Review Summary: Combining their signature flare with stellar performances and killer tracks, Metal Church’s eighth studio album reminds us that there is a light...in the daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaark!
Let’s be honest about one thing: Thrash metal has taken a serious beating throughout the years. Darkness descended upon the realm of thrash metal since the early 90’s, and only few (bold) attempts have succeeded to revitalize the genre and keep it relevant in today’s high-paced music scene, but with the popularity of other genres such as post-grunge, nu-metal, and hip hop, it’s seems unlikely for thrash metal to ever achieve the status it once possessed several decades ago. Do not turn your cheek, however, for many thrash veterans are still releasing excellent material to this day, and with bands like Testament, Exodus, and Overkill flooding the board, it seems unlikely the genre will descend into total obscurity anytime soon. Even the big four, though aging quickly, still fire away with descent records, but today’s review is about a little Californian band with a big attitude: Metal Church.
Back in 1980, construction of the Metal Church was underway upon the soils of San Francisco, California by a man named Kurdt Vanderhoof, driven by the idea that even heavy metal needed a place of worship. This was no ordinary church where bible scriptures were recited or where you genuflected to a crucifix (unless it was in the shape of a Gibson Explorer); this was a place where metal heads could join together in harmony to worship the metal gods each and every day. No matter who the pastor was whether it be the Rob Halford-inspired David Wayne or the gruff yet melodic Mike Howe, the Metal Church never failed to impress the metal community with their unique combination of British-inspired heavy metal and american thrash metal, and despite some renovations and facing the “Dark Ages” (A.K.A. the 90’s) with their heavy metal brethren of the time, their integrity and impact have stood the test of time, and people still go to the Metal Church for worship to this day.
Although 1999’s Masterpeace and 2004’s Weight Of The World are solid albums in their catalog, they failed to entice newcomers or recapture the raw intensity and majesty of their earlier masterpieces, but then the unexpected happened. In 2006, they released their eighth studio album A Light In The Dark, and telling from the opening title track, this was much different than its predecessors despite similar lyrical themes. Upping the ante with aggressive performances and appropriately unpolished production, Metal Church bring to the plate their most furious album since The Dark.
Right off the bat, the album grabbed my attention with a potent vocal performance by Ronny Munroe. Although retaining the clean singing present throughout Weight Of The World, he sounds more gruff and convincing this time around. The proud and commanding vocals propel the album to soaring heights and keep things interesting even in the calm instrumental sections, and whether he’s snarling in the title track, screeching in “Pill For The Kill,” or singing calmly in “Temples Of The Sea,” he always sounds confident in his abilities and delivers his finest performance to date with the band.
Although Ronny steals the show for the most part, the backing musicians cannot be ignored either. Founder Kurdt Vanderhoof and Jay Reynolds whip out impressive guitar riffs and solos throughout, especially on songs like “Disappear,” the infamous title track, and “Mirror Of Lies.” Steve Unger and Jeff Plate provide the underbelly with a solid rhythm section, belting out thick bass lines and impressive drumming. and on songs like “Beyond All Reason” and “Son Of The Son,” they’re pretty serious about it. As a whole, the musicians give Mr. Munroe a potent backbone and is easily their most group effort-oriented release since their David Wayne days.
Despite the album’s highlights, there are some flaws to take note of. As with any Metal Church vocalist, Ronny is an acquired taste to some. Not all will be allured by his high-pitched screams or over-the-top style, and the album itself is rather long, cloaking in at an hour in length. Although channeling the intensity and grace of earlier works, the album doesn’t break new ground for the band, but it’s hardly a flaw since it builds upon the successful formula of their first few albums. Despite these flaws, the album’s strengths and lack of filler easily outweigh the negatives.
It’s not everyday that a band suffered the change of tides for its respective genre and came out swinging in the end of it all, and Metal Church makes no exception with A Light In The Dark. Combining their signature flare with stellar performances and killer tracks, Metal Church’s eighth studio album reminds us that there is a light...in the daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaark!
“Beyond All Reason”
“Temples Of The Sea”
The title track