Song of the Day: Leviticus - The Winner

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Truth be told, heavy metal was my entry point into any kind of independent Christian music. I mean, I started out on Petra, Amy Grant, and Russ Taff as a young teenager, but it wasn’t long before Jerusalem, Whitecross, and Sacred Warrior were taking up my listening space.

One of the pioneers of Christian metal was Swedish band Leviticus. The band formed in 1981 in the town of Skövde. They recorded 4 albums, plus an alternative/Swedish language version of their debut, before breaking up in the early 90s. They later reunited for some live shows and a live album at Bobfest in 2003. Additionally, members have been involved in a number of other projects like Jet Circus, Motherlode, XT, and Bjorn Stigsson’s solo work.

Leviticus’s sound shifted significantly across the four recorded albums, and because of my age and exposure to Christian metal, their final studio album–Knights of Heaven–was the first one I remember hearing. By that time, they had morphed into a very polished, commercial-sounding hard rock/glam metal project, largely due to the influence of producers John and Dino Elefante, who seemed to want to turn them into a Swedish version of Petra.

Their earlier albums were in more of a traditional heavy metal style. The first two (I Shall Conquer and The Strongest Power, respectively) featured a raw and unrefined sound with very unique guitar tones that I can’t say I’ve heard before or since. The third album was probably the heaviest overall, and started to feature more accessible production.

Having said all that, I truly believe that each era of the band has something significant to offer listeners who enjoy Christ-centered heavy metal. However, their second album is my favorite. It just has the right combination of the unique guitar tones, heavy rhythms and straight-forward song structures, combined with catchy lyrics that offer both biblical stories and devotional encouragement. The cheesy artwork (of which there are two versions) just adds to the charm of this obscure heavy metal release.

A number of their releases have seen reissues in the past few years, making tracking down their albums and singles a little more accessible.

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