Living Sacrifice's long and impressive history stretches back over a decade. The Arkansas-based metal band has evolved from their early death metal-inspired rumblings into a crushing, staccato-driven, heavily percussive metallic behemoth that pummels listeners with intense riffage and a decidedly personal, though nevertheless, often evangelical lyrical viewpoint. Founding members Bruce Fitzhugh (guitars/vocals) and Lance Garvin (drums) have survived from the band's original incarnation, refocusing their vision at every turn into something even tastier with each step in their evolution. Living Sacrifice formed in 1990, releasing their self-titled debut through the Christian-oriented R.E.X. Music the following year. They were originally fronted by vocalist/bassist DJ, who also went on to sing on 1992's Non-Existent and 1994's Inhabit. All three albums were heavily influenced by the members' favorite bands: groups like thrash metal titans Metallica, Slayer, and Testament; and then-newer death metal acts such as Obituary and Malevolent Creation.
In 1995, their Nashville-based label folded, leaving Living Sacrifice label-less. The band was able to negotiate a deal that left them with the rights to their recordings and free to pursue a new home. DJ exited the group as they pondered their next move, with Fitzhugh stepping up to the vocalist position, as Living Sacrifice began writing new material with a more stripped-down, almost punk/hardcore-infused (though still decidedly very heavy metal) direction and making demos. In 1996, the band became re-energized, thanks to a multi-album deal with Seattle, WA's Tooth and Nail and their newly formed Solid State imprint, which focused on heavier bands. The aptly titled Reborn album surfaced in 1997, redefining the band's musical focus and garnering them a slew of new fans -- and probably some of their first outside of the Christian music market. Though the music was decidedly more straightforward, the lyrical focus stayed the same, and the melodic guitar solos and fast-paced galloping drums remained. Despite the underground success of the album, with Living Sacrifice quickly becoming a cornerstone band on the new imprint's roster, further lineup changes happened. Founding guitarist Jason Truby and his only recently introduced brother, bassist Chris Truby, exited the band. They were replaced by guitarist Rocky Gray, and bassist Arthur Green, late of the Arkansas band Eso-Charis. Green was not the only member of Eso-Charis to join up -- drummer Matthew Putman soon followed. Putman was instrumental in fleshing out Living Sacrifice's sound with additional percussion alongside Garvin, with a two-drummer approach unique to heavy music; different even from Sepultura, Neurosis, and Slipknot, who have all experimented with extra percussion.
This lineup recorded an album called The Hammering Process, further streamlining the band's sound, decimating it into its base elements, driven by rhythm and heavy guitar crunch without being tantamount to any kind of musical "sellout." Further touring ensued throughout 2000 (a year that also saw the reissuing of the band's first three albums via Solid State) and 2001, including several dates with the band's friends and former labelmates, P.O.D. Living Sacrifice spent the latter-half of 2001 holed up in the practice room composing new material. Garvin and Gray, meanwhile, released an album called This Is My Blood with their side project, Soul Embraced, through Solid State, who also reissued an Eso-Charis album. ~ Ryan J. Downey
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