A Young Person’s Guide To The Violet Burning

I’ve come to release that a lot of my favorite bands from my college/high school years that were, sadly, confined to the CCM ghetto are quickly fading away. Many of my younger friends have no idea who these bands are or what they sound like, so I’m creating a series of posts to educate the young listener.

Who Are They?
The Violet Burning is a rock band that formed in Long Beach, California. The band has essentially become the primary project of Micheal Pritzl, the vocalist and guitarist of the band. Other members of the band have changed frequently, but Pritzl remains the sole constant in the band. Unlike many Christian bands, The Violet Burning draws influences from unlikely bands such as The Verve or The Cure as well as more common influences such as U2 and Smashing Pumpkins. The Violet Burning has remained essentially independent of the music industry, Christian or mainstream, releasing albums and touring on their own. Much like The Psalms, individual songs by the Violet Burning portray hope or despair, but taken as a whole, also much like Psalms, the body of work reflects the Christian who wears his heart on his sleeve.

Brief History
The Violet Burning emerged from the Vineyard Church music scene in 1989 and released their first album Chosen a year later. The band released Strength in 1992. Both albums are reflective of late 80’s/early 90’s music and are very upfront in their declaration of Christian faith. Afterwards the band went through a dark period professionally and personally. While some demos were recorded, the band was dormant until 1996 when Pritzl pulled in the assistance of guitarist Andrew Prickett (The Prayer Chain) and drummer/percussionist/producer Steve Hindalong (The Choir) and released an album originally titled Lipstick and Dynamite Wonder, but the label balked at the album title and released it as the self-titled The Violet Burning. The album dredged the depths of despair and hopelessness and might well be one of the saddest and bleakest Christian albums ever released.

The experience proved cathartic and in 1998, The Violet Burning reemerged with the more hopeful album Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic which incorporated more electronic drumming. In 2000, the band re-recorded several songs from their earlier albums with a slower tempo and more relaxed feel and released it as I Am A Stranger In This Place: Experiments in Vibe and quickly returned to the studio to release Faith and Devotions of A Satellite Heart a worship album that has enjoyed some popularity in worship circles, particularly in the Vineyard churches. Both albums feature female vocals by Melissa Barnett accompanying Pritzl’s vocals.

Pritzl then joined the independent album label Northern Records, headed up by former members of The Prayer Chain, for subsequent releases. In 2002, Pritzl took a break from the band to release a more electronica sounding solo project under the name The Gravity Show. Many of the songs from the album, Fabulous Like You have been folded back into The Violet Burning in their live shows. In 2003, Pritzl reunited with Andrew Prickett, longtime bass player Herb Grimmaud Jr., and Sam West (Stavesacre) to release This Is The Moment, an album of decidedly shorter pop songs. A year later, Pritzl released acoustic versions of many Violet Burning songs as a solo project titled Hollow Songs. The band released a live album in 2005 titled The Loudest Sound of My Heart and in 2006 released their most recent album Drop Dead

Where Are They Now?
Presumably, still alive and kicking. Of all the bands I’ve covered so far, The Violet Burning remains the most active, though they haven’t toured extensively since 2006. Micheal Pritzl joined 77’s singer/guitarist Michael Roe to tour as a duo titled “Roe vs. Pritzl” during 2007. The duo has recorded an album worth of songs together, but no release date has yet been given. Also, during 2007, The Violet Burning released many songs online through their website, including demos from various eras of the band and an entire Christmas album. The band has posted European tour dates on their website and Pritzl has mentioned he has other projects in line to work on, but no further information has been given to date.

If You Bought Only One Album….
Of all the bands I’ve covered, The Violet Burning has been the most consistent in quality and has really only improved as they’ve gotten older. Chosen and Strength are classics, but have a dated sound. The self-titled album is a little dense to for a first impression of the band. Both Faith and Devotions… and I Am A Stranger In This Place are good, but not very representative of the band, unless you are seeing them during one of their worship sessions. I think I’m going to have to go with their most recent album, Drop Dead which sounds incredible. You can read a short review of the album by me here on this site.

Get Thee to iTunes! Or Make Your Own Mix Tape for 10 bucks
Unfortunately, it appears only four of the Violet Burning’s albums are available on iTunes, so we’ll limit the mix tape to just those albums, but there are great songs from other albums that will be missing here.

1.) Silver – self-titled
2.) Goldmine – self-titled
3.) Moon Radio (including the fade, which is a separate track) – Demonstrates….
4.) Berlin Kitty – Demonstrates…
5.) Oceana – Demonstrates….
6.) Radio Jesus Superstar – This Is The Moment
7.) Heaven Holds My Heart – This Is The Moment
8.) Do You Love Me? – Drop Dead
9.) Already Gone – Drop Dead
10.) One Thousand Years – Drop Dead