"XI" (Rat Pak Records; 2016)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

In a recent review of another artist (I think it was Cheap Trick), I mentioned that there are CDs that you know you love from the first time you listen through to them. I said those records were rare, usually a CD requires at least two or three listens until you get the gist of it, but those that were great the first time through were the gems.

That being said, there are also the albums that require more than two or three listens before they finally click and, unfortunately, sometimes that's one or two times too many. If I listen to an album a couple of times and it doesn't hook me, a lot of times I just drop it and am very unlikely to pick it up again.

Strangely enough, although I'm a fan of Metal Church, their new CD, "XI," didn't click with me right away. I listened a couple of times through and, despite the fact I love Kurdt Vanderhoof's ability to craft killer metal riffs, nothing here really grabbed my attention. I put the CD aside and pretty much forgot about it. Sad, but true.

But then I was driving to a show in L.A. and had forgotten to re-load my CD supply. Fortunately, "XI" was still in my truck so I thought, "Why not give it another chance?"

This time, I liked it from the beginning.

Much has been said about the return of vocalist Mike Howe and the first few times I listened to "XI," I just didn't get it. Howe was fine but there was nothing special here, was there? But suddenly, listening as I drove the 101 South, I realized there really was something there. Howe has a powerful drive and an ... dare I say artsiness? ... to his style that builds on the engrossing fretwork of Vanderhoof. The meld is nearly perfect, a blend that just screams Metal Church.

As I listened through to "XI" for what had to be the fifth time, I was amazed that this album didn't click with me the first few times I listened to it. What had I missed? I don't know the answer, but I'm glad I picked it up and gave it another shot. Tracks like "Shadow," "Sky Falls In" and "Killing Your Time" all kick ass and "Signal Path" stuck in my head and wouldn't get the fuck out. Absolutely mesmerizing!

Metal Church is one of those bands that has survived forever because they do things their way and they continue to do it right. I'm glad I gave "XI" another chance and maybe you won't have to; maybe it will stick with you from Listen One. Listening to it now, I can't imagine it any other way.

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"Generation Nothing" (Rat Pak Records; 2013)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

As I explain elsewhere on this page, I got a late start into Metal Church. I knew the band's name, and I knew their legacy, but I couldn't name a single song the band played. Finally, one night when they played my home town sometime in 2004, I went to the show and was blown away. I headed down to the record store and stared my Metal Church collection.

Then "Generation Nothing," the band's tenth full-length album, has been released and I am pleased to report that Metal Church is still kicking ass.

Longtime guitarist and founding member Kurdt Vanderhoof had said that "Generation Nothing" would be a return to the band's roots, and he was just blowing smoke. "Generation Nothing" is lean and mean, a monster metal machine that lights up from the first track to the last. It's got thundering riffs, lightning fast leads, awesome vocals (courtesy of Ronny Munroe) and lyrics that actually tell you something. It's an album by a group of veteran rockers (whether they've been in Metal Church all this time or not) who know what they're doing and continue to do it well.

One of the best things about "Generation Nothing," when compared to the band's most recent efforts (which, as you can see from my reviews, I liked very much as well) is that this CD has a little more variety than the previous albums. There's Sabbath-like fuzz, there's some thrash-like pounding, there's a nearly nine-minute wonder called "Noises in the Wall" that will hold you riveted throughout its lengthy running time. It's an album that's consistently good from beginning to end, like most of the Metal Church records have been, and it's an album you can listen to often.

The bad news, of course, is that Ronny left the band after this record and, as of today's date, the band's official and Facebook pages have been quiet on the subject. Let's hope they re-group and get back to the studio soon.

Metal Church: Metal Church: Ronny Munroe - vocals; Kurdt Vanderhoof - guitars; Rick Van Zandt - guitars; Steve Unger - bass; Jeff Plate - drums.

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"This Present Wasteland" (SPV / Steamhammer; 2008)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I didn't really discover Metal Church until way late in the game and by "way late" I mean around 2004's "The Weight of the World." I know, I know -- it's embarrassing. The band's self-titled album has been considered a metal classic since its original release and that was almost 25 years ago. I'd heard of the band over the years, of course, but for whatever reason never started listening to them until 2004. Suffice to say, I've been making up for lost time, gathering up all their back catalog to listen to as well as keeping track of the band as they release new recordings.

