Review: Metal Church “Masterpeace” [Nuclear Blast America]

Review: Metal Church “Masterpeace” [Nuclear Blast America]

- in Reviews
Score 75%
David Wayne’s brief return
75 %
User Rating : 4.1 (1 votes)

I’m not sure why, but I can’t help but think that Metal Church’s later period has been rather overlooked. A shame, really, as I’ve recently dived into the band’s later works and everything I’ve come across sounds fairly enjoyable. Masterpeace is definitely an interesting album for several reasons. First of all, it marks the return of David Wayne on vocals, but avoids the by-the-books styled writing of old and still has a few surprises in store. Second of all, the guitars sounds far busier and punchier here than they did on Hanging in the Balance, making this arguably the band’s heaviest album since Blessing in Disguise. Hell, even the artwork looks promising; an electric guitar that’s struck by lightning in the middle of what looks like a museum – one might wonder if this wouldn’t be a win-win situation…

Alright, I wouldn’t exactly call it like that, but Masterpeace is yet another interesting chapter of Metal Church and arguably the start of a new era of this band. The average song hits harder than anything the band released in the early 90’s and I suppose that a logical successor to Hanging in the Balance probably wouldn’t have worked out, given that David Wayne’s voice doesn’t hit like a ton of bricks anymore. Now I’ll admit: it took me a while to get used to him at this point. He still sounds somewhat recognizable; albeit he sounds more nasal than maniacal and while the result isn’t disastrous, anyone hoping to hear some glass-shattering screams will probably have to look elsewhere. That said, David Wayne mostly sings within his limits here. It also helps that Kurdt Vanderhoof and John Marshall support him with a fair amount of authentic, yet memorable riffs in their arsenal and the additional upgrade in thrash-like riffing is worth to mention, even if the results are fairly mixed. Still, as somewhat expected, there’s some slight experimentation found in terms of songwriting and besides the typical heavy/power/thrash-hybrid riffing that Metal Church are all about, I’d argue that Masterpeace certainly has some depth to it. “Into Dust” is a pounding, yet emotive track that allows David Wayne to sound more vulnerable, but only does so once the unexpected heavenly keys appear. “Kiss for the Dead” continues down this sentimental road and there’s something seriously haunting about this track. At first it seems simply structured; you’ve got the soft verses and “heavier” chorus, but I also love how there’s an unexpected banger of a riff shot halfway through. It reminds me of what Fates Warning did with “Guardian”, as the result is a similar balladic type of tune that doesn’t forget to rock the hell out either.

The remaining highlights consist of an ordinary reliable verse-chorus format… but of course this would only be problematic if Metal Church had forgotten about the art of effective songwriting in the first place. ”All Your Sorrows” sees the band operate in thrash mode and the result is the heaviest tune on the record that also builds up some tension, thanks to that a domino effect of forceful thrashing riffs. “Falldown” is by far the most fun tune on the record and offers no pretense or whatsoever. David Wayne sounds totally in his element here, as he wails over a few rapid, weighty riffs – as if the Mike Howe era prior never happened in the first place. Certainly, there’s nothing deep about that one-worded-chorus, but with one hooky riff after another, why would you nitpick about this tune? “Lb. of Cure” isn’t quite as heavy nor as fast as the aforementioned tunes, but it’s easily the catchiest offering on the album, mainly due to Wayne’s clearer and appealing vocal hooks. In addition, Kurdt Vanderhoof and John Marshall release yet some more wild, if sticky riffs and catchy leads that won’t leave your head anytime soon. Again, it might be somewhat superficial when compared to Mike Howe‘s social conscious era of this band, but if you’ve missed some positively cheesy, yet metallic tunes of this band, then Masterpeace should certainly be your thing.

Moving on, side B of Masterpeace isn’t quite as strong as side A is and the last three tracks seriously make me frown every time I listen to them. “They Signed in Blood” has more of an archaic and epic flavor to it: its evocative first half resembles riders traveling towards the unknown, only to fight their final battle before facing a violent death. All great and whatnot, but by the time things get heavier, you’d probably expect some riffs crashing down with fury – instead you end up with some flat chugging riffs that don’t do it for me, even if a decent climax thanks to the chants and victorious guitar leads that finish things off. The cover of “Toys in the Attic” is unsurprisingly out of place and generally I’m not a fan of covers to begin with, but that says more about my close minded mentality than anything else… I suppose? Album closer “Sand Kings” amusingly enough remind me of mid-90’s Septic Flesh due to the exotic cleaner guitar sections, even if there’s a serious lack of riffs screaming, shouting or pounding along. Instead, you end up with some generic power chords that drive the track forward… just without any power to it, I’m afraid. Not to mention David Wayne sounds a bit too silly for his own good here (and don’t get me wrong, I can tolerate cheese!). Maybe the track needed better verse riffs to compensate for its silly chorus, maybe this tune could have actually worked if Mike Howe sang it… or maybe it’s better if Kurdt Vanderhoof had never written this flop in the first place. Either way, it’s a bad note to end Masterpeace on, but then again this album doesn’t start out too well either; ”Sleep with Thunder” isn’t exactly the most promising opener, as it introduces some been-there-done-that thrashing rhythms that appear somewhat tasteless and bring to mind an aging band lacking youthful energy. Now excuse my rambling… what the hell was I even complaining about again?

But seriously though – in a period where plenty of bands had caught up with the trends, these guys rocked on like only a few other bands did. Regardless of my critique, Masterpeace is a respectable and authentic album that highlighted how a band could age gracefully, even if it’s not the masterpiece Metal Church claimed it to be.

Release date: July 22nd, 1999

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