We were all in shock with the announcement of metal icon Michael Bloodgood from his namesake band Bloodgood having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke early this year in 2022, and then sadly passing away 5 months later on July, 29th.
The news had created such a stir throughout the Christian hard music community and fans of the band which formed back in 1983 in Seattle, Washington and confirmed that the days of Bloodgood as a band had come to a sorrowful and yet beautiful end, with ourselves as believers knowing that Michael himself was now eternally basking in God’s forever peace and glorious presence.
Now, the question begging to be asked….. What next?? Michael’s longtime brother, friend and lead vocalist Les Carlsen, announcing that his time in music wasn’t over, not by a long shot…… With his call to share the gospel through hard music, which is still as vibrant and intense now, more than ever.
As Les announced his very first solo album He’s Coming, featuring members Paul Jackson and Craig Church of Bloodgood, fellow founding former Bloodgood member David Zaffiro, longtime friend and also previous bandmate Oz Fox (Stryper) and also his beautiful wife Joyce Carlsen on backing vocals and a surprise lead role on the very last song of Les’s first solo full length.
With my own description of Les, is that he completely holds his own and with many similarities to former Van Halen vocalist David Lee Roth, with his performances and stage presence. Even now Les carries such a strong presence about him that completely blows people away, even to this day, especially with a man in his 70s, continually showing the young performers how its done……. RIGHT!!!
1. I WANNA KNOW YOU
3. JUDAS IS DEAD (Featuring Oz Fox)
4. THE JESUS FREAK SHOW
5. FAITH IS TESTED
6. HOW LONG
8. HE’S COMING
9. RETURN ME TO THE FIRE (Bonus track featuring Joyce Carlsen)
- Les Carlsen – Lead & background vocals, guitar and synth
- Paul Jackson – Guitar
- Craig Church – Guitar
- Ricky B. Rogers – Bass
- Dan Needham – Drums
- Oz Fox – All Instruments & Production on “Judas Is Dead”
- David Zaffiro – Rhythm Guitar on “River” and solo on “He’s Coming”
- Joyce Carlsen – Background vocals & harmonies
Opening with his second released hit single “I Wanna Know You”, creates the direction that will allow the listener to know how the album will unravel. Catchy hooks and spontaneous interactions with melodies, bridges and harmonies, carry the track in a smooth and elegant rock-driven start to this diverse album.
Next up comes the track “Scars”, which revisits his ’80s heavy metal roots, as it oozes with high energy, crunching riffs and with a mix of also a late ’70s classic rock feel, especially as it sounds throughout the song. As we all know, “Judas Is Dead”, and this particular track was co-written by none other than Stryper axeman Oz Fox. It’s certainly different to what Oz is renowned for playing with Stryper, however the single shows the more mellower rock side and for Oz with Les its still is a fine mix, between both of these veteran musicians.
“The Jesus Freak Show” certainly reminds me with the production quality and sound of War Of The Worlds with Jeff Wayne’s musical version again, as created in the late ’70s. The current mix of genres is evident as we continue on, throughout our journey with Les.
As our “Faith Is Tested” carries the groove element of Les’s debut, catchy grooves and melodic choruses, this certainly is the heavy metal of old, and has more of a commercial rock feel. But, really the question still beckons on “How Long”, which delivers more darker and brooding hard rock crunching guitars, and an atmospheric essence which is captured within the lyrical story line of the anguish that comes across with the hurt and pain a best friend and a father could feel, as Les has experienced.
Ballads come to mind with the next song “River”, again displaying a more darker rock aspect that with the thumping bass line of their well-mixed sound, offers more of the crisp and professional representation that carries on throughout the whole album. Paul’s lengthy solo plays a big part in this track, which speaks volumes with the longevity between band mates and long-life friends, complimenting each other perfectly.
Title single “He’s Coming”, battles on through with an iconic clear production quality, a hard rock delight, with harmonies and smooth delivery all through the track. With the involvement of longtime friend and former founding member of Bloodgood, guitarist David Zaffiro, constantly displays an unique and fresh aspect to the song to end Les’s involvement with his debut album. Which leaves us to the final bonus tune “Return Me to the Fire” that features none other than Les Carlsen’s lovely bride Joyce. Joyce blows us away with her elegance and her understanding musically with the rest of the band, and with being the wife of Les, its obvious that they just connect in harmony and work so well together. It’s an energetic hard rock-driven finale that, ultimately puts the icing on the cake for this solo debut. Wonderful.
Overall, a great album for all the fans of late ’70s and ’80s hard rock, extremely well produced and mixing so many elements of Les’s incredible over 50-year musical career, that began in the ’60s with the stage production Hair. I tip my hat to everyone involved in this project, especially through the tough times and emotional roller coaster which they have all endured in 2022.
Christian Sullivan – 10/10, The Metal Onslaught Magazine