Skip to main content

Record Reflections 6: "Once Dead" by Vengeance Rising

The story of Vengeance Rising is one of the strangest in all of rock n roll history-- and certainly in the Christian music industry. They started out as a death metal influenced thrash band in Southern California-- and was inarguably the most extreme Christian band of their era. Their debut album had a palm with a nail pounded through it, to depicting the suffering Christ. Then, this album, Once Dead, came about and, in my opinion, upped the brutality both musically and lyrically. Most of the band left after this album leaving only founding member and vocalist Roger Martinez.

Two mediocre albums later, and Vengeance Rising went into an indefinite hiatus, during which time, Martinez disowned his Christianity, said it was all a farce and that he was never sincere, became an atheist and now is an active member of the Church of Satan.

This bizarre history only makes this album more interesting. yet, even without this epilogue, Once Dead had a very profound affect on me and led me down the path of extreme metal.

"Once Dead" by Vengeance Rising

"Once Dead" by Vengeance Rising

Buy "Once Dead" here

"Once Dead" by Vengeance Rising

I have always been drawn to things that were a bit unusual. Maybe it's my desire to stand out and be different, maybe it's my naturally contrarian nature. Whatever it is, I like things that are a little bit outside the box.

Does anyone remember Christian shock jock Gary Larson? I credit him with introducing me to death metal. He used to bring Glen Benton of Deicide on his program and they would have these huge debates. He would have entire shows dedicated to the evils of death metal music. I still vividly remember his description of Cannibal Corpse's Tomb of the Mutilated, which depicts two skeletal creatures engaging in oral sex.

I found it disgusting and irresistible.

The Larson radio show had the opposite of his desired affect (or did it? I'm still not sure). Instead of turning away from the music and rejecting it, I was very curious about it, but also scared because of some of the lyrical content. So, when I saw what appeared to be a death metal band at the local Christian bookstore, I was intrigued. That band was Vengeance Rising. And, while it turns out that Vengeance Rising is really more of a thrash band having more in common with Slayer than Deicide, it was still the most extreme music that I had heard up to that point in my life.

The opening track ("Warfare") starts out slow and plodding, with just occasional floor tom hits and feed-backed guitar before exploding into a juggernaut of speed and fury that assaulted my ears in the best way possible. Roger Martinez had this weird combination of death growl and mush mouthed shrieks that only added to the cacophony of the music. Songs like "Herod's Violent Death", "Frontal Lobotomy", and "Cut into pieces" were relentlessly fast and violent, everything a death metal fan could long for, but without having to hide the album from your parents.

Sure, they hated it but, as long as the music was Christian, they weren't going to confiscate it.

Scroll to Continue

This album opened up a world to me (I discovered this album concurrently with "Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance" by Tourniquet) of fast and aggressive music but gave me an alternative to some of the more negative messages of their "secular" counterparts.

I have since learned to love and embrace death metal of all kinds. I am even in the process of writing my thesis on death metal music. Bands like Living Sacrifice and Mortification were the gateway to bands like Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Decapitated, Suffocation, Becoming the Archetype, Death and a whole world of extreme metal. This music gave me a sense of belonging. Meeting a fan of death metal music is like meeting a kindred spirit. Spotting a Deicide shirt through the crowd is like finding the Cinderella's slipper. It's life changing music. While many fans of Vengeance Rising list their debut, Human Sacrifice, as their favorite, this is mine. I love the raw intensity, the dynamics, and the attitude. It's a brilliant album, even with its inherent flaws. I owe it a huge debt of gratitude.

"Once Dead" by Vengeance Rising

The rest of the Record Reflections Series

© 2021 Justin W Price


Justin W Price (author) from Juneau, Alaska on January 13, 2021:


Die Happy was good too. I am a fan of most metal genres. Thank you for reading and for the trip down memory lane!

Keith Abt from The Garden State on January 12, 2021:

I remember these guys. I was never a fan of the growling death metal vocal style but I gotta admit they were unique in the Christian scene.

When the original lineup split, the rest of the band formed Die Happy with a different singer who had a more melodic singing style, they were more up my alley than V.R. was.

Related Articles