Reviewed by: Jeff de los Santos
Taker was a band out of Virginia that never did a full length before they split up. Their original demo gained quite a bit of recognition in the Christian metal scene in the late ’80’s. They would also be a part of two compilations – White Metal Invasion and East Coast Metal before putting out one last demo – Blood – before calling it a day. Like most people, I hadn’t heard of Taker before the two compilations came so it’s interesting to hear the demos.
Taker’s first demo “Matt. 11:12” is a 4 song demo that was recorded in mid-1987. You can tell it’s a demo due to the production but the overall musicianship – from Kevin Potter’s soaring vocals to Danny Wilkerson’s powerful bass lines to PJ Bussey’s shredding to Charlie Osterhoudt’s solidly executed drumming – makes this demo all worthwhile. With songs like “Open Your Heart” and “11 O’Clock News”, it’s easy to see why Taker garnered such interest. Three of the songs – “Open Your Heart”, “He Is The Light” and “Yesterday, Today and Forever” would be re-recorded with changes. It’s a same that “11 O’Clock News” didn’t get re-recorded because it’s a solid song – probably the best of the four on this demo.
The next song on the anthology is a live recording of “Living By Faith”, which would appear on the East Coast Metal compilation in 1989. With this live track, you get to hear the raw energy that Taker brought to their shows. And truthfully, this sounds so much better than the version that was produced by the Elephantes for East Coast Metal. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
The next three songs on the anthology are “Look Into His Eyes” – which would be on the White Metal Invasion compilation – “He Is The Light” and “Open Your Heart”. “Look Into His Eyes” is a showcase tune for the band. I would say that this song along with Soldier’s “Louder Than Hell” were the best tunes on White Metal Invasion in terms of overall quality and musicianship. This song really places them in the top of their class. The re-recording of “He Is The Light” is interesting in that it’s a tad faster than the demo version and in a different key while keeping the structure of the song the same. “Open Your Heart” is the same. They took the original songs and tweaked them just a bit to make them even better than the original version.
Up next are the two songs from the East Coast Metal compilation – “Living By Faith” and “Yesterday, Today and Forever”. You can definitely tell the differences between the versions of the songs on the compilation and the original. The drums on these songs are programmed and background vocals have been added. The final product is polished which isn’t really what Taker sounds like. And not only that, but the guitar solo on the demo version of “Yesterday, Today and Forever” isn’t there and the solos were played by someone other than Bussey. So while these two song have a slick production sound, they aren’t very original, which is something that Taker didn’t like.
The last four songs on the compilation are from Taker’s Blood EP, recorded mid-1989 and with Rob Kreiner on vocals. Rob’s vocals are different from Kevin’s. That’s not to say that it’s better or worse but that it gives the band a completely different sound. Rob has a lower range than Kevin. He can hit the higher notes but it isn’t quite a powerful as Kevin’s vocals in the higher range. “Blood”, the self-titled track, is probably the best song that showcases Rob’s vocal-style with him hitting the lower, mid- and some higher range notes. And the last track on the EP “Into The Throneroom/A New Song” – which is a re-wording of Psalms 44 – is another classic Taker song. The opening for it – the “Into The Throneroom” part – is a two minute showcase for Bussey. And Rob’s vocals are solid when he comes in on the second part of the song. That’s not to say that the other songs on the EP – “The Measure” and “The Overcomer’s Anthem” – aren’t great tunes. But they do seem a bit disjointed.
Overall, this is a fantastic anthology for a band that never put out a full release. This takes us through the phases of Taker and their powerful sound and bold lyrics. Kudos to not only the band but to Roxx Productions, Bill Bafford (Executive Producer) and Ysidro Garcia (remaster guru).