In 1987 I picked up the cassette of Bloodgood's album Detonation. I was new to metal and wasn't in a place to appreciate fully just how good this album really is. Did you ever read a piece of literature in school only to re-read it years later and be blown away by it? Sometimes it just takes maturing of taste to grasp a work of art, and such was the case with this album and me.
In 2013 the band released Dangerously Close, a monster masterpiece that brought me back to the band, and then in 2020 I had the good fortune to interview Les Carlsen with Pastor Wildman on The Wildman & Steve Show.
I found myself spending lots of time, dwelling really, in the Bloodgood catalogue, and now, more than thirty years after buying Detonation on cassette, I am finally ready to offer some thoughts on this magnificent album.
This sophomore release from the band was ranked by Heaven's Metal as one of the best Christian metal albums of all time, but I would argue its position at #23 on that list should be considerably higher. Let's look at three factors: instrumental music, lyrics, and vocals.
The lineup includes Michael Bloodgood on bass, Mark Welling on drums, David Zaffiro on guitar, and Les Carlsen on vocals, and a powerful lineup it is. Michael Bloodgood puts down a solid bass line that gives a heavy, dark feel, which was far less common for a Christian band, even of the metal variety, back in 1987. Mark Welling's drums are bright and fast, especially on the attack opening of "Self-Destruction." Taken together, these two set a solid rhythm foundation as good as anything else on the market at the time and making it clear that this is not a group about which you say, "Oh, they're good for a Christian band," but simply, "Man, these guys are GOOD!" David Zaffiro is simply blistering on the six-string axe. I get a bit of a Mötley Crüe feel at times, and in general the sound is solid '80s metal, but it still holds up well more than thirty years later.
When it comes to lyrics, these are some of the best out there. No, I didn't say some of the best metal lyrics or some of the best lyrics from the '80s. These are solid, thought-provoking lyrics, period. Consider just this epic line from "Eat The Flesh." "Share the bread and living water. Eat the flesh, drink the blood of Christ." This is straight from the words of Jesus Himself and about as metal a lyric as you are going to find. "Battle of The Flesh" opens the album with a lyrical onslaught dealing with temptation, but as many many know, the sheer poetry comes in with tracks 8 and 9, which go together, "Crucify" and "The Messiah."
This, my friends, is rock theatre, which is no surprise given Les Carlsen's background on the stage. Even if you only listen to these two tracks rather than watching the full Bloodgood dramatic treatment, the lyrics, which again are drawn straight from Scripture, are unbelievably powerful.
Of course, lyrics have to be sung, and no one does it better than Les Carlsen. It has become commonplace to compare rock and metal singers with Ronnie James Dio (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio), but the more I listen to Les, the more I think these two were cast in the same vocal mould. Les reaches higher than Ronnie, but what they share is power and clarity. Put that together with the background Les had in theatre, and you have a vocalist who knows how to shape and present a lyric rather than merely belt out words.
Detonation holds an interesting place in the catalogue of '80s metal. There are aspects that won't let you forget the era in which it was made. This is not a bad thing. Let's be honest. The Deep Purple Mk II albums could not have been recorded in any other decade than the '70s. Yet Detonation is incredibly enjoyable today, and not just as a nostalgia trip. It remains one of my favorites, but only now am I able to appreciate it in its depth. If you have never heard it or need a reminder, check it out today.