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Metal Church: XI
Hard to believe it's now been 32 years since the metal juggernaut known as Metal Church first blasted onto the scene with their glorious self-titled album way back in 1984. Through many other release, line-up changes, deaths, and what have you, the band are still soldiering on to this day, led as always by the riff master and chief songwriter Kurdt Vanderhoof, and now featuring the return of mercurial lead vocalist Mike Howe for the first time since 1994. Also rounding out the line-up are lead guitarist Rick Van Zandt, bassist Steve Unger, and drummer Jeff Plate (TSO, Savatage). The presence of Howe here is going to be a revelation for many, as he's long been considered one of the strongest singers to ever front the Church, appearing on what is considered their classic album, 1989's Blessing in Disguise.
The frontman's snarling, powerful delivery works wonders on crushing classic metal/thrash tracks like "Signal Path", "No Tomorrow", and especially the barnburner "Killing Your Time", the latter containing some of the most venomous riffs on the entire album. The more atmospheric, 7-minute "Sky Falls In" lets the band show their melodic, even proggy side, which sits nicely in between the raucous thrasher "Needle and Suture" , the crushing "Shadow", and the more doom laden "Blow Your Mind". Through it all, it's Vanderhoof's ability to write and unleash some instantly memorable, savage riffing that takes center stage, allowing Howe to skyrocket to the heavens over the top, another great example being "Soul Eating Machine", a killer mid-'80s styled face melter.
While perhaps not quite up to the lofty status of Blessing in Disguise, The Dark, or Metal Church, XI is damn good and easily one of the strongest albums the band has released in recent memory. Thirty plus years in metal surely has not slowed these guys down one bit!
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
Killing Your Time
Sky Falls In
Needle and Suture
Blow Your Mind
Soul Eating Machine
Added: June 6th 2016
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
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|Metal Church: XI
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2016-06-05 18:35:18
It's been a long time coming, but it's well worth the wait. XI is the first Metal Church album in over twenty years to feature the vocal talents of Mike Howe, the frontman at the vocal helm for the trio of superb albums Blessing In Disguise, The Human Factor and Hanging In The Balance from '89 to '93. Don't get me wrong, since the band reconvened in 1998, Howe's original predecessor David Wayne (who sadly died in 2005) and then Ronny Munroe did an excellent job holding the fort, but for me it was always Howe I heard if I imagined the Metal Church sound. So since the band announced that their latest album would once again feature Howe, excitement levels have been growing.
What that does however, is raise expectations, the thought of a band recapturing glory days unavoidable. Hence it's just as well that XI knocks it out of the park. Vocally, Howe is as powerful, versatile and dramatic as ever. If you've never heard him, think somewhere between John Bush, Dave Mustaine and Dee Snider, but better – much better. Throughout, his voice captures the imagination through clever use of dynamics, range and attack; always varying, but never needing to hit piercing screams or pseudo growls. This is proper thrash metal vocals delivered as they were always meant to be. However the songs themselves are never outshone, "Needle And Suture" a mid paced bomb that explodes with real intent – the way the riff melds with the double kick blasts a joy! - "Killing Time" pulling at the leash as it goes up and down through the gears; ramping up the intensity, before bringing it down again and preparing for the next, even more intense, attack. Founder member Kurdt Vanderhoof and his guitar partner Rick Van Zandt are on fire throughout, a set of riff laden killer blows delivered with such energy and power that you just can't help but be swept along by each and every one, while the solos are pinpoint, accurate and jaw dropping. Add in the solid bass work from Steve Unger and mightily impressive drumming that never overplays its hand from Jeff Plate and really, whether through "No Tomorrow", "Blow Your Mind", or "Soul Eating Machine", XI delivers the goods at every turn.
Yes, I know. The metal world is littered with reformations, rehashes and bands desperately trying to relive their glory days. Metal Church however have in XI simply created a monstrous metal album that befits their name. This is the real deal.
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