Classic review: Metal Church “Blessing in Disguise” [Elektra Records]

Classic review: Metal Church “Blessing in Disguise” [Elektra Records]

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Score 91%
Summary
91 %
Expanding their vision
User Rating : 4 (1 votes)

While the first two Metal Church albums were solid slabs of American heavy/power metal, Blessing in Disguise would define the next chapter of this band; one that would be fronted by Mike Howe, who’d replace original vocalist David Wayne. By this time the band would expand their vision and a quick look at the track list should reveal enough. With three longer tracks in a row this record certainly promised something new and exciting.

It’s understandable that Blessing in Disguise gets referred as the next chapter of Metal Church as several expanded tracks tell tales that the earlier songs of this band did not due to their shorter length and often straightforward nature. ‘’Rest in Pieces’’ has to be the best metal track about the titanic that I can think of (it’s actually the only one I’m aware of, but I’m sure it’ll never be topped). Adventurous, yet full tension it reaches its dramatic peak halfway through where Howe’s frantic vocals snarl around the rapid riffing. ‘’Anthem to the Estranged’’ feels utterly bleak and while I could see many bands failing to deliver such a powerful message, Metal Church have no problem pulling this off. Howe’s ability to show his tender side works ideal here, yet it doesn’t take long before his snarly wails get presented around the dramatic guitar motives. Just one track later ‘’Badlands’’ shows the band’s emotional versatility through its spirit-lifting refrains and since it’s very much a captivating track, it’s no wonder that it’s still part of the band’s set list.

Whereas Metal Church would continue to try out new tricks on The Human Factor and Hanging in the Balance, it’s Blessing in Disguise that really sumps up the greatness of this era. Still, it’s probably not unrealistic to call this a transitional record either. Despite some more unusual numbers present, tracks like ‘’Of Unsound Mind’’, ‘’Fake Healer’’ and ‘’The Spell Can’t Be Broken’’ still rely on that typical Metal Church-esque riffing that defined the David Wayne-era material; basically the kind that wasn’t quite thrash-y, but still sounded forceful. The latter is a spiked-riff rollercoaster that might as well be the heaviest song of the Mike Howe era and it doesn’t slow down until brief acoustic motif pops up, yet by the time that suspenseful guitar chug intervenes you should be able to tell that this journey is far from over. Not bad with a song title like that – I bet having it named ‘’Method to your Merciless Onslaught in the Blood’’ would have given too much away. Good job, boys!

Blessing in Disguise also benefits from an ideal pacing. Reaching its peak in the middle with the three longest tracks following-up is a risky move, but it certainly pays off. In between there’s plenty of ripping and stomping numbers that surround these semi-epics and with variation enough, this fifty four minutes long record never gets bland or tiring. Of course the finishing touch of this album comes down to Mike Howe; he’s not quite the vicious shriek-out-your-lungs maniac that his predecessor was, yet he relies on as much range as he does on his imagination – definitely one of the best metal singers out there.

While opinions on the band’s best album rather vary, my pick just comes down to Blessing in Disguise. It’s more expanded than the first two Metal Church records, yet still gets my adrenaline pumped up a lot unlike the two albums that followed. It’s just an ideal mix; Metal Church never had a finer moment in my book.

Release date: February 7th, 1989

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