California’s Barren Cross played a straightforward style of heavy metal featuring the vocals of Mike Lee, a man who sounded EXACTLY like Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. I mean, EXACTLY like Bruce! That’s not to say Barren Cross were Iron Maiden clones. Far from it. Lyrically, Barren Cross were not at all like Maiden, and they didn’t utilize galloping rhythms or dual guitar harmonies like Maiden either.
Atomic Arena came out on Enigma Records, the same label that released Stryper’s albums at the time. And like Stryper, Barren Cross were a Christian metal act. However, Barren Cross attacked you from a different angle than Stryper. While Stryper regaled you with tales of Jesus’ glorious glory, Barren Cross tried to scare the living shit out of you — essentially telling you God would F*CK YOU UP if you didn’t follow him. This fire and brimstone approach gave Barren Cross a harder edge than the corny Stryper. Did I mention the singer sounded EXACTLY like Bruce Dickinson? Because he did. Best song: Close To The Edge. (I have to shout out to my buddy A.B., who still talks about Barren Cross with a nostalgic twinkle in his eye.) My score: B-