2018 marks the 20th anniversary for an eclectic variety of Christian music albums. From underground punk to R&B to compilations that bring together several styles of musical acts, each of these albums are excellent examples of the progression of their genres during the span of 1998. Some of these have not seen enough praise over the past two decades, while others are still revered among Christian music fans and have stood the test of time. Regardless, they are worthy of being remembered as they reach such a prestigious milestone anniversary.
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10. Static by Bleach
Bleach has been marked among Christian music fans as unforgettable. Though considered alternative rock, they fluidly blended elements of techno and pop onto their second studio work Static, which created a bright, relevant sound that audiences adored. Singer Davy Baysinger's vocals were undeniable, and this album propelled him to becoming one of the most iconic frontmen in the industry. Songs like "Super Good Feeling," "Land of the Lost," and the title track "Static" excellently captured the pop rock sound that was raging on both Christian and mainstream radio. Bleach took an opportunity to grow and develop their sound at the perfect moment, and it worked extremely well in their favor. Though they disbanded in the early 2000s, Bleach fans still treasure their entire discography, but especially the fun, upbeat tones performed in Static.
9. Pray by Rebecca St. James
Christian music sweetheart Rebecca St. James was a household name by the time she released Pray in 1998. With muted undertones reflecting that of Alanis Morissette and the Cranberries, she brought a unique version of "dream pop" to an industry that was beginning to birth some of its most successful artists of that genre. While her earlier work favored a more alternative sound, Pray was much more radio friendly, showcasing St. James' distinctive, ethereal voice. Regardless of her shifts in overall musical moods from record to record, her voice never changed, and it is what fans love most about her. Pray bridged the gap between the offbeat records from her early years and her more mature, contemporary projects. It was a great coming of age album, channeling her musical talent and spawning the second phase of her career.
8. Quantity is Job 1 by Five Iron Frenzy
Five Iron Frenzy is known for a handful of things: their Ska style, their ability to write quality music, and their crazy and utterly ridiculous antics. They will stop at nothing to catch the attention of an audience, both on stage and in their music. When they released Quantity is Job 1 in 1998, they didn't just give their fans eight tracks of new music, but they also created this wild "rock opera" about a random pair of pants. They even did a cover of Electric Light Orchestra's "Sweet Talkin' Woman," which is an absolute delight. The band has to be given credit where it's due; they are masters of their craft. The Ska craze came and went quickly in the 90s, but Five Iron Frenzy has maintained a sense of prestige among Christian rock fans. Quantity is Job 1 was a well-done EP, filled with hilarity, mayhem, and just some really good Ska.
7. God Fixation by Petra
In the early 80s, Petra birthed a signature arena rock sound that stuck with them through the majority of their career. But in 1998, the band shifted gears with the release of the album God Fixation. Hard rock took a back seat on this project, leaving room for a more contemporary sound showcased in tracks such as "St. Augustine's Pears," "Set For Life," and "If I Had to Die For Someone." Though it's apparent that rock and roll would remain the core of the band, God Fixation stripped them down to their country inspired roots, mirroring tones of early works such as Petra or Come and Join Us. God Fixation not only ushered in a new sound, but it also brought changes to the band's line up, providing an excellent platform to show off the newly appointed members and their contributions to the legendary group. This album was a landmark for the veteran Christian rock band, and also made a way for the work Petra would produce in the 2000s.
6. In Their Final Performance by Poor Old Lu
Considered one of the greatest alternative bands in the industry, In Their Final Performance was an incredible recording of Poor Old Lu's final live show. Refusing to conform to the current alternative trends that surrounded them during their career, Poor Old Lu's punk rock sound with a psychedelic twist shone brightly during their performance. The album boasted tracks from across their discography, including "For the Love of My Country," "All Pretty for the T.V.," and "My World Falls Down." Though their studio albums are widely revered, including their 2002 reunion release The Waiting Room, nothing brings to life the magic of Poor Old Lu quite like In Their Final Performance. It was the perfect send-off for a band that was so deeply influential in Christian alternative music.
5. Seltzer 2 by Various Artists
"Modern rock to settle your soul" was the tagline of this compilation trilogy, and in 1998, the second installment of fizzy goodness was released. Backed by Forefront Records, artists like Seven Day Jesus, Bleach, Plankeye, Reality Check, Fold Zandura, and Five Iron Frenzy were among many artists who were featured in the line up of Seltzer 2. Though all three albums that made up the trilogy were brilliantly curated, Seltzer 2 had quite possibly the strongest line up of acts. Hit songs like "Lost the Plot" by Newsboys, "Little Man" by the O.C. Supertones, and "I'm Free" by Geoff Moore and the Distance were found among more underground track such as "Monkey's Paw" by Smalltown Poets or "Jonah" by Grammatrain. It was a satisfying blend of up and comers, underground mainstays, and radio familiar faces.
4. Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo by MxPx
Having already produced three fantastic original studio albums and one iconic cover album, Christian punk titans MxPx had high expectations to meet at the release of Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo in 1998. In albums past, the trio was known for their ability to churn out songs that maintained a high-quality punk sound with relatable lyrics, particularly for adolescents. While songs like "Chick Magnet," "Teenage Politics," and "Want Ad" will always be staples in their discography, Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo was a turning point for the band. The songs were more mature, the tracklist more cohesive, and the album fluid in its sound. Mike, Tom, and Yuri were no longer boys, and this project displayed their growth as individuals and as a group. Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo was a pivotal moment for this punk heavyweight, propelling them into the 2000s and making way for new music.
3. Step Up to the Microphone by Newsboys
When John James exited Newsboys after Take Me To Your Leader, it was Peter Furler's time to shine as frontman, and with a little vocal help from bassist Phil Joel, the release of Step Up to the Microphone proved his ability to handle the role. With a strong track list from start to finish, this album was packed with songs that were true to the band, yet showed their positive growth even after changes were made within the group. One thing that didn't waver, however, was their ability to write profound and deeply moving lyrics. "Believe" and "Entertaining Angels," both found on this album, are two of the band's greatest lyrical achievements, and are still considered classics to this day. Though Step Up to the Microphone pulled away some from the quirkiness of Take Me To Your Leader, it kept the momentum of the band strong with fans and was an imperative stepping stone in their career. They would only go up from there and see the success that is still evident today. Though the group has recently morphed into a bit of a differently styled act, Step Up to the Microphone remains one of the strongest and best albums in their discography.
2. Hey You, I Love Your Soul by Skillet
Before Awake or Comatose existed, Skillet was known for their industrial rock sound, and their 1998 release Hey You, I Love Your Soul was a sublime tribute to that reputation. John Cooper's voice was strong, their lyrics powerful, and their sound unlike anything else in Christian music. Tracks like "Deeper," "Locked In A Cage," and "Pour" displayed their masterful ability to thread noise, heavy reverb, and harmony into their music, making them a pioneer in the Christian rock circuit. Though the group has evolved and implemented different varieties of subgenres since the 90s, Hey You, I Love Your Soul remains one of their most vigorous projects. It is often overlooked in the grand scheme of Skillet's career, but without it, they would never have progressed to where they are today. It is a testament to the band's talent and is an album that should be honored not just on its 20th anniversary, but for decades to come.
1. Supernatural by DC Talk
Contemporary Christian music was forever changed at the release of DC Talk's Jesus Freak. Because of that album, doors were kicked wide open for other artists to see success being immensely creative while bringing the message of the Gospel in such a way that it attracted Christian and secular audiences alike. After that overwhelming triumph, the band released one final studio album in 1998 titled Supernatural, and while often overshadowed by Jesus Freak, is just as strong and possibly even more creative. The album not only stayed true to the roots of their inspiring lyrical style but also incorporated sounds of the time frame in which it was produced. The world was about to enter a new millennium, and the music was seeing heavy influence from that. Songs like "Dive," and title track "Supernatural" incorporated unique fills that gave the album that computer-age tone. The music video for their unofficial single "Consume Me" was set in a world where humans had to wear masks in order to breathe, and showed the population's act of rebellion against the standard. It painted the perfect picture of a dystopian future that so many feared would come with the turn of the millennium. Supernatural was truly an album ahead of its time, intertwining Christ into ideas and themes predicted but uncertain. For years after their break up, Christian music fans have missed the presence of DC Talk in the community. The cry for a reunion paved the way for the group to collide once more during an event called the Jesus Freak Cruise, which will be setting sail for the second time in the summer of 2019. There's no better way to celebrate two decades with such a progressive album than to see the members of the band come together once again and revive both well known and deep cut tracks from one of the greatest and strongest works they ever produced.
Jessi Zilka owns a small record store in Florida. She loves music more than anything in this world (except Jesus, of course). If she's not listening to music or working at her store, she's usually out record hunting, going to Disney World, spending time with her husband, hanging out with family or friends, catching up on a favorite TV show, or curling up on the couch and watching a movie.