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Music / Petra

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THE Christian Rock band. Not technically the first, but the first to have a major impact on the culture. Formed in 1972 by Bob Hartman (who had himself just become a Christian at the time) and some friends of his from college, but best known for their work during The '80s. Appropriately enough, their name is simply Greek for "rock".

The band underwent many, many changes in both its lineup and its sound over the years, but its most well-known lineups — and the only ones that lasted for more than two albums — were Bob Hartman (guitars), Greg X. Volz (vocals), John Slick (keyboards), Louie Weaver (drums), and Mark Kelly (bass); and Bob Hartman, John Schlitt (vocals), John Lawry (keyboards), Louie Weaver, and Ronnie Cates (bass). These changes, mainly responding to the changing face of contemporary rock, were mostly welcomed, at least until The '90s when they moved toward a more Alternative Rock sound, which left fans... disappointed. They returned to a hard rock sound in 2003, before finally disbanding.

In 2010, their 1985 lineup (Volz, Hartman, Lawry, Kelly, Weaver) reunited as "Classic Petra" and released a studio album featuring remakes of some of their classic songs plus two new tracks before embarking on a brief tour followed by the release of a live album. In 2018, the Classic Petra line-up was shuffled to create a new incarnation known as "Classic Petra Resurrection" (or CPR) featuring Greg X. Volz, Kirk Henderson (guitars), John Lawry, Greg Bailey (bass), and Louie Weaver. CPR, of course, is not to be confused with Petra's official touring line-up of John Schlitt, Bob Hartman, Greg Baily, and Christian Bonero (drums).

Being the first major band to introduce rock music to a culture known for being largely hostile to it, they were no strangers to controversy, including the predictable accusations from Moral Guardians that they were hiding Satanic messages in their songs. They fired right back in 1982 with a prominent back-masked message at the start of the song "Judas' Kiss" (when played backwards, the message says, "What are you looking for the devil for when you ought to be looking for the Lord?"), and in 1985 with the bitingly satirical "Witch Hunt", which accuses their critics of caring more about stamping out things they are suspicious of than actually spreading the Gospel. Eventually they outlived the criticism and went on to win many awards, including four Grammys for Best Rock Gospel Album.

Discography (not counting concert albums or the many, many compilation albums released over the years, mainly by their former labels):

  • Petra (1974)
  • Come and Join Us (1977)
  • Washes Whiter Than (1979)
  • Never Say Die (1981)
  • More Power to Ya (1982)
  • Not of This World (1983)
  • Beat the System (1985)
  • Back to the Street (1986)
  • This Means War! (1987)
  • On Fire (1988)
  • Petra Praise: the Rock Cries Out (1989)
  • Beyond Belief (1990)
  • Unseen Power (1991)
  • Wake Up Call (1993)
  • No Doubt (1995)
  • Petra Praise II: We Need Jesus (1997)
  • God Fixation (1998)
  • Double Take (2000)
  • Revival (2001)
  • Jekyll & Hyde (2003)
  • Back to the Rock (2010, as Classic Petra)
  • Back to the Rock II (2018, as Classic Petra Resurrection)

Petra provides examples of:

  • Album Title Drop: On Fire (shouted in the song "Hit You Where You Live"), Unseen Power (a short spoken track at the end), and Wake-Up Call (a line from "Sleeping Giant")
  • As the Good Book Says...: Nearly every song contains some paraphrase of a Bible passage. And in case anyone doesn't get the reference, the reference was always printed above the lyrics in the liner notes. In one instance, lack of familiarity with Romans 6:6 in the King James Version specifically made it impossible to understand that the song "Killing My Old Man" is not about a man killing his father. Never ones to shy away from controversy, these guys.
  • Awesome McCoolname
    • Lead singer Greg Xavier Volz is a quintessential example of this trope.
    • Also, keyboardist John Slick.
  • Book Ends
    • Come and Join Us opens with "God Gave Rock and Roll to You" and closes with a reprise of the chorus.
    • Not Of This World opens and closes with the brilliant "Visions" instrumental.
    • Unseen Power opens and closes with a variation of a wind sound effect with wind chimes. The opening features people quietly reciting "The Lord's Prayer" in unison while the closing has a man saying, "You can't really see it, but you know it's there, like some sort of unseen power."
  • Christian Rock: One of the first rock bands to have a major impact on the Christian music culture.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: Their two(!) covers of "God Gave Rock and Roll to You" would probably count from the chorus alone, considering the source, but then we get retooled lyrics like
    You can love the Rock, and let Him free your soul
    Or you can let the Old Mannote  take his toll
    It's never too late to change your mind
  • Heavy Meta: The only thing that could make the Argent song "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You" more meta was being covered by a Christian band.
  • Hope Spot: Jekyll & Hyde was their hardest album since 1990 at least, and highly acclaimed... but it was also their last (if you don't count Classic Petra's Back to the Rock, and Classic Petra Resurrection's Back to the Rock II).
  • I Am the Band: Petra founder Bob Hartman is the only member who has stayed with the band during their entire run.
    • Hartman retired from touring with Petra in 1995 and was no longer the face on the album cover, but he was still Petra's principal songwriter and studio guitarist. He returned to being a full-time touring member in 2001 with the release of Revival.
  • Just for Pun: Quite a few titles, most of which are only puns in the context of the lyrics. "Altar Ego", "Killing My Old Man", "King's Ransom", "Dead Reckoning", "Midnight Oil", "Believer in Deed", and "Sincerely Yours".
    • Also, their name.
  • Long Runner: Thirty-four years officially, not counting various reunion tours.
  • Lighter and Softer: Washes Whiter Than, "The Coloring Song" from Never Say Die, and pretty much everything from 1991 to 2000.
  • New Sound Album: Arguably all of them to some extent, as their style constantly evolved with the times, most noticeably from '70s blues-rock to heavy metal to alternative.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "The Coloring Song"
  • Power Ballad
  • Revolving Door Band
  • Rule of Cool: The '80s album covers, particularly those featuring the "Guitarships".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Bassist Mark Kelly shared lead vocals with Greg Volz on "I Can Be Friends With You" and "Disciple". Producer John Elefante (Kansas) and Lou Gramm (Foreigner) shared vocals with John Schlitt on "We Need Jesus". And the mostly-unplugged-rerecordings album Double Take featured guitarist Pete Orta performing his own composition, "Breathe In".
  • Subliminal Seduction: Parodied twice: More Power to Ya featured a conspicuous backwards message between two tracks — "What are ya lookin' for the Devil for, when ya oughtta be lookin' for the Lord?" — and "Witch Hunt", a song directed towards the accusers, whose bridge included backmasked lines that turned out to just be clips of the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz.
  • Take That!: They had several songs that were critical of contemporary Christian culture, such as "Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows" and the aforementioned "Witch Hunt," which doubles as a Take That, Critics! of sorts (and a rare justified example).
  • The Something Song: "The Coloring Song"
  • Uncommon Time: The intro to "Chameleon", which is otherwise in 4/4 time, opens in 5/4 before switching to 7/8. The latter returns for the guitar solo.
  • Visual Pun: The cover of Unseen Power, a photo of turbine windmills.