I was a bit surprised that I had put 65 songs by Petra on my iPod. For the initiated, Petra is one of the longest lasting Christian rock bands out there. They started as a Jesus Music act with a rock edge and eventually because Journey-ish arena rock that had a shtick of “spiritual warfare metaphors”. They were a rock band parents were comfortable with, because, well, unlike bands like Stryper or Saint? Petra looked like the listeners’ parents.
That sounds mean, but it really is just the truth. Petra admittedly had some cool album covers. Early on they developed a theme of guitars as vehicles that was always kind of cool. They also had some album and song titles that made them sound edgier than they were (Never Say Die, Killing My Old Man).
And yet, a certain segment of their career hits a nostalgic time for me when faith was easier. I know the music is mostly unimpressive… their lyrics can get absurdly hokey (for example, He Came, He Saw, He Conquered or All Fired Up). And people still think KISS covered Petra (God Gave Rock and Roll To You). They didn’t. But they do have their moments. Petra’s best moments:
1. Judas Kiss: Probably one of their most replayed songs, but really, it does work. It’s got some haunting keyboards and a nifty guitar hook.
2. Creed-One of their best songs, lyrically, it is the Apostles Creed, but it is probably the deepest of most of their tracks. It starts out with swirling Keyboards and the kicks into a crunchy guitar riff laden song. It is still arena rock, but it is actually decent arena rock.
3. For Annie-One of Petra’s more thoughtful moments. It is a ballad about a neglected young woman who comits suicide…reflecting on her friends and family’s reaction, wanting to know how they they could have done things differently…but she isn’t around anymore. I take points away that it becomes a proselytizing tune, about how we should have told Annie how much God loved her. The friends and family’s failures were not failing to share how much she mattered to them. It wasn’t that dad should focus more on his children than his job or anything like that. It’s “we shoulda said Jesus luvs you!”
4. Chameleon- It’s the guitars I really dig on this tune. It’s so 70’s hard rock.
5. Homeless Few- Another Petra Ballad, this time looking at the plight of the homeless in a nation that, at the time was on the upswing.
6. Hollow Eyes-Petra’s ode to the starving on the African Continent. Seriously? This would have been a better choice for a celebrity anthem than Do They Know It’s Christmas.
7. Grave Robber- Another haunting musical number… it is kind of a less pessimistic take on Kansas’ Dust In the Wind.
8. The Coloring Song-This is the most out of character selection. It’s kindergarten depth lyrics. The music is simple, kind of folky. But it all kind of works. I like it.
9. This Means War- It’s incredibly cheesy. But it is FUN cheesy.
10. Beyond Belief-It’s fun, and it’s their arena rock sound at it’s strongest.