When I got the initial news that Ronny Munroe was out of METAL CHURCH, I was blown away. “That’s it, the band is done again! How long do I have to wait for them to come back?” I was screaming at my computer screen upon reading the news. The guys had a history of announcing a singer has left and leave us fans “Hanging In The Balance” (see what I did there?) as we waited for them to announce a new singer and come back with a vengeance. After Hanging In The Balance, singer Mike Howe left the band and literally dropped off the face of the earth for years.
6 years later, singer David Wayne had returned to the band to record the Masterpiece album, which was awesome, but then he was out shortly after. David Wayne did release an album shortly after named David Wayne’s Metal Church, which was great, but it didn’t have the same feeling. I would recommend you check it out though. Wayne’s departure meant leaving us without any new tunes from METAL CHURCH for another 5 years until the band came back with new singer Ronny Munroe and they gave us the Weight Of The World album which has been one of my personal favorite metal albums from my teen years. I recall memorizing that album within days of its release and drove some of my bandmates at the time nuts with my constant singing.
I totally fan-boy’ed out when I had met Ronny Munroe on one of his solo album tours a few years ago and went on for probably hours about how that record better’ed my life at the time. Anyway, back to the original point I was making before the rambling about The Weight Of The World. Ronny had left the band after his third album to take on some other musical quests, most notably, a tour with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. (Check out his version of “Mephistopheles”, he just sounds so sinister on it).
That departure gave us another 5 year wait, but thankfully Ronny returned to record the killer, but criminally underrated Generation Nothing. Sadly, Ronny left for real after that, and that’s where I spent about an hour freaking out and screaming at my computer screen.
You see, METAL CHURCH has always been one of my top favorite bands as a kid. I was raised on this stuff. There was always something about them that stood out from some of the other thrash bands of the 80s. Their music had a haunting sound to it like early Sabbath, but with the speed of Metallica, and with David Wayne’s killer vocals that felt kinda like the late Paul Baloff’s (EXODUS).
Each vocalist that followed was able to bring something completely different to the table that took the band new places, but could definitely bring justice to what the other singers brought. Who the hell would take up the mantle? Now that they were without a singer, would we get someone we know coming into the role, or someone unknown? I was thinking of bigger names that I’d like to see. Could it be Udo? How about Paul Di’Anno? Why not Ripper Owens? That dude always had a history of coming in and saving the day like he was a fucking superhero. Someone get that guy into The Avengers!
The band had been teasing a return of Mike Howe for a little bit before they made an official announcement, but there’s no way that would ever happen, right? Glad I was wrong. (I have only been wrong one other time in my life. August 29th, 1997, I remember it like it was yesterday. I thought I had made a mistake, but I was wrong.) They made the announcement official, and I’m pumped, as are most fans I believe, but does he still have it? Does he still have that voice that gave METAL CHURCH and HERETIC their sound in the 80s and early 90s?
The band put my worries to rest once they released an updated version of “Badlands”, a classic from Howe’s debut album with the band, Blessing In Disguise. If I wasn’t pumped for a new album before, I sure as shit was now, and let me tell you it doesn’t disappoint. As soon as the pre-order was online, I went online and ordered the 2 disc version of the album. It finally came in today, and I am on my third spin as I write this.
Opening my mailbox today and seeing a package from Rat Pak Records, I knew exactly what it was. I can only explain the scene at the mailbox as being like in the movie A Christmas Story when little Ralphie got to the mailbox and got his Little Orphan Annie secret decoder. I took that old school approach with writing this as I’ve explained in past reviews I’ve made, but in case you haven’t caught it, I’ve kicked people out of the room, demanded I not be bothered, blasted the music and studied the lyrics as I listened to them, and got lost in the album cover and band photos that came with my pre-order. Just the way I did it as a wee metal head when I first learned to use the stereo.
XI kicks off right where the band left off with Hanging In The Balance with the killer “Reset” and doesn’t let up the whole way through. This album is exactly what an old school fan would want. Incredibly old school riffs and song structure. It almost sounds like these songs could have been recorded back in like 93’ish, though Mike’s voice sounds a littler better this time. Similar sound we all knew and loved, but with a bit more maturity. Key tracks I need to stress you check out would be “Signal path”, “Needle and suture”, and “Suffer Fools”. Seriously, we’ve kicked this year off with kickass new music from MEGADETH, ANTHRAX and now METAL CHURCH. What fucking year is it? Fuck rating with stars. This time around, I’m giving it 5/5 horns in the air!