Along with Mortal, The Prayer Chain was one of the first Christian alternative bands I listened to. A friend of mine let me borrow their Whirlpool EP back in 1992, and I listened to it quite a bit. As I recall, the EP was pretty successful thanks to catchy numbers like “Shine.” But the band’s debut full-length, 1993’s Shawl, was an entirely different beast.
Turbulent and angst-ridden, the album felt like the band’s attempt to deconstruct the more upbeat image put forth by their earlier music. (Or as one reviewer put it, “Shawl was a smack in the face on the CCM market, set squarely in the heart of the grunge market with an abandon and aggressive emotional release.”) The opening song, “Crawl,” even included the lyrics “Shine is dead” sung against chants, tribal rhythms, and searing riffs, as if a direct attack on their former image. Meanwhile, the rest of the album’s lyrics were searing explorations of doubt and faith struggles.
I first listened to Shawl in my friend’s car on a Sunday morning, in the church parking lot, natch. And for awhile, it was pretty much all we listened to while hanging out or driving around Omaha. I would eventually cool towards Shawl — I was getting more into industrial music at the time and I probably thought Shawl sounded too grunge-y, or some similarly dumb reason — but I gave it another spin several years back and found myself appreciating it in new ways, especially its more atmospheric songs (e.g., “Fifty-Eight,” “The Hollow”).
The album turned 25 last year, and to celebrate, The Prayer Chain reunited for a series of concerts (including some dates with The Choir and Dakoda Motor Co.). Their show at Anaheim’s House of Blues was posted on YouTube earlier this year, and let me tell you, it’s a wave of pure “Chrindie” nostalgia, especially when Mortal’s Jyro Xhan joins the band for “Crawl.” (And sharp-eyed viewers will also notice The Choir’s Steve Hindalong, who produced much of the band’s music, helping out with percussion.)
I never got to see The Prayer Chain live back in the day, but they’re in fine form here, from Tim Taber’s powerful voice and stage presence to Andy Prickett’s soaring, Verve-y guitar lines. And as an added bonus, the band even performs some material from their final studio album, 1995’s Mercury.
The Anaheim performance is also available as a live recording on Bandcamp, which I’ve embedded below: