Anti-drug campaigns rail against marijuana because of its acclaimed as a “gateway drug,” the harbinger of greater evils to come. But what about “gateway music” – that band, that sound, the one that opens up a young, naive music fan’s ears to deeper, more complex music? In some circles, “gateway music” is frowned upon and discouraged, mostly because it will take the listener away from the prescribed style of music for a given subculture into that which has been deemed inappropriate (for whatever reasons). Growing up in a conservative church setting, rock music was always and obviously the biggest specter, yet with parents who had listened to rock & roll back in their youth, there was one band that proved able to enter my house and eventually pave the way for all others.
Petra was that band and Beyond Belief was the album: in a world where the other kids in my youth group thought it edgy to listen to Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, and (gasp!) dc Talk, I was the kid who blared the piercing high tenor of John Schlitt, the thundering drums of Louie Weaver, and the screaming ‘80s-era lead guitar work of Bob Hartman. Even as listened to the album as a freshman in high school, I knew the album was a few years old and that the music style was dated (I actually listened to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden in context on the local radio station secretly on my red boom box), but without Petra’s overt Christian lyrical themes (with attached Scripture in the liner notes!) making them permissible to my parents, bands like Starflyer 59, Joy Electric, and Zao would have never entered my life and truly defined my musical tastes.
My love for this band went as far as selecting the concluding power ballad on this album – “Prayer” – as my choice for what I would sing for Male Solo in area competition in my sophomore year. While other memorable tracks include the imminently sing-able, fist-pump-able, and headband-able (for a teenager in a Pentecostal private school) “Armed And Dangerous,” “I Am On The Rock,” “Seen And Not Heard,” the title cut to this life-changing album will always be my favorite. And yet, as cheese-tastic as the music might be now, there are still some deep theological truths to be found in the song, especially the chorus: “And from faith to faith we grow towards the center of the flow where He beckons us to go, beyond belief, beyond belief!” Petra – now and forever.
-- Adam P. Newton