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On disc: Metal Church



- Hanging In The Balance - Claudia Ehrhardt - 9 stars
- Masterpeace - Claudia Ehrhardt - 7 stars
- A Light In The Dark - Claudia Ehrhardt - 8 stars
- This Present Wasteland - Claudia Ehrhardt - 8 stars


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This Present Wasteland

This Present Wasteland
(Steamhammer - 2008)


The band from Jet City started back in the early 80's and their debut album was released in 1984, since that days they been to changes, but the comeback of guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof was also a comeback for the band. With singer Ronny Munroe they are now presenting their 3rd album - This Present Wasteland. The Seatteites have a new guitarist, Jay Reynolds is out and Ricky Van Zandt is in.
The cover is showing a dark wasteland. And the band kicks off with a heavy, riff-based tune called The Company Of Sorrow. A bit in the tradition of Megadeth and older Metallica - a thrashy power metal track. As usual they have a mid-paced part in the middle of the track to add some variety and to keep it more interesting. It also give the band more space to create a certain atmosphere, in this case a slightly dark and threatening atmosphere, but during the refrain they sound more positive... A spark of hope... With The Perfect Crime they offer right from the start a catchy hookline, but the song is quite heavy, a bit Black Sabbath-ish... partly. A melancholy touch has the mid-paced Deeds Of A Dead Soul. In my opinion the mid-tempo tunes give Ronny Munroe more space for his vocals and to create good hooks. But the guitar work of the new team Vanderhoof / Van Zandt is brilliant - precise riffing and cool solo parts. Time to speed up! Meet Your Maker is a faster one which partly reminds me of some stuff from the days with Mike Howe... Again they slow down in the mid-part for a guitar solo and it seems they add some acoustics to the still powerful passage. Perhaps not one of the typical tunes, even as it has some trademarks of the Metal Church sound, but definitely one of my favorites. Another cool tune is A War Never Won which has typical elements of the Seattleites' sound plus a few new influences. Probably you find this a decent song, but give it a few more spins! This is a grower! It slowly sneaks into your brain - and then will stay! Easier to get in is the up-tempo Mass Hysterie. And with Breathe Again they offer a power metal hymn, perhaps not the classic metal anthem, but this song has the certain something. And the slower passage is very intense and at some point Munroe's phrasing reminds me of Geoff Tate! Okay, only for a brief moment. Also the guitar work sticks out.
The album needs a few spins to develop, even if there are parts which get you with the first spin. They stick to their guns, but also add new elements. Check out: The Company Of Sorrow, Deeds Of A Dead Soul, Meet Your Maker, Mass Hysterie and Congregation.


8 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 

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A Light In The Dark

A Light In The Dark
(Steamhammer - 2006)


A new album from Metal Church is in the stores now. A Light In The Dark is the second album with former Rottweiler singer Ronny Munroe. Sometimes a new line-up needs time to grow together, so I hope that fans will give it a try, if they were unsatisfied with their last album Weight Of The World. I should mention that drummer Kirk Arrington left after the tour in 2005 and is replaced by Savatage / Chris Caffery / TSO drummer Jeff Plate.
The title track is a powerful up-tempo song where Munroe's vocals remind me a bit of former Metal Church singer Mike Howe - I already recognized this at some parts when I saw them playing live. The song starts with heavy riffing and it takes almost a minute until the vocals join in. Breaks and the change between riffing and heavy melodic guitar lines make this one interesting. The different drum style of Jeff Plate make a difference, too. Short guitar solos complete this one. Less powerful and a bit more traditional is Beyond All Reasons, even if the vocals are partly aggressive and mean. The chorus is more NWoBHM-like. The fast Mirror Of Lies some might know from some magazine compilations. Straight ahead this one starts with staccato riffing, hammering drums and pounding bass, at some parts they slow down a bit and its more mid-tempo then. A bit thrashy, but the catchy refrain takes off the edge a bit. Totally different is Disappear - a heavy mid-tempo rocker with groove and catchiness. The guitar line is a bit back-dated, but fits to the songs atmosphere. So this is no complain, I like the song. Other songs have this NWoBHM-feeling, too and I guess that fans of traditional music will love this album. The balladesque The Believer gives the listener a little break. With Temples Of The Sea they slow down a little more - at least in the begining where acoustic guitars lead into this one -, but then double riffing bring some heaviness. Not a fast one, more mid-tempo and seems to be inspired by some early 80's band - mastermind Kurdt Vanderhoof is a huge fan of 80's metal and NWoBHM bands. The arrangement and breaks are modern, almost progressive and so this is like a modern version of bands like Thin Lizzy and early Saxon. Time to speed up again! Pill For The Kill is guitar-driven, but comes alive through the forcing drum beat. A song which could have been off The Dark...
As a bonus track you find a new version of Watch The Children Pray, a song every Metal Church fans knows. Always this kind of renewed version raises discussions about the sense of re-recording. So one should make up one's mind, but I think this is a timely version, even if live its more intense and more heavy.
It seems that this time the songs fit more to Munroe's style and so it sounds more natural. It also give him the chance to present his own personality more and to step out of the shadow of former Metal Church singers. To check out this album I advise you to listen to Mirror Of Lies, Disappear, Temples Of The Sea and More Than Your Master.


