Metal Review: Metal Church – XI (2016)

Metal Church - XI

Purchase Metal Church – XI

While this may sound like blasphemy to most die hard Metal Church fans, I always appreciated the Mike Howe era of the band the most. While David Wayne was a great vocalist, the first Metal Church album was great and The Dark was average with a couple of really great songs on it. Their reunited album was horrible. The band’s time with Ronny Monroe was lackluster at best. Mike Howe seemed to disappear from the scene for a while, but there were always rumblings that the band would reunite with him. Let’s face it, the band was forced to disband because they were a shell of their former selves and the only chance that the band had for mediocre success would be with one of their respected former vocalists. Of course, with the death of David Wayne, that meant that the band only had one other option and it was finally announced that the band would reunite with the vocalist that was a part of one of the best eras in the band with albums such as Blessing in Disguise, The Human Factor and Hanging in the Balance. Some of the bands most popular songs came out of this era including “Badlands,” “Anthem to the Estranged,” and “Date With Poverty” which ended up being fairly successful for the band.

One thing is for sure about Mike Howe – he has one hell of a voice. While his lyrics are typically generic, his voice always made for an exciting ride. Also, the musicians themselves are exceptionally talented, so some of the band’s songs became run of the mill, but there were always a few songs on every album that kicked ass.

One of my main issues with Metal Church has always been that the band has some amazing songs and way too many average songs. We are no longer in the 80s and 90s where music was less accessible. Each album that we purchased was meaningful. You had very few ways to sample music before purchasing. In time, record stores started to smarten up and gave store patrons the ability to sample albums before purchasing, but I remember going to my local Sam Goody and purchasing albums solely based on the album artwork and the song titles. You knew very little about the bands for the most part. There were metal magazines that were not too easy to find that talked about the bigger bands, but there were many underground bands and you always wanted to be the one that could tell your friends about a new band that you just discovered. Unfortunately, most of the albums that you would purchase sucked, but you still did it over and over again. As soon as you saved up enough money to purchase another album, you ran to the record store and picked one up. The closest record store to me was a 30 minute walk and I was there at least five times a week to write down which albums I wanted to buy when I had the money. You knew every employee’s name and they knew you because you were in there so much.

To make a long story short, you can listen to the new Metal Church album completely on Spotify or each song on YouTube and various other outlets. If the album is not worth the money, it will not get bought. It is that simple these days. Add to that the fact that piracy is out of control and that makes the music business extremely tough to break through.

With XI, the album opens up incredibly strong with the first three tracks – “Reset,” “Killing Your Time” and “No Tomorrow.” “Reset” seems to send a message out to the fans that the band has hit the reset switch and is back stronger than ever out to prove a point to the metal masses. “Killing Time” is a song that the band has previously released and we all know how much of an ass-kicker it is. “No Tomorrow” is another song that the band unveiled before the release of the album and I am in love with this track.

After the opening three tracks, the album tails off a little as we have seen with Metal Church albums in the past. “Signal Path” has a great musical opening and starts to sound like a thrash anthem, but the verse sections are mediocre for the most part and the songs runs longer than it should. Musically, the song is fun though. “Sky Falls In” has its moments, but runs too long as well. Howe does have some evil vocal parts though. Both songs are good, but I could live with or without them.

“Needle and Suture” is an evil track that ranks up with the best of them on the album. Mike Howe utilizes multiple vocal tracks to enhance the song and the guitar riffs are simple and heavy. “Shadow” is a throwback of sorts to the band’s earlier album with Howe and sounds like it could have been recorded during The Human Factor sessions. “Soul Eating Machine” is another fun throwback track that shows that the band still has it.

“It Waits” is a bad-ass song that kicks ass and it ends in a way that you almost never hear anymore. The song actually fades away. It seems like that type of ending died out long ago, so it sounds so odd to hear on a new song now. “Suffer Fools” has an incredibly catchy, fun riff that makes this song the perfect close to the album.

At the end of the day, Metal Church did what they needed to do. They have released a strong album that will win back many old fans, but probably not nearly enough to make the band stick around for many more years. Their time has come and gone and it hurts to say that. The old fans have long since written off the band and even the reunion with Howe will not bring the majority of them back. Their only saving grace is that they have the respect of many bands out there, so they will take the band out on tour with them. It almost feels like Metal Church is starting their career anew and I am not sure that they are ready to do that again.

Metal Church – XI Tracklisting

1. Reset
2. Killing Your Time
3. No Tomorrow
4. Signal Path
5. Sky Falls In
6. Needle and Suture
7. Shadow
8. Blow Your Mind
9. Soul Eating Machine
10. It Waits
11. Suffer Fools
12. Fan the Fire (bonus track)
13. Long Time Coming (Japanese bonus track)

Metal Church Line-up

Mike Howe – vocals
Kurdt Vanderhoof – guitar
Rick Van Zandt – guitar
Steve Unger – bass
Jeff Plate – drums

METAL CHURCH “NO TOMORROW” / OFFICIAL VIDEO

Metal Church / Behind the Scenes / Part 1 / The Return of “Mike Howe”
Featuring Mike Howe, Kurdt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt

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