Review: Metal Church “XI” (by Ivona Bogner)

Review: Metal Church “XI” (by Ivona Bogner)

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Metal Church - XI - Artwork


I can clearly remember the times when I was discovering metal. Back in 1990 when sweet and glam metal bands were mainstream, when I lived in war zone, when I was bying bootleg audio cassettes… Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Europe… That was not enough for me, I wanted more. Digging in dirty boxes on the streets, I discovered whole new world and among tons of metal bands I have found Metal Church. I do not have to mention that I had no booklet, I even did not have artwork, I had no idea which subgenre it is. But it doesn’t metter, cause the sound bought me and that was the most important. Years later, when my friends and family from abroad, who were not frightened by artworks, started sending me CD’s, the whole new world was opened.

San Francisco has always been known as thrash metal mecca. It produced legendary Metallica, Exodus, Testament etc. Metal Church has a bit different sound, maybe because they moved to Aberdeen, Washington. Kurdt Vanderhoof in “The Return  Of Mike Howe” (RatPak Records) said: “We are Metal Church and we are in our hometown Aberdeen, Washington”, so… Sound might be characterized as fusion of old school heavy metal, power metal, speed and thrash metal. Their long lasting career brings 11 studio albums. The last one is symbolicly named “XI”. Album marks the return of Mike Howe, legendary singer with unique voice: agressive and melodic at the same time.

During their carrer, band changed several line-ups. During the Howe’s era (1988-1994), the sound of Metal Church became havier, and lyrics became deeper, political and social engaged. He spent in Metal Church 6 years, and after 3 albums it was announced that he is leaving the band.

After a couple of decades, Mike Howe rejoined the band. Before I heard the first single “No Tomorrow” I was wondering does he still have that voice, can he sing after over than 20 years and how will that sound? And if you haven’t heard album by now, I can tell you he sounds like he was frozen in time and even better.

Opening track “Reset” might bring you to the wrong conclusion. Lyrics has nothing with Howe’s return, but the chorus still gives you the impression it really speaks of his come back:

“Feeling good, feeling strong
Didn’t think I’d last this long
Reaching deep, my soul to keep
Praying every night for sleep
Turn the page in my old age
Now I’m at the final stage again
Now I hit the button to reset”

‘Killing Your Time’ has killing chorus, typical old school.

“Killing your time, you’ve just been killing your time
Killing your time. You’re all just killing your time

“No Tomorrow”-love at first sight! I just love when the song after the first listening implants into my brain and it wont come out. Any time I hear the song, and it happens at least once in a day, it brings me abnormal energy. Video which follows the song was filmed at very unique location: Satsop Nuclear Power Plant, actually in cooling towers. “Signal Path” and “Sky Falls In” are mid tempo songs but still memorable. “Needle And Suture” brings you back to faster tempo, mind blowing vocals which brings me nostalgic feelings. “Shadow” is sung the way if you are following the lyrics structure, and if you have vivid imagination, you can chill to the bone. “Blow Your Mind”-do not judge the book by its cover. It is a good song, but not mind blowing in the sense you expect agression, fast and fury melody. But it still blows your mind as the whole album in every other sense.

“Soul Eating Machine” shows us capability to reconcile extremly fast and at the other hand real slow rhythm. Listening to this song, you have a feeling: two worlds colide.

“It Waits” is little bit slower than any other song at the album, but at least it brings variety. If you thought this is the end, band has no ideas, just wait. “Suffer Fools” closes the album, I would say, more than sucessfully.

This album has no bad songs, some are maybe more memorable that the others, but it depends on your taste. Album is marked with Mike Howe’s spectacular come back, his irresistible singing style which sounds like Blackie Lawless, Udo Dirksneider and Rob Halford united. Of course, I wont forget Kurdt Vanderhoof, Jeff Plate, Steve Unger and Rick Van Zandt.

The only church I like is Metal Church. Hats down!

(c) Ivona Bogner

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