Tuesday 1 January 2019

Metal Church - Damned If You Do (2018)

Country: USA
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 7 Dec 2018
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website | Wikipedia

The title track of the new Metal Church album, which opens the whole affair, is an enticing mixture of chugging guitars, pounding drums, soaring vocals and, well, a sort of droning vocal hum that memorably sets the whole thing off with some imagination. It's glorious stuff.

Those vocals belong to Mike Howe, by the way, for a second album after 2016's XI. He'd previously blessed three earlier releases with his presence, including Blessing in Disguise, during his prior seven year stint with the band as the eighties became the nineties. To suggest that I prefer the late David Wayne's voice is not a criticism of Mike Howe; he's a worthy successor and this album benefits greatly from his presence. His efforts on Guillotine, to cite just a prime example, are powerful and impressively confident.

While the rest of the album doesn't benefit from further little innovations, it rocks the way you'd expect a Metal Church album to. I've adored this band since The Dark came out in 1986 and that's still one of my favourite albums by any band anywhere. I was hooked on the way they could combine power and melody without losing the impact of either and they're still the masters of that in 2018. This is music to mosh to but often to sing along to as well.

The epitome of that may be By the Numbers. It's all built off a simple melody but that means that it's underpinned by a delightfully crunchy riff and you'll be singing along with the chorus even before you've heard the