There are four reasons why bands call it quits:
1) They run out of steam.
2) They run out of money.
3) They run out of patience with each other.
4) They suck.
However, the Christian music market has some unique issues. The music industry at large looks away from Christian bands because of content, and frankly, for lack of real musical talent or innovation. It’s no secret that many Christian acts piggyback genres (usually way too late) and come across as unauthentic or awkward.
However, some bands manage to pioneer or stand out in their particular genres, regardless of their spiritual perspective. But because of an already fickle music market and lack of real momentum in the Christian music realm, some bands simply don’t get the attention they deserve, or other factors keep them from keeping on.
Of course, there are also some Christian bands that DO “make it”, yet it seems they fold at the top of their game, a la Barry Sanders. Perhaps we can call this smart, but often they leave their audiences longing for more.
As usual, I have to set some parameters. I’ve ranked these artists based on three categories:
Brevity: how long did the band last? Bands with shorter life spans typically leave us hanging with our taste buds still screaming for more.
Talent: Let’s face it, many Christian artists are sub-par in comparison to the market at large, but some of these guys really did deserve a shot.
Popularity: Record sales and downloads count for a lot. It’s most heartbreaking when the most popular bands fizzle out.
Also, bands are often times “active” before they’re relevant, so I’m marking their beginnings with their first full-length releases rather than when they first assembled, annotating for any EPs released beforehand.
With that said, finally, here are the top ten Christian bands (or artists) that should have been:
Years active: 2000 – 2005
Signature album: Twoseventeen (2000)
Rarely do Christian bands saddle alongside hot trends in the market, but PAX217 managed to have the right sound at the right time. Resembling the likes of 311 and Sublime, PAX217 garnered fair attention in the early part of the 2000s, but everyone wanted to buy P.O.D. albums instead. I was lucky enough to see these guys play live, and they were certainly dynamic and different. They quietly disbanded after releasing a second album and an EP.
9) This Beautiful Republic
Years active: 2007 – 2011
Signature album: Perceptions (2008)
Aggression and sincerity marked this alternative rock band’s sound. While not wholly innovative, This Beautiful Republic avoided lyrical cliches and provided their fan base with honest, quality rock ‘n roll. They never quite rose to prominence, likely squelched by the likes of top-tier bands like Hawk Nelson and Disciple.
8) The Send
Years active: 2007-2008 (on “hiatus”)
Signature album: Cosmos (2007)
The Send looked good on paper — the brain child of former Falling Up guitarist Joseph Kisselburgh featured unique elements, material that likely never caught on because of its plaintive attributes and intentionally underwhelming vocal delivery. Processed to a state of ambient music rather than brandishing its composition and lyrical depth, the band’s first album failed to garner real attention. Strangely, we haven’t heard from them since.
Years active: 2006 – present(?)
Signature album: There Came A Lion (2008)
Ivoryline polished up their sound for their 2008 release with incredible results. Jeremy Gray is likely the best vocalist on this list, and the band’s guitar work and layering warrants great respect. Unfortunately, you likely haven’t heard them on major Christian radio stations, and you probably never will. While no official announcement has been made, Ivoryline’s days are numbered.
Years active: 2005 – 2009
Signature album: On a Search In America (2005)
By the time their first full-length release came out, Underoath and Emery were already on the map (along with their mainstream contemporaries popping up everywhere), making the road difficult for this post-hardcore band. They toured hard and played even harder, yet Dizmas never quite worked their way into relevance.
Years active: 2009-2012
Signature album: Attention (2009)
In addition to their only full-length release, Philmont managed to scrape together four EPs, but this was certainly the earmark for this pop-punk/alt-rock act who, despite brandishing undeniable talent, couldn’t get airplay or record sales going. Dropped from ForeFront records after one album, Philmont couldn’t sustain a touring schedule and called it quits last year. The lead vocalist and bass player have since formed LNYX, an electro-pop rock act still looking for some momentum.
4) David Crowder Band
I managed to see these guys in a small venue (ironically called the “Big Room” at my church) back in 2001, and it was becoming clear already that the David Crowder Band would be special. Their unorthodox style of worship music resonated with an audience clamoring for something besides Chris Tomlin and Michael W. Smith’s reflective straight-forward style, and it caught on, making this group of Texans popular for a long time. Everything seemed fine on the outside, but the front man decided to start his own thing. Both him and the remainder of the band still have a lot of steam; they’ve continued to produce music as separate entities.
It was becoming clear that Underoath had something going in the mid-2000s; with contrasting screams and soaring vocals alongside scorching guitars, they found respect among bands most Christian artists would’ve felt they had to wear protective masks around. It’s possible that they don’t belong on this list after Aaron Gillespie‘s departure (who now heads up The Almost), but the immense disappointment among fans after announcing their final tour warrants the possibility that there was still some fuel in the tank.
2) Trip Lee
Years active: 2006 – 2012
Signature album: Between Two Worlds (2010)
Although not entirely out of the game, Trip Lee‘s absence from the music industry is a heart-wrenching circumstance. In a realm typically shunning rap music or producing horrible copycats of the mainstream, Christian music needs more Trip Lees — or maybe just one. The success of his 2010 release proved that he certainly has what it takes to compete, and hip-hop and rap appreciators can play his stuff without sweating over the possibility of tacky verses or awkward sampling presenting themselves. Lecrae is still doing his thing, but please, come back, Trip Lee. Christian music needs you, sir.
1) DC Talk
How good was DC Talk? Besides breaking countless Christian music record sales and pioneering pretty much everything that artists after them have found success emulating, all three members of dc Talk have, in time, become the front men of the three most successful Christian acts going right now: tobyMac, Newsboys, and now Audio Adrenaline. This powerhouse trio clearly had more to offer, but they decidedly went on hiatus, likely permanently, in 2000. It would’ve been nice to see them continue, but perhaps it was just too much talent for one group. It’s possible they might have literally exploded.
*UPDATE* Kevin Max, formerly of dc talk, decided to do a hokey pokey with Audio Adrenaline. Once he made an album, which sold incredibly well, he took off to attempt at another solo career (which didn’t work the first time). Way to go, buddy. Maybe that’s what’s killing your chances at a reunion.
Are there other Christian groups that were simply gone too soon? Post your comments below!