Metal Church - XI

Metal Church XI
Metal Church
Rat Pak Records
After breaking up and reuniting again with their former singer, Ronny Munroe, Metal Church lost their singer but sort of managed to pull off, a bit of a rabbit from their hat, hauling Mike Howe back. Not too shabby a choice, if you ask me.
As a band Metal Church were almost constantly putting out, pretty good albums, but either didn’t have the right timing or were faced with various setbacks that kept them from growing bigger, despite being one of the “better” bands in America. Don’t get me wrong – they still have a sizable following and are well respected, with hardly a bad album, a combination that even some of the bigger bands in the scene can hardly match, except in a very few cases…
I was really curious and a bit worried to be honest about how well, Mike Howe would sound at this day and age, given that it’s been more than a couple of decades since he was fronting the band, but thankfully, despite sounding a little rougher, the attitude and a good deal of the ability is still there even as Mike pushes 50. The hair might be gone, but the voice is mostly there.
And the good thing is that “taking their time” has worked well enough for “The Church” that seem able to do a small throw back, without sounding completely anachronistic. Vanderhoof and Van Zandt offer a bevy of nice riffs and leads, firing at will, while Plate and Unger manage to lay down some nice grooves that thanks to the good production can be heard.
“Reset” bulges in with quite a nice riff that’s quite reminiscent of the band themselves and early Annihilator, I guess and is quite cool, only for Howe to dispel any fears for his vocal condition straight away with some kick ass verses that lead to an equally cool release on the chorus.
Giving no quarter, “Killing Your Time” bursts in, with a locomotive of a riff, even better, almost an insta-classic in the making!
“No Tomorrow” might have an acoustic intro, but that’s the only thing acoustic about it, as soon a barrage of drums and another riff from hell takes over. I wasn’t exactly blown away when the track was released as a single, as its melodic chorus, is a bit of a “slow burner” but it works perfectly in the context of the album. Excellent stuff…
And while the rather nice but monotonous intro of “Signal Path” has me a little worried, this seven plus minute track manages to creep under your skin quite successfully, without even trying. Cool. Despite its length and simplicity for the most part, I found myself having registered the song by the time its great solo was through. Sneaky, but cool!
“Sky Falls In” is another long winded track at some seven plus minutes as well and this back to back tracking, sort of leaves it as the loser, as it is the first track that fails to grab you immediately, despite some nifty efforts on the instrumental part of it.
“Needle and Suture” however restores the balance and while in opens with and maintains a rather aggressive rhythmical pattern; it manages to have the guitars and mike to waltz on top of it, quite nicely, delivering a very engaging number.
“Shadow” is a bit more “commercial” sounding and while it’s not back, especially once the verse that leads to its chorus begins, it’s a little hit and miss… Mike who almost ended up sounding like Bobby Blitz on one of the earlier numbers here seems to have a Warrel Dane slant towards the end of some of his phrases and that’s meant as a compliment here.
“Blow Your Mind” actually takes almost forever to “really” begin, trying to create some atmosphere, which is does eventually manage, sounding like a mix of too many things to mention… but I’m pretty sure it could have possibly turned out a little better and a little shorter maybe. It’s pre-chorus and chorus would have benefited from a bit of a “stronger” more spirited performance, but it’s not a bad song, all in all… in fact there aren’t any “fillers” on the album, just some not so great songs as others. All I’m trying to say is that “BYM”, didn’t “blow” my mind… oh well.
“Soul Eating Machine” is hungrier and more engaging, but I still feel it could have been a tad more aggressive… although that’s not a real complain, as it’s a pretty good number.
“It Waits” experiments with various moods, initially lethargic and dazed, almost sublime, with the chorus picking up some steam and raging things up, then a solo and then a combination of things towards the end. This is a song that could have been great but feels a little misguided…
“Suffer Fools” (well it goes – we don’t Suffer Fools, and you’re the fool! [hehe]) is quite a steamy one, with a nice rhythm and a riff that hooks you and doesn’t let go and it’s quite enjoyable, probably a bit more than closer “Fan the Fire”, which isn’t bad, but it’s one of them songs that you‘ll either love or hate and personally other than the chorus, I didn’t find it to have too much staying power, but that’s a minor qualm in an album that has a ton of good material on it.
Well, I’m not sure, if I can call this a classic, but it’s certainly an album that’s amazing and it maintains the line of really good releases for Metal Church after nose-diving momentarily around the turn of the millennium, thankfully picking up straight after it’s turn.