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Metal Church – Classic Live Award winner

Metal Church
Classic Live
by Max Elias at 16 November 2020, 7:08 PM

METAL CHURCH has been at it for so long it is hardly surprising to find that this latest album, which as the name would suggest is a live one, opens with a crowd chanting their name. From the opening of “Beyond the Black” it is easy to see why; that ripping guitar tone and melodic yet aggressive sensibility never faded from their heyday. They aren’t the fastest or the most technical band out there, but they get blood flowing and fists pumping no problem. Vocalist Mike Howe sounds just as ferociously intelligible as he does in the studio, injecting the music with adrenaline every time his snarled midrange turns to a banshee’s shriek.

The album is fantastically recorded; every element shines through in unadulterated quality. The drums chug away as the foundation of everything else without assuming too much of a forefront position, and the vocals similarly complement rather than overshadow the riffing. This is evident on songs like “Date With Poverty” where vocals and guitar engage in a kind of call and response at the choruses. The leads also have a dynamic, responsive quality to them, and then when they do finally go off on their own, bring to mind classic 80s-era fretboard pyrotechnics, culminating in a surprisingly soulful series of bends and flourishes. Every instrument gets its moments; perhaps because this is a live album there are a scattering of drum solos and at parts it sounds as if they are jamming onstage.

One of the major selling points of METAL CHURCH (at least in my opinion) has always been the vocals and lyrics. The band excels at penning memorable, thoughtful verses about such social ills as poverty and child abuse, and Mike Howe’s powerful voice is the perfect vehicle for delivering them. He sounds overcome with twisted glee as he shouts through “In Mourning”; sardonically hurling injunction after injunction at hypocrites who misplace their anger (the opening line ‘If you think the words I'm singing are why your kids are dead’ brings me back to the days of metal bands getting sued for their music).

METAL CHURCH are no strangers to versatile composition; the album opened with “Beyond the Black” interspersing the crushing heft with clean passages. They also write full-fledged ballads now again, as with “Watch the Children Pray”. Its wistful minor arpeggios transition in and out of the galvanizing chorus to create an ebb and flow of emotions. The peak of the song is its wild guitar solo that soars and shreds in equal measure. Everyone who knows METAL CHURCH has heard the song before, as it’s a classic for the band, but it is still nice to hear how it roars to life onstage, and to sense the electric response form the crowd.

The most aggressive song here follows “Watch the Children Pray”; “Start the Fire” is a stomping, anthemic slab of NWOBHM from the genre’s glory days. It could almost be a JUDAS PRIEST song but for the vocals. It gets the crowd amped up too, especially after the softer respite of “Watch the Children Pray”. The band is in top form as they tear through “Badlands”, another METAL CHURCH classic, before landing on “The Human Factor” as the album closer. “The Human Factor” brims with energy and vitriol, with a cascade of pounding riffs and more of Mike Howe’s cynically poignant lyricism. The only thing odd about it is that the guitar solo sounds as if it’s distant, as opposed to its big, raunchy tone elsewhere in the song. It is a little thin and has less impact because of it.

METAL CHURCH is still as strong here as they ever were, with the chops and heart to disprove anyone who says otherwise. It’s no wonder they have continued putting out original material in recent years and can still draw massive audiences. If you are a fan of classic, unpretentious and powerful HEAVY METAL, you’ve probably already heard of METAL CHURCH, but this is still a good listen.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 10
Musicianship: 8
Production: 10


4 Star Rating

  1. Beyond the Black
  2. Date With Poverty
  3. Gods of Second Chance
  4. In Mourning
  5. Watch the Children Pray
  6. Start the Fire
  7. No Friend of Mine
  8. Badlands
  9. The Human Factor
Kurdt Vanderhoof – Guitar
Mike Howe – Vocals
Steve Unger – Bass
Rick van Zandt – Guitar
Stet Howland – Drums
Record Label: Reaper Entertainment Europe


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Edited 29 March 2023

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