- Tom Denlinger – Vocals (founding member)
- Chuck Turner – Bass (founding member)
- Rod Feltman – Lead Guitar (founding member)
- Michael Anthony – Drums (founding member)
- Tim Swarthout – Lead Guitar (founding member)
- Kevin Bradley – Lead Guitar
- Jeff King – Keyboard
Pete Shoimos – Bass
Erik Ney – Bass
THE EARLY YEARS
In March of 1988, two young bands came together that would eventually form SARDONYX later that year. The years that followed affected many people’s lives and saw God’s Hand of mercy, grace, favor and powerful anointing flow through the band. Since that time God has given us a deep appreciation for how significant an event like that really was.
As all musicians know, forming a band is not an easy thing. For those of you who know Jesus Christ and realize that His plan for your life is known by Him even before you were formed in your mother’s womb, the beautiful journey of yielding to His plan and living in the abundance of joy and peace really gives you no other option. There really is no other way to find true freedom. And as a musician who lives in God’s perfect plan, we get to experience the amazing reality of making music together that is also preordained and filled with power.
So, when we started writing together, God started pouring out His Word through us. When Jesus Christ was on earth in the form of a man, He said different times that He only said what the Father told Him to say and only did what the Father told him to do. So, to us in SARDONYX, being like Jesus meant the same thing! To us, there was no other reason for being a band. We wrote music for two years together and travelled many miles for practice. We lived over 400 miles apart in those early years from Kirkwood, PA (Tom) to York, PA (Mike) to McAlisterville, PA (Rod) to Elmira, NY (Tim) to Watertown, NY (Chuck). Every Friday night for almost two years we would all travel to one of our homes, practice all day Saturday, go to church on Sunday and then drive home to get ready for another week of work. During that time we played to many friends and started developing a small following.
But in 1990, we played our official first show at East Juniata High School in mid-state Pennsylvania. That year we recorded our first 4 song EP called “Rebel of Reason” at the home studio of Dave Kurtz who was the bass player for the Christian thrash band, Thresher. Soon after that, one of our guitarists, Tim Swarthout, decided to resign from the band which made us the four piece metal band that most of our fans knew us by for the first 3 years of ministry. We did many personal appearances and guitar clinics in different places that allowed us to share the Gospel and encourage those in attendance in their relationship with Jesus Christ. We once played at Rainbow’s End Youth Center in Mount Joy, PA and that is where Tom Denlinger met Jeff Zimmerman. Tom and Jeff talked vision for many hours and slowly made plans to start LightShine Ministries as a follow up ministry to SARDONYX’s public ministry. In 1991, Jeff was instrumental in obtaining LightShine’s 501(c)(3) non-profit organization status with the IRS. This was a big victory for us as a ministry. Now we would be able to give tax deductions for contributions given to us.
We continued doing shows in small venues and began advertising in national magazines and learning how to promote ourselves as an independent band. We were counseled by multiple people that we should remain an unsigned band if we were to be so hardcore in our message. So many bands told us that we were doing more for ourselves than their labels were doing for them. So we decided to remain an unsigned, independent band even though many of our friends in were signed to REX Records. The guys in Sacrament became good friends and we played many shows together. We also played with different regional bands like Haven, Thresher, Overdrive as well as bands outside our area like Rez Band, Whitecross, Seraiah, The Brave, and Guardian.
Our ministry decided to publish our own fanzine called the “LightShine Metal Mag” and in it we would feature letters – both for and against what we were doing. We would answer these letters and it became a feature of our ministry that many people told us they would look forward to getting. The mag grew to be 16 pages long and was sent to over 8,000 people in 42 different countries.
LightShine also worked directly with radio station, 90.3 WJTL in Lancaster, PA and once a week they allowed us to air our own radio show called “Thunder Zone” which featured the latest in Christian metal accompanied with interviews, testimonies and Bible encouragement. Because of that show, SARDONYX became a regionally strong band and we developed a good following over the years. We had many, many good people come and work with our music ministry – too many to list here. You know who you are. Those times are still very precious times in our memories.
We continued to write more songs and do more shows. In 1992, SARDONYX was asked to play on the Fringe Stage at the Creation Festival. Simultaneously, we put the final touches on our new full length project called “Majestic Serenity” and it was delivered to us at the Creation Festival the day we played there. It was a day filled with anxiety because it had been promised before that and mistakes were made by the manufacturer. But we finally got it just in time and sold over $4,500 worth of product in one show. God really blessed us that year and were able to pay off our own project quickly because we were not signed to a label. We bought a lot of full page ads in national magazines and fanzines and promoted ourselves to radio stations across the nation that reported to the CCM metal charts coming out of Nashville. Looking back, we were very fortunate to have accomplished so much in the days before the Internet. Jeff King had helped Rod Feltman as a guitar tech for many shows and had also given us some keyboard pads, piano and written some narrative on our song “Corridor To Light” on our “Majestic Serenity” project. We eventually asked him to join us on stage in 1993 as well as our second guitarist, Kevin Bradley. We had desired to get a fuller sound – especially when the rhythm guitar would drop out during a lead solo. Kevin filled that spot well and also played some of the lead solos himself.
But times were slowly changing and things were starting to wear on us in different ways. In 1993, one of our founding members left the band and that soon caused a ripple effect that caused us all to realize that we were not the original unit that we believe brought God’s favor and anointing. The group chemistry that made us who we were was fading. It was like being on a sinking ship that was still quite seaworthy and carrying many people. All of us realized down deep that the band would not last long in its current condition. In 1994 we were asked to play the Creation Festival again and God used us to minister powerfully. But by August, we planned to play our last show with Guardian at Lancaster Youth For Christ. It was a hard time for us. But we knew that God was preparing all of us for a deep change in our lives.
After the band stopped doing live shows, there was a period of a couple years where music was not our focus. Metal music was changing in America and the whole “grunge scene” was taking over. It was a hard time. In April of 1995, just 8 months after SARDONYX’s last show, Tom & Ruth Denlinger and their young son, Alex served in Alaska for three weeks and God moved in Tom’s heart to start to develop an arm of LightShine’s ministry that would bring skilled labor there. Little did anyone know that this vision would grow into what it is today. You can see LightShine Alaska’s website at: www.lightshineministries.org
But Tom’s personal calling in music ministry continued to move deeply in his heart. Tom had a vision for writing a progressive rock theatrical production and after meeting some new friends in 1996, music started flowing from this new group of musicians that would later become “The Scream of the Guillotine” which was a full length rock opera of sorts with actors and soundtrack that followed a 32 page script. A donor gave $5,000 to complete the project and after years of work, it was released in 2001.
In 2004, Tom called the original guys of SARDONYX together to talk about writing another studio project. Guitarist, Rod Feltman, was not able to work on this project but our other original guitarist, Tim Swarthout, did all the guitar work. “Linear Progression” was our second 4 song EP and released in 2005. The CD had four different kinds of metal on it and quite frankly, it was kinda a “the old guys still got it” project with no real plans to play it out.
Little did anyone know at that time that a new day was approaching … 12 years later … in 2017, when a new full length project would come out called “Sons of the Kingdom”. We are putting the final touches on this new project and we are quite excited about it. Please pray for us as we complete this project. This new CD will have a strong message and musically be the best thing we have ever produced. Anticipate it. Pray for it. God is going to use this to encourage many people.