections) in over nearly 30 years in the Christian music biz. What a ride. They've done everything from play heavy-duty 1970s thunderheaded metal to praise music to hopelessly misguided prog rock. And, like Canada's national heroes Rush, just when you think it's over and the band is gone for good, the whispering starts on the streets and small shadowy creatures start scurrying about in nervous anticipation. And ultimately it comes -- the new album. More often than not Petra's fans have wailed at the absence of the bone-crunching gospel-metal Petra defined long before the new wave of Christian metal. But they need wait no more, because with Newsboys producer Peter Furler (who acts as a third member), Jekyll & Hyde is a prog metal monster of a record with a mix bigger than all the early Metallica albums assembled and more hooks than Poison and Dio put together. Only the recent return of Queensr├┐che has equal muscle, but in the lyrics and hooks department, not power. From the jarring riffs of the title cut to the amazing, Boston-like hook scored through with overdriven compressed guitars on "Perfect World," John Schlitt soars like a kid 20 years his junior on vocals. The tempo on most of the tracks, such as "Test of Time," is tough, greasy, crunchy, and funky. This is metal with teeth and menace. Petra spits out the gospel as a way of not only stating its claim on what the bandmembers perceive to be the Truth, but to be absolutely clear that they make no concessions to the world of men and devils. Even cursory listens to the amazing syncopated "I Will Seek You" and the sole straight-ahead rock anthem, "Sacred Trust" (which closes the album so as not to get in the way of the careening metal), reveal this. In sum, Jekyll & Hyde is one badass heavy metal record full of great songs, proggy hooks, stunning riffs, and a possibility that lies behind its text. Who can ask for more from a band that has been at it for three decades? The bottom line is that Petra is as good as anybody out there right now on either side of the CCM aisle.

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