Metal Church are one of the more unappreciated thrash metal bands of the 1980s. It isn't difficult to see why they are all but forgotten now. The constant changing of vocalists, the mid 1990s breakup, and the random directorial changes the band embarked on during the 90s have plagued Metal Church's legacy as a pioneer of thrash metal. Despite all of this, their eponymous debut album is nothing short of a classic.
is a unique offering among early thrash releases. First, there is the superb musicianship of the guitarists, Kurdt Vanderhoof and Craig Wells. The guitar solos are fantastic, ranging from insane shredding to atmospheric and melodic. Some very catchy riffs are delivered as well, particularly in the first half of the album. David Wayne is a marvelous vocalist, and his high pitched, power metal-esque vocal style suits the songs perfectly. The bass is almost always audible, but does little to change the overall sound of the band. The drumming, however, is a real treat. Kirk Arrington provides a solid backbone to each song and even delivers some impressive drum solos, such as the intro of Merciless Onslaught
. Metal Church truly sound like a band when they play; as the drums, vocals, and guitar all add something unique to the band's overall sound.
The album kicks off with the defining Metal Church song: Beyond the Black
. The song begins immediately with heavily distorted vocals over clean, melodic guitar playing. Once that ends, the song bursts into a guitar solo, followed its extremely catchy riff. Its disturbing lyrics deal with the aftermath of atomic warfare, which fit well with the song's mood. Beyond the Black
has a dark, disturbing feel to it that only builds until the chaotic ending. Here, the drumming goes beyond being limited to just the background of the song. The intensity of the drumming suits the song perfectly, as it gives Beyond the Black
a certain military feeling. Everything about the song works in its favor; it is as perfect as a thrash metal song can get.
The next song, Metal Church
, is just as effective as its predecessor, albeit less dark and foreboding. The intro to the title track is one of the album's many highlights. It starts with ambience and military drumming, which builds and builds until the guitars come screeching in. Wayne bursts out with an evil laugh, and the riff kicks in. The riff is powerful and arguably the best of Metal Church's career. The guitars complement the vocals extraordinarily well, while the drums give the song a solid foundation. The guitar solos throughout the song, while perhaps not as intricate as Gods of Wrath
or Beyond the Black
, are still interesting to an extent and add to the song's atmosphere. The title track ends with Wayne proudly proclaiming the band's name: "The metal...CHUUUUUURCH!"
is exactly what it says it is: a merciless onslaught of thrash. The song is pure insanity, with chaotic drumming, shredding guitar solo tradeoffs, and a riff that is simply all over the place. At 2:56, it is the album's shortest song. It is still a fun, energetic song though, and a fitting intro into the next track.
The following song is one of the Metal Church's most memorable. Gods of Wrath
is similar in style to Metallica's One
. The slow, melodic guitar intro sets the tone for the rest of the song. The clean vocals combined with minimalist guitar playing are extremely impressive at the beginning. As the song goes on, Wayne's vocals become high-pitched once more and the guitars begin shredding again. Unfortunately, the song suffers from its long length, as it reaches a certain point where it becomes rather repetitive. Luckily, the instrumental sections make it seem less lengthy than it really is.
(or HItman, according to Spotify) is another catchy, energetic track. It begins slowly, but doesn't take too long to explode into its riff. The lyrics concern a hitman advertising himself as if he is on a made-for-television commercial. With power-metal screams, lightning-fast guitar solos, and an insufferably catchy chorus, Hitman
is one of the most energetic songs on the album.
At this point, Metal Church
unfortunately begins to descend into mediocrity. While In the Blood
and (My Favorite) Nightmare
are not poor songs by any means, they pale in comparison to the preceding tracks. In the Blood
is rather unmemorable; with lackluster vocals, straightforward drumming, and uninspired guitar solos. (My Favorite) Nightmare
, despite a very clever intro and a catchy bassline, is uninteresting. Wayne's vocals on the song sound slightly weak and bland for the first time on the album. Although in some ways these tracks bring the album's ever-building momentum to a screeching halt, the following track, Battalions
, is luckily able to regain most of the momentum back.
is just as good as the first half of the album. The drums are in full-swing audio assault mode and the guitar solos are incredibly energetic. Even the bass has its glorious moments! However, the real highlight of the song are the vocals. Wayne sings his heart out with his voice going surprisingly deep. He still utilizes his power vocals, of course, but his lower register is what steals the song. The chorus is the best on the entire album: "The time is now, we must avenge. We form to fight, we kill tonight! We must rest to regain our strength. We form to fight, we kill tonight!" Battalions
is another perfect Metal Church song, as well as being one of the most underrated due to its awkward position on the album (sandwiched between two the worst two tracks on the album).
The closer is a cover of the Deep Purple song, Highway Star
. To say the least, it is the most lackluster song on the album. Although it is certainly not a bad
cover, and it certainly doesn't lose the catchiness of the original, it does admittedly sound a bit rushed. Wayne's vocals simply don't suit the song well, as he tends to drag out certain words and, as a result, stumble over the next few. Honestly, it is a strange inclusion, as the album would have been far more effective had it ended with Battalions
It's not a crime if you have never heard of Metal Church. However, if you enjoy heavy metal or especially 80s thrash, consider yourself a goddamn felon if you've never jammed their classic, self-titled debut. This album has everything going for it; it is a tremendous release from a band who is truly passionate about metal. The only thing holding Metal Church
back from a perfect release are a few lackluster tracks, which still manage to have unforgettable riffs and display the classic Metal Church lineup at full-force. Say what you want about Metal Church's later career...but as far as I'm concerned, their debut LP is untouchable.
Beyond the Black
Gods of Wrath