Though David Koresh is best known as the leader of the Branch Davidians—the apocalyptic Christians who gained infamy during the 51-day government siege of their ranch outside of Waco, Texas—he didn’t just spread his message by speaking. No, prophesying, demanding work that it is, can’t be confined just to preaching and writing: sometimes you’ve gotta pick up a guitar and kick out some jams about the end of the world.
Dangerous Minds’ Bennett Kogon, looking back at the musical repertoire of Koresh’s Christian rock band, has done the good service of compiling a few of its greatest hits in one place for your listening pleasure. While most of the songs are about the sort of topics you’d expect—the important messages contained in the Book Of Daniel, waiting for the return of Christ—others venture into more specific territory. Consider standouts like (the actually kind-of decent pre-vaporwave of) “Mad Man in Waco,” which details Koresh’s battle for control of the Davidians in the lead-up to his succession as leader and prophet of the group from 1990 onwards. It’s a pretty stark reminder that even though most of the songs sound like generic Christian folk and soft rock, the bandleader is also a guy who gained control over a group of incredibly devout followers through corpse-raising contests and internecine gunfights.
Maybe most striking is the musical style itself. Koresh isn’t a half-bad guitarist and his voice, if you can forget for a moment who it’s coming from, is a little reminiscent of a sedate, Christ-obsessed Sting. The quality of the recordings might not be great and Koresh, like his contemporary, The Edge, leaned way too heavy on the reverb, but there’s a great deal of variety across the songs.
Even now, 25 years later, we continue to grapple with the Waco siege as one of the most contentious, tragic events in American history. Though its implications for issues of government oversight and freedom of religious expression will always encourage tense debate, we can now add another dimension to the eternal arguments: whether David Koresh’s music was better or worse in its dance or singer-songwriter phases.
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