8 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 

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Masterpeace

Masterpeace
(Steamhammer - 1999)


When the first rumors were floating around that Metal Church are back with original singer David Wayne and guitarist Kurt Vanderhoof the metal fans had high hopes. The album Masterpeace has now to proof that they can still rock the house. The quintet starts with a mid-tempo rocker called Sleeps With Thunder. Actually I would have chose the track Falldown to open up, a track which is a little faster which has complex parts and interesting breaks. But they not just offer mid-tempo tracks, they have fast tracks like Into Dust. With Kiss For The Dead is an instrumental only with acoustic guitars. Followed by a power ballad Lb. For Cure, but why the break between the tracks?!? Not bad, but just average...
The mid-tempo and faster songs fit better to Metal Church. The song Toys In The Attic seems to be the one of Aerosmith, but I think the lyrics are different... Sorry, I have no details about this one. One of my favorite ones is All Your Sorrows or They Signed In Blood and if they would have more songs of that caliber, then this could have been their latest masterpiece... Another milestone in their career...
The album is a decent piece of music, but no Masterpeace! With your permission I have to confess that I always preferred Mike Howe, even if most fans won't agree. Anyway, when the quintet will tour Europe this fall, I'll go to see them live and perhaps the material live will convince me... Check it out and make up your mind!


7 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 

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Hanging In The Balance

Hanging In The Balance
(Blackheart Records - 1993)


In the 80's the US power metal heads of Metal Church make themselves known in the metal scene and even when Kurdt Vanderhoof left the band to stay in the background and support the band they continued their way. In the late 80's original singer David Wayne left and been replaced by Mike Howe. In 1991 we heard the last time from the Seattle-based quintet when they released The Human Factor.
Now they are back with Hanging In The Balance! Most tracks are written by singer Mike Howe and former guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, but they got a helping hand from Paul O'Neill who co-wrote some tracks and also was involved in the arrangements and coordination as well as in the production. Many will known Mr. O'Neill for his work with Savatage. But in combination with Kurdt Vanderhoof and the band he created a rough metal album, even if the sound isn't rough, which Savatage didn't at least. Both bands kinda have the same past, but go different ways nowadays. But not the whole production is done by him, other songs been produced by Thom Panunzio and Kenny Laguna or together with them.
The up-tempo track Losers In The Game is heavy and catchy at the same time. A song which you won't forget easily. On Gods Of A Second Chance John Marshall got joined for the solo by Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains. But the guys don't need big names!
Metal Church offer everything from fast tracks, mid-tempo ones and more balladesque tunes. On tracks like No Friend Of Mine you can hear the aggression in Mike Howe's voice which fits to the screaming guitars and the sound basis of hammering drums and pounding bass, but breaks lead into slower, laid-back parts where Mr. Howe is singing softly just to scream at the next moment. But with Waiting For A Savior they show a different side. The songs starts with acoustic guitars and almost whispering words, but then after more then 90 seconds it becomes heavy and powerful with an aggressive touch. Just great!
A really fast one follows, it's called Conductor. That must have been a challenge for Mike Howe to sing in the beginning, but now it sounds easy. It should be mentioned that the solo on this songs is played by Randy Hansen!
Little Boy starts with a bass beat which reminds me of a heart beat, a track with a pretty interesting story about a little boy, a child and at the same time a name for a weapon of the US Army which are connected in this song. It's more or less about the bomb dropping in Hiroshima, but fictional at the same time. The song Down To The River sounds like it's from Judas Priest, a party song and a reminiscence to their influences! Also an instrumental written by John Marshall made it onto the album.
My résumé is that this album should be in every CD collection of a power metal fan! A must!


9 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 

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           2008-2010 by Claudia Ehrhardt • E-Mail: contact@ice-vajal.com


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