Jekyll & Hyde HQ
Information > Album reviews
» Change language to: EN | ES | PT | DE
 

Petra brings back the rock for Jekyll & Hyde

Review by: Josh Renaud
Date: July 25, 2003

It was almost a month ago -- the pre-release of Petra's new album "Jekyll & Hyde" arrived in the mail and I tore into it.

Two weeks before that, I had received a three-song sampler CD. The packaging for the sampler included 10 or 11 pairs of ear plugs, as well as a diagram of a human inner ear with a headline across the top that read "What loud Petra music does to your ear." The marketing gimmicks and the music worked; my interest was aroused.

But as a Petra fan, I had a lot of concerns. Louie Weaver and Petra separated in February and he did not participate in the album at all. Two of the band's touring members (guitarist Quinton Gibson and keyboardist Bryce Bell) later left the band for other opportunities. That left only two band members -- lead singer John Schlitt and bass player Greg Bailey.

Louie's departure was soon tempered by the announcement that Bob Hartman was coming out of his 8-year "touring retirement" to rejoin the band as guitarist.

Could this album live up to the hype? It's been dubbed a "loud rock" album, Petra's "return to rock." Could these three guys -- Hartman, Schlitt, and Bailey -- along with producer Peter Furler deliver the goods? Well, the album's not perfect, but I believe most fans will enjoy it.

Reaction to "Revival"

Their most aggressive rock album in a decade, "Jekyll & Hyde" moves in a very different direction than Petra's last effort, "Revival," which many fans didn't like. It was produced by two former members of Sonicflood, and it showed -- rich layers of keyboards, samples, and other effects caused some to label it "over-produced." Fans lamented the lack of songs penned by Bob Hartman or any other band members, as well as the toned-down tempo. Petra fans had been waiting for years for a real rock album, and "Revival" didn't deliver what they wanted.

In some ways, "Jekyll & Hyde" feels like it was created as a direct reaction to those criticisms: The layers of keyboards and samples are gone (mostly) and all the songs on the album were written or co-written by Bob Hartman. The sound is stripped down and definitely more aggressive on the whole than any Petra album in at least 10 years. This album lives and dies on Bob's guitar work, John's vocals, and Bob's lyrics.

Guitars and vocals

Bob's guitar work is solid and satisfying. There are some memorable riffs and arrangements, though fans expecting a return to the 80s and early 90s will be disappointed by the lack of scene-stealing guitar solos.

John's gritty vocals are also up to par. He is continuing to evolve as a vocalist; as on "Revival," he often sings in lower registers on this album, almost a gravelly growling. It works well with the overall sound of the album. This album is definitely not a return to the old days of Petra with John's extended wails and screams.

Lyrics

I have mixed feelings about Bob's lyrics. There are some really good songs on the album, but much of the material is familiar ground Bob has already covered before.

  • "It's All About Who You Know" reminds us that our accomplishments in life don't mean much; all that matters is knowing Christ. Great theme, but we've heard it before in "Set For Life" from 1998's "God Fixation."
  • "Test of Time" reminds us to make the best use of "the time you're given." It's a slightly different take on the same theme of "A Matter of Time" from "God Fixation." The song "Would'a, Should'a, Could'a" talks about a similar idea: living for now, so we have no regrets.

Bob's lyrics are often built on cliches or familiar phrases that he twists. The two aforementioned songs are good examples. Unfortunately, he doesn't write with much imagery or symbolism in his songs on this album. Besides "Jekyll & Hyde," there are no songs with memorable images of the kind we got in "Sleeping Giant," "Mine Field," "Hollow Eyes," or "Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows." Overall, the song lyrics are very literal, situational, and largely forgettable.

More than the sum of their parts

Listened to, though, these songs add up to more than the sum of their parts. "Would'a, Should'a, Could'a" is a fun, straight-up jam that you'll keep singing in your head after it's over (and it was co-written by bass player Greg Bailey).

Though "Test of Time" covers familiar lyrical territory, musically the song hooks you with it's big rock sound and fast chorus.

"I Will Seek You" is an excellent rock praise song in the same vein as "Somebody's Gonna Praise His Name," and would have worked well on the "Revival" album.

"Sacred Trust" points out that Christ didn't water down his message, and we shouldn't either. We have a responsibility to proclaim Christ boldly to the world. In some ways the song also sounds like a response to a growing opinion expressed by Christian artists that Christian music need not center around Christ or scripture.

Shortest Petra album ever

Perhaps the main disappointment of "Jekyll & Hyde" is its length. This album is extremely short -- only 31 minutes long. It is the shortest album Petra has ever released.

Just to put that in perspective, the last time Petra released an album under 40 minutes long was in 1981 on "Never Say Die," which clocked in at 39:32. Until now, the average running time of Petra's studio albums has been about 42 minutes.

What makes this especially disappointing is that there was apparently at least one other song considered for inclusion for this album, called "It's a New Day"

One could conceivably consider Jekyll & Hyde's brevity a good thing, since it leaves the listener wanting more. But, more likely, it could leave a listener feeling they didn't get their full money's worth. A couple more songs would have really helped.

Conclusion

Despite some of the negatives touched on in this review, most fans are going to love "Jekyll & Hyde" with its stripped-down, aggresive rock sound. It wouldn't be accurate to call it a return to Petra's arena rock days, which involved memorable guitar solos and lots of keyboards. But fans will embrace the album and appreciate the fact there are only 1 or 2 middlin' tracks.