It was summer, 1990. It was an era when I expectantly waited for a band’s new album to finally hit the shelves with a few butterflies in my stomach. I must confess, when it finally arrived, I might have had a few heart palpitations too when my eyes saw it there and my hands actually snatched a copy from the shelf and held the weighted plastic wrapped in cellophane like a treasure. I came alive even more so when my ears heard those magnificent sounds.
Okay, I’m a nerd.
Just like movies, the blockbusters always came in the summer, and Petra’s Beyond Belief was certainly the summer blockbuster album that year.
From the drum intro of “Armed and Dangerous” to the soaring vocal harmonies of “I Am On the Rock” and the soft, majestical keyboard intro of “Creed,” this album had all the right elements to grab hold of your attention and keep it, while giving you an adrenaline rush at the same time.
The lyrics are typical Bob Hartman, Bible-study-style which, for a teenager, was just what we needed to help us draw closer in our relationship with God. It was our way of taking with us a pocket-version of a Bible study or something to the effect. We learned a lot from these songs and other songwriters of the era who had the gift of writing a complete Bible study in just two verses, a chorus and a bridge (and a searing guitar solo). And a typical album had ten of those to boot. And yes, believe it or not, it added to the whole experience, those gold nuggets of truth and wisdom and God’s love and Holy Spirit that seemed to resonate from the pen of Bob Hartman to the recorded tongue of John Schlitt (or any other artist), and touched your soul.
I would be remiss to not include in the ‘summer blockbuster’ analogy, the actual Beyond Belief movie, which didn’t garner a theatrical release but was widely popular in VHS format. The idea of making a movie revolving around a particular album was a good idea that unfortunately should have taken off with other artists, but didn’t. Petra’s concept videos were interwoven within the movie, as a musical would interweave songs within the play to interact with the storyline. Today, the movie can be seen on Youtube.
This was Petra’s peak album, which garnered an overall good couple of years for the band, who came away with multiple #1 songs, the #1 album of the year (their biggest selling album ever) and multiple Dove awards, plus their first Grammy, and blew away CCM Magazine’s reader’s poll the following year.
For anyone wanting to start a hard rock/arena rock Christian album collection, or for someone who already has that collection and wants to make an all-time best-of list, this album would definitely have to be among the top choices on that list.