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“I grew up in an alternate dimension where Nirvana didn’t exist”

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The Prayer Chain “Grylliade” (from the Mercury LP, Rode Dog/Reunion Records)

Here’s where I put all my cards on the table:  When I was 16, the Prayer Chain was my favorite band in the world, period. I wore the band’s T-shirts to school and sported the band’s Neverland Sessions LP sticker on my trumpet case in band (Yes, another reason why I was a nerd in high school). People inevitably asked me who the band was, and I had to out myself as a Christian, a Christian music junkie, and … well, basically, a complete and total weirdo.

I used to write the band on a regular basis, and eventually the band’s bassist Eric Campuzano wrote me back. He sent me a handwritten letter, guitar picks (I had the audacity to ask for them), a copy of the band’s then out-of-print independent debut, and the aforementioned sticker. I have no idea how I did not soil my pants the day I received that package in the mail, Everett.

It was the songs that slew me, Everett. It was the way the band blended tribal elements with more traditional rock elements, and made a sound that was both earthy and spiritual all at once. It was, for me, an ode to the human being as a creation of God. An acknowledgment of our physical mortality and our spiritual immortality, all summarized in a song.

The song below is from the band’s final record, Mercury. It is a bitter pill to swallow because it is essentially a document of the band turning on itself – a record of one band member drawing blood from another. There is an undeniable darkness about the Psalms in the Bible, and the members of the Prayer Chain knew that, and were not afraid to acknowledge the darker elements of their humanity in songs.

The story of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is well known, but the story of Mercury is not. When the band pitched Mercury to the higher-ups at their record label, the suits were mortified. The band was essentially forced to return to the studio and make a record that would not send tears of terror streaming down the faces of Christian record buyers everywhere. The record as it was originally intended to be heard can be purchased at Bandcamp for a cool $5.99. As with The Grape Prophet, Rolling Stone’s J. Edward Keyes awards Mercury 4.5 out of 5 stars in his All Music Guide review, stating simply, “The record feels like a horror film”.

(continues overleaf)

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