If you’ve never listened to Christian Rock, then you’re probably wondering who Petra is. Petra is to Christian Rock what RUN-DMC is to Rap. They didn’t invent the genre but rose to become one of the most groundbreaking and influential bands in Christian music. Without Petra, Christian rock may never have moved out of the Jesus music era.
I can’t remember ever not being a Petra fan. Actually, I do, but only barely. My older brother was listening to Petra while I was jamming out to Servant’s Rockin’ Revival. We argued over who rocked better, and, honestly, I still think I was right. But that was short-lived as Petra pretty much exploded after that and quickly became one of my all-time favorite bands.
I shifted my allegiance and never heard another Servant song after that. Judas’ Kiss was my new jam. From there, my love for Petra only grew, and I was a fan through the very end.
Before I get to my personal ranking of their studio catalog, let’s take a look at their albums in order of release.
Petra Albums by Release Date
Before Their Prime
I only listened to these three albums in retrospect. After I became a Petra fan, I went back and purchased all their earlier work. The best thing you could say about these three albums is that they are, uh, interesting. Petra hadn’t settled on a lead singer yet, so there is an inconsistency between these albums and those that follow. Some of the songs are outright “out there,” but at the same time, there is some good stuff. Basically, these albums are before Petra found themselves.
Come and Join Us (1977)
|Washes Whiter Than (1979)|
Enter Greg X. Volz
In 1981, Petra added permanent lead singer Greg X. Volz. He helped bring Petra to the next level. More Power to Ya is the defining album of Petra’s career, the one that really brought them to the forefront. That said, Never Say Die is definitely underappreciated. Both make my top-ten list.
|Never Say Die (1981)||More Power to Ya (1982)|
|Not of This World (1983)||Beat the System (1985)|
|Captured in Time and Space (1986)|
Phase 3 – John Schlitt and the Elephante’s
After Greg left the band, Petra brought in John Schlitt, who ushered in Petra’s next phase and really rocketed them into the Christian Rock stratosphere. Petra’s new, harder-rocking sound owed a lot to producers John and Dino Elephante, who added a nice aggressive, yet polished edge to Petra’s work. All but one of these albums are ones I can easily identify as “one of the best” Petra albums. The cover of This Means War! stands out as one of my all-time favorite album covers, as well.
|Back to the Street (1986)||This Means War! (1987)|
|On Fire! (1988)||Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out (1989)|
|Beyond Belief (1990)||Unseen Power (1991)|
|Wake Up Call (1993)|
Bob Hartman, Petra’s lead guitarist, and sole remaining founding member, “left” the band to spend time with his family. However, he didn’t really leave. He was still instrumental in songwriting and studio work. In fact, the new guitarist shown on the cover of No Doubt didn’t actually record on the album; Bob did.
This post-Bob era still started strong. Both No Doubt and Petra Praise 2 are solid albums. Petra pretty much fell off after that.
|No Doubt (1995)||Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus (1997)|
|God Fixation (1998)||Double Take (2000)|
Welcome Back Bob (Sorta)
After a string of several not-so-great Petra albums, Bob Harman returns for what is one of the best Petra albums ever recorded. And then the band calls it quits. My gut feeling here is that Petra had sunk so far that the road back to popularity was too far to travel. If they could’ve made several more great albums like Jekyll and Hyde, maybe they could have pulled it off, but their recent track record was anything but. At least they went out on a high note (if you don’t count Farewell, a final live album.)
|Jekyll and Hyde (2003)||Farewell (2005)|
Since Petra stepped off the stage, there have been a few instances of band members stepping back on using the Petra name. Bob and John released a worship album, clearly capitalizing on the name of their old band. A few years later, some early band members got together to record an update of some classic Petra tunes. And then did it again under a different name!
|II Guys From Petra – Vertical Expressions (2007)||Classic Petra – Back to the Rock (2011)|
|CPR – Back to the Rock II|
Petra Albums Ranked Best to Worst
I will leave the post-Petra incarnations out of my ranking list because those really are not Petra. Just guys from the band. Though I had no idea Back to the Rock II existed until just now, so I’m going to have to give that a listen.
But for Petra fans everywhere, here is my rankings of all their original albums from best to least.
- This Means War – From the opening drums on This Means War to the triumphant exit of All the King’s Horses, this album hits on all cylinders. I don’t think there is a single song on this album I don’t like.
- On Fire – A very close second to This Means War, I actually had trouble deciding which took the top spot. This album flat-out rocks.
- More Power to Ya – My favorite early Petra album with several classic, hard-rocking, and mesmerizing songs.
- Jekyll and Hyde – Petra’s last studio album. They went out with an aggressive, hard rock bang. If they had been producing albums like this during their last 10 years, they could have gone another 10.
- Never Say Die – This album rates so high by virtue of having some of my favorite classic Petra tunes: Angel of Light, Killing my Old Man, The Coloring Song. I was disappointed when none of these ended up on the double-take album.
- No Doubt – This was a transition album for Petra, with band members coming and going before and after, but they made the most of it. A great rocking album.
- Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus – As much as I like the first Petra Praise, I tend to like this one better. It’s more of a worship album, really, and with its richer fullness of sound, I prefer it over the other.
- Wake Up Call – This album hit just as I was starting college after seemingly like forever. That’s probably because they released an album a year for several straight years, while this one took two years to be released. But great rock and roll.
- Beyond Belief – This was a great album but one I grew tired of fairly quickly. I think it felt a bit overly-produced. That’s not to say I don’t still like it; it just wore faster than the others.
- Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out – This is a true praise album and a whole lotta fun. This album marked the first time a Christian rock band released a praise record. Petra opened the floodgates.
- Unseen Power – Another true rock album that I still enjoy.
- Back to the Street – This is when I really started grooving into Petra and remember seeing them in concert. As much as I liked the album and John Schlitt’s contributions to the band, this album wore out fast.
- Beat the System – Less a rock album than an electro-pop record. Solid entry, but it took Petra in the wrong direction.
- Not of This World – Just after Petra seemed to find their groove with More Power to Ya, this album was a step backward. Not bad by any means; it just didn’t live up to the previous two.
- Revival – This album played as a Petra Praise album without the title. In fact, I’m not sure they even knew how to market it. This was supposed to be a comeback album, but it failed to do so. Overall, I think this album was mistimed and mistitled.
- God Fixation – Easily one of my least favorite original work albums. I think they were trying to hit some current rock trends, which brought them far, far away from their hard-rocking roots.
- Double Take – This is an album of Petra cover tunes. I always look forward to albums like this but always walk away disappointed. I wanted something more aggressive. Never Say Dinosaur did it better.
- Captured in Time and Space – This is the live album released after Beat the System. I enjoyed it for what it was, but it never sits above original albums.
- Farewell – Honestly, this album failed to make an impression.
- Washes Whiter Than, Come and Join Us, Petra – These were Petra’s first three albums, and it certainly shows. They were still finding their groove. And while I enjoy them for nostalgia purposes, I don’t consider them to be “good” albums by any measure. At least not in comparison to their work after.
It’s always hard to see great bands die a slow death. Bon Jovi seems to be working overtime to earn their way into irrelevance. While we never want to see bands break up too early, it’s almost always better to go out strong than to peter out slowly. Petra was doing just that, but at least Petra redeemed themselves in the end. For that, I am grateful. They are a band that truly deserves respect.