Greenville, SC (February 16, 2021)
Coming-of-age music-comedy film Electric Jesus continues to charm audiences and critics at film festivals across the country. The soundtrack, Electric Jesus (Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture), will be released digitally on Joyful Noise Recordings on February 26, 2021.
Electric Jesus was written and directed by Chris White and features Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), Brian Baumgartner (The Office), new/emerging stars Wyatt Lenhart (singer/guitarist), Will Oliver (lead guitar), Gunner Willis (bass) and Caleb Hoffmann (drums) as the fictional Christian hard rock band 316.
Any decent fictional rock biopic requires a convincing soundtrack, and director Chris White found the perfect collaborator in Daniel Smith. Smith is a prolific figure in indie rock, having worked under the Danielson moniker (and Danielson Famile / Brother Danielson variations,) over the past two decades. He is also an accomplished producer, having helmed Sufjan Stevens’ acclaimed Seven Swans album among many other projects. Smith is known for his highly unique vocal style, characterized by the frequent use of a screeching falsetto. Serendipitously, this sound overlaps perfectly with the screaming falsetto vocals of hair metal.
Smith brings a nuanced sensitivity to the film’s source material. His father is a prominent Christian music songwriter, and Smith’s work carries a deeply spiritual perspective. The artist is quick to draw a line between the mystic spirituality that informs his songwriting and the Christian music industry. “My personal journey is a spiritual one, a mystical one, where I’m chasing after something I believe exists in the unseen world. But I’ve always said we’re not a Christian band. A lot of times it’s at the heart of my creative process, but it’s certainly not anything I’m selling,” Smith shared.
Regardless of these distinctions, Smith’s experience brings a credible authenticity to the project. While director Chris White handled the lyrics, Smith composed or co-composed all of 316’s original music—and the results are spot-on.
While composing for Electric Jesus, Smith immersed himself in the hair metal music of his youth, binge-listening to a steady rotation of bands like Ratt, Twisted Sister, and Mötley Crüe. Electric Jesus captures the hair metal sound in all its melodramatic excess, from the overwrought power ballads to the histrionic guitar pyrotechnics.
In addition to the music of 316, the Electric Jesus soundtrack features four new Danielson songs (including the fantastic sunshine pop of the Beach Boys-influenced “You Can Fly”), plus a track from Steve Taylor & the Danielson Foil, and an instrumental score by Smith’s Familyre Friends.
But it’s the music of 316 that forms the centerpiece of this 21-track release. All of 316’s songs are expertly voiced by actor Wyatt Lenhart, also the onscreen frontman of 316. The instrumentation for 316 is provided by guitarist John Montgomery, bassist John Mark Painter, and drummer Patrick Berkery. This ensemble’s chemistry is evident on the album’s lead single, 316’s hilariously bombastic “Commando For Christ”—one of the most brilliant send-ups of metal music since This Is Spinal Tap. The song’s ridiculous chorus will likely be stuck in your head for the next few days. “Let’s all go commando for Christ!”
Depending on your prior relationship to Christian hair metal, this music might provoke nostalgia, curiosity, laughter, or all of the above. Smith, White, and the assembled musicians have crafted a magical collection of songs that effectively serve as the emotional and sonic backdrop for this charming coming-of-age story but work surprisingly well on their own merits as well. They clearly understand the inherent absurdities of hair metal, and the Christian subculture, without feeling a need to pronounce judgment upon either. They rock, you decide.
Christian metal has certainly faced its share of derision over the years, providing an easy target for mockery. But Electric Jesus has created an opportunity to take a second look at the genre and the culture that produced it. Regardless of your opinion of this once controversial genre of Christian music, there’s no question that this music wielded a significant influence during its prime, offering many future headbangers their first taste of metal. The Electric Jesus soundtrack celebrates this odd subculture of American music in all its holy glory and ridiculousness.
Editor’s Note: The film of this soundtrack is not endorsed by CCMmagazine.com, and is not recommended for all Christian music fans.