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Metal Church - Damned If You Do Award winner

Metal Church
Damned If You Do
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 03 December 2018, 3:30 AM

An even far reaching return to the early days, could it be? Well, maybe sounding leaner and cleaner, but it surely smells and feels like it. At least for yours truly, I never really needed the comeback of vocalist Mike Howe to be reconnected with METAL CHURCH’s past, I easily got it back when they were fronted by Ronny Munroe, which was an excellent singer. However, the band’s approach to the material was different, thus portraying a slightly different kind of CHURCH. With Howe back in the saddle, after dropping ship decades ago, a new spirit resurfaced. The previous “XI” album was a stellar reintroduction to what this band can do with an old face at the helm. Nevertheless, I believe that it was only a beginning of a hopefully long-lasting tale, which continued on "Damned If You Do", released via Nuclear Blast Records / Rat Pak Records.

I have always found “Blessing In Disguise” to be my favorite CHURCH album of Howe’s previous era, it might not hit the memorable tunes that persisted in “The Human Factor” or the cutting edge of its follower, “Hanging In The Balance”, but it was immensely heavy and dropped some bigtime tunes as top ladder of Heavy Metal. The newly presented “Damned If You Do” at first sounded to me like a continuance of “XI”, especially with its carrying of the band’s rather polished sound pattern, which is actually quite rich an full. Well, not as untamed as on “Blessing In Disguise”, yet tough enough to picture badassery. After several listens it was a wild journey back to the late 80s with tinges of contemporary shrapnels. The band’s PR pretty much hit bullseye by attributing the record as a mix of Howe’s first two albums with CHURCH, it is virtually it people. Of course, there aren’t the lengthy songs, however, the atmosphere of the songwriting, the considerable heaviness and the inspiring musicianship that unleashed tremendous instrumental abilities encrusted by grand melodic edges, thus clearly drawing nostalgic fumes back in to the night’s air.

The classic to be “By The Numbers” is a song that it has been hard for me to shake loose. I just can’t. It is a powerhold, I can’t seem to get enough of it. I have been a fan of “Fake Healer” and its type, yet this one is more of a “Badlands” and “Date With Poverty”. Trust me guys, it will hook you where you stand. A victorious, rebellious “Revolution Underway” might appear as softer in comparison to the larger part of the album, nevertheless, it is a welcome separate experience that sounded bright and memorable indeed. Toughness remained in a strong posture with “Out Of Balance”, which clicked things up a notch, taking on the wheel with powerful set of riffs and well done vocal production. “Guillotine” is fast backwards to the band’s debut, I don’t know why but I imagined “Hitman” at first, yet rapidly fast forward into the later 80s. The main riff nailed it and Howe’s voice is richer than ever, simply classic at the making. “Into The Fold” cracks the glass as one of the meanest beast around, a straightforward sonic force that only could be mustered by the CHURCH, could easily be a fan favored. Please also notice: “The War Electric” and “Damned If You Do”.

CHURCH never let me feel that they are capable of less, no matter which guy fronts them, they always come out strong. I won’t deny it, Howe is a source of bursting energy, which is clearly felt throughout “Damned If You Do”, and certainly one of the band’s strongest of efforts to date.

4 Star Rating

1. Damned If You Do
2. The Black Things
3. By The Numbers
4. Revolution Underway
5. Guillotine
6. Rot Away
7. Into The Fold
8. Monkey Finger
9. Out Of Balance
10. The War Electric
Mike Howe - Vocals
Kurdt Vanderhoof - Guitar
Rick Van Zandt - Guitar
Stet Howland - Drums
Steve Unger - Bass
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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Edited 05 February 2023

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