Band: Metal Church
Release Date: March 25th, 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast
Metal Church is probably one of the most influential metal bands around, arguably laying some of the groundwork for heavy metal / thrash metal and influencing many bands in the process. I will not re-introduce to you a band that has been around for thirty-six years and I’m happy to say that I am enjoying XI as I enjoyed most of Metal Church’s releases in the past: so will you.
They never got the same media and crowd attention as the infamous “Big Four” but I always counted them among the likes of Annihilator and Testament. Actually, I saw a debate somewhere recently online concerning which bands deserve to be picked near to Big Four. If I had to create another “four”, Metal Church, Annihilator, Testament and Sepultura would be my choices. The last spot had quite a lot of fierce competition in my head, mind you. Like Overkill, or Exodus, or Kreator instead… you got the idea. With XI, Metal Church delivers that aggressive, treble filled high-pitch thrash metal sound in their own way. Mike Howe’s return to the band after decades with a vocal performance fit for early 80s feeling is probably one of the main reasons this album sounds old-school and yet fresh. He truly rocks and delivers with top-notch quality! We humans have this tendency to release albums so similar and predictable for the sake of “market pleasure”, we cannot realize how shitty things sound until our ears bleed. That is my take of today’s metal scene to be sincere and I am more than happy to welcome “old-school” releases like XI with open arms, ears, beer and headbanging. I cannot do that much nowadays, neck issues. Anyway.
Enjoying an ice-cold beer as the disc comes to an end, I realize how much I missed this old-school, “sincere” feeling of metal. Over produced, over simplified or over-formulated albums hurt my ears and my feelings and I find myself sobbing late at nights in a dark corner of my room with my headphones in my hand. Although I am surprised by some of the releases coming up in the last two years, we still have some distance to cover before the industry “normalizes” itself and re-starts releasing interesting albums rather than playing it safe. Although Metal Church was missing the spot (sometimes by a large margin) with their releases since early 90s, they seem to found focus once more and Kurdt Vanderhoof delivered some quality songwriting. Completely old-school in every sense, XI put a smile on my face, made me jump for joy and forced me to consume more beer than I should. Wife will be pissed; she is trying to contain my weight. Sorry hon’.
Signal Path with its acoustic parts in particular, No Tomorrow as it shows the general aggression throughout the album, Sky Falls In with its mid-tempo groove, Needle & Suture and Suffer Fools with their up tempo energy are the tracks to check. If it wasn’t for a bit filler-ish tracks like “Shadow” and the lack of a hit like “Watch the Children Play” this would be the heavy metal release of the year. Well, I know we still have some time to go but…
PS: It was good to see / hear Jeff Plate on drums again. He is one of my personal favorites as I am a huge Savatage fan. No disrespect to Kirk Arrington.
PS II: Not having a discography section at your website is bad example for new bands. Just saying…
Mike Howe – vocals
Kurdt Vanderhoof – guitar
Rick Van Zandt – guitar
Steve Unger – bass
Jeff Plate – drums