"This Present Wasteland," the band's newest CD, shows no sign of them slowing down. The CD is ten tracks of incredibly well-written songs, packed to the gills with crunchy guitar, barbed wire leads, a pounding rhythm section and the hypnotizing voice of Ronny Munroe. If you're a fan of classic metal, this album will suck you in and hold you in its teeth for its entire running time, and you'll be thrilled that it did.

From the staccato opening of "The Company of Sorrow" to the haunting "Congregation," "This Present Wasteland" is yet another great Metal Church album. The band may have changed, personnel-wise, over the years, but the style and attitude have not. Here's to many more years of going to this particular Church!

Metal Church: Ronny Munroe - vocals; Kurdt Vanderhoof - guitars; Rick Van Zandt - guitars; Steve Unger - bass; Jeff Plate - drums.

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"A Light in the Dark" (SPV / Steamhammer; 2006)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"A Light in the Dark" begins with its title track and you know things are going to be good from that point on. And, for the most part, you're dead right.

The trademark guitars of Kurdt Vanderhoof are the driving force behind most Metal Church CDs and they don't disappoint here. Kurdt finds hard and heavy riffs that draw you into the song instantly and hold you there throughout. Just try and resist the opening of the title track, "Mirror of Lies," "Son of the Son" or virtually any other song on the CD. And his leads are straight and to the point. No flashy look-how-good-a-guitar-player-I-am nonsense here, just exactly what the songs needs to soar. (And, by the way, Vanderhoof is a really good guitarist).

Vocalist Ronny Munroe has the misfortune to always be compared to the band's original vocalist, the late David Wayne, but we're not going to do that here. Suffice to say that Munroe's voice fits the modern Metal Church flawlessly, hitting the highs when necessary and staying strong at all others. And if you've ever seen this version of Metal Church live, you know that Munroe can handle the band's early stuff as well.

If I had to choose between "A Light in the Dark" and the band's previous "Weight of the World," I'd probably give a slight edge to the latter. But it'd be a really slight edge and I imagine both CDs will get equal airplay in the future.

"A Light in the Dark" features a new recording of the band's classic "Watch the Children Play" as a tribute to David Wayne. 

It's great to have Metal Church back in action. 

Metal Church: Ronny Munroe - vocals; Kurdt Vanderhoof - guitar, keyboards; Jay Reynolds - guitar; Steve Unger - bass, backing vocals; Jeff Plate - drums. 

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"The Weight of the World" (SPV / Steamhammer; 2004)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Metal Church know how to celebrate in style. Their new CD, "The Weight of the World," marks the band's 20th Anniversary and, despite a number of line-up changes over the years, Metal Church still deliver hard rock with style.

There's no thrash or speed metal on "The Weight of the World" and that's how Metal Church fans want it. Instead, the new CD brings to mind the work of such legendary bands as UFO and the harder-edged stuff of The Scorpions. The fretwork of founding member Kurdt Vanderhoof (who also produces here) is sharp and focused, delivering the necessary edge and keeping things solid throughout. Vocalist Ronny Munroe has an even, strong voice in the style of Jeff Scott Soto or Glenn Hughes and can still get raw and rough when required. 

The songwriting here is melodic without going soft. The tracks will rock you hard but also have your toe tapping and your head banging. And don't misinterpret my "no thrash or speed metal" comment above either; the songs on "The Weight of the World" are all fast-paced and energetic.

Highlights include the simmering title track, the contagious beat and soaring verses of "Bomb To Drop," and "Blood Money," a rolling rocker with an irresistible chorus and a great guitar solo running throughout. 

Metal Church reformed in 1999 and this is their second CD since then. Thankfully, even today, the band shows no signs of wearing down.

Metal Church: Kurdt Vanderhoof - guitars; Kirk Arrington - drums; Ronny Munroe - vocals; Jay Reynolds - guitars; Steve Unger - bass.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2015 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11 Sep 2022 13:59:46 -0400.