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Inspired by the Beatles/Queen-influenced progressive metal and spiritual focus of King's X (with whom he attended church while living in Springfield, MO), guitarist/vocalist/cellist Frank Hart founded Atomic Opera in Houston in the early '90s. With a lineup also featuring rhythm guitarist Jonathan Marshal, bassist Jonas Velasco, and drummer Mark Poindexter, Atomic Opera signed to the Giant subsidiary Collision Arts and recorded their 1994 debut album For Madmen Only with producer Sam Taylor. Though Giant had backing from Warner Bros., Collision Arts soon went bankrupt, and Atomic Opera took to releasing records through their fan club and website; Alphas & Oranges (a collection of studio outtakes from 1990-1993) andPenguin Dust were distributed this way. By the time the latter had been issued in 1997, Hart was working with a completely different band: Kemper Crabb, who played mandolin and various other stringed instruments and was formerly in the Christian-oriented folk group Caedmon's Call, bassist and stick player Ryan Birsinger, and drummer John Simmons. With Crabb adding a distinctive folk influence to Atomic Opera's melodic prog-metal, the group caught the attention of Metal Blade, which signed them in 1999. Atomic Opera immediately began work on a new album, which was released in 2000 under the title Gospel Cola.