Review Summary: The start of Metal Church’s second wind
With 1999’s Masterpeace proving to be something of a misfire, 2004’s The Weight of the World could be regarded as the true start of Metal Church’s second wind. Bandleader-guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof and drummer Kirk Arrington are the only members present from the classic era, allowing some new blood to alter the band’s thrashy classic metal style while still staying recognizable. There seems to be a best of both worlds strategy at play with the musicianship dipping into the grit of their eighties staples while hanging onto that nineties polish.
This is best exemplified by vocalist Ronny Munroe making his first of four appearances with the band. His voice is somewhere between David Wayne’s raspiness and Mike Howe’s melodic bark, leaning more in the former’s ballpark but still able to carry the cleaner segments. He may not be as iconic as his predecessors but his scratchy range gives him some distinct character and deserves more acknowledgement. The same can be said for bassist Steve Unger, who may not be an overtly flashy player but has a presence that remains rock-solid to this day.
The songwriting also benefits from a workman approach with the first half offering a particularly strong set of tracks. “Hero’s Soul” is secretly one of the band’s best songs with a choppy gallop, anthemic chorus, and motivational verses that are tailor made for a montage. Elsewhere, the opening “Leave Them Behind” stands out for its alternating jagged riffs, the title track’s hard rock crunch feels like a throwback to Hanging in the Balance, and “Sunless Sky” dips into contemplative territory with more abstract guitar work. Part of me feels like the eight-minute “Madman’s Overture” is too early an climax four songs in, but it’s a worthy epic in itself with plenty of fluctuations to serve the Nostradamus narrative.
While the back half isn’t quite as impactful in comparison, it’s still got some solid numbers. “Cradle to Grave” toys around with some more off-the-wall vocal lines, the bright chug on “Bomb to Drop” has a Deep Purple vibe, and “Blood Money” makes for a nice punchy closer. Cutting a couple songs wouldn’t have hurt but they never waver from a straightforward objective.
I find The Weight of the World to be rather overlooked in the grand scheme of Metal Church’s discography. While it doesn’t reach the heights of their highest echelon, they also hadn’t sounded this confident since the days of The Human Factor. The musicianship and songwriting are tight as the blended aspects of previous eras are spruced up by the new lineup’s enthusiasm. It gets the job done without getting too extravagant and even with the collective conscious to brush off the Munroe era altogether, this one deserves a revisit.
RIP Kirk Arrington (January 23rd, 1962-May 22nd, 2023)