Metal Church - Damned If You Do

Metal Church Damned If You Do cover
Metal Church
Damned If You Do
Rat Pak Records / Nuclear Blast Records
Metal Church since getting Mike Howe back and despite some slight setbacks, ie losing their previous drummer only to have former WASP-man Stet Howland stepping in, have managed a neat hat trick with their latest release “Damned If You Do” following up on the heels of the pretty cool “XI” with aplomb. Whereas Overkill of recent has disappointed, by sounding “by the numbers” in their last couple of offerings, (no pun – there’s a song by that name on this album) and trying to project fake machismo in the videoclips, the revenant reverends of heavy thrash, keep their no nonsense approach and offer another darkly melodic, but ultimately very much on point album, that’s sure to please the many who pray to their altar.
Kurdt Vanderhoof’s riffs are tasty and his interplay with Rick Van Zant makes for some pretty interesting passages. Unger and Howland make for a tight and energetic rhythm section and Howe pretty idiosyncratic shrieking on top of all of them, sounds as endearing as it was back in the day, even if the band nowadays sounds a bit more refined, given the accumulated experience that the years that have passed have bestowed upon them.
“Damned If You Do” sounds like it could have easily been conceived during the previous albums cycle stylistically, but it’s daring exchange between melodic and groovy aggressive parts and its irresistible hook/chorus makes for a real hands down “winner”.
“The Black Things” sounds like a more melodic and potent mix between Overkill and later day more melodic Megadeth, but feels superior to both, with an odd bridge/chorus. Its persistent melodic riff really sticks to your mind…
“By the Numbers” is anything but, with its cool chorus and really everything about it… ie it’s simple but to the point solo. It’s comedic video, is also a nice touch, showing a band that takes themselves seriously enough, but not “pretending”.
“Revolution Underway” is fine, but has a definite sense of deja-vu about it, which I guess might put of some people slightly, but fits well in the flow of the album, on its own merits.
“Guillotine” doesn’t waste any time and its urgent riff and rhythm provide no frills, just thrills. I mean with a title like that, what were you expecting? A ballad?!
“Rot Away” sort of feels like Church-allica, with nice riffs of the “Justice” era, aesthetics and nervous yet melodic and biting guitar riffs that don’t let go.
“Into the Fold” lets things simmer down a bit and allows Vanderhoof to do his thing. It doesn’t stand out in either a good or bad way, mostly let down by a mediocre chorus, than anything else.
“Monkey Finger” is possibly the weakest song, with some more melodic guitars that aren’t as sharp and an overall lackluster, uneventful chorus. Again it doesn’t feel like a cardinal sin, but it’s the second song in the row that barely keeps the listener engaged.
Thankfully despite being quite on the melodic side, the quirky “Out of Balance” upsets things, enough to keep the listener paying attention. It also has some of the most melodic soloing on the entire album, which is also well thought and as such – leaves no place for disgrace or complaints!
“The War Electric”, that closes the album, is consistent in quirkiness, but probably goes a little sideways otherwise, more form over substance, but at least, it has enough going on for it to allow the album to reach a satisfying conclusion.
Easily the best album of the Howe reunion, with some really standout songs, and with a couple of weak ones towards the latter part. Still, highly recommended to every fan, but also to pretty much everybody in a year that seemingly was more barren in terms of “good” and “inspired” albums, among the plethora of below average releases that seek our attention. Metal Church deserves, at least, not only our attention, but our admiration and respect as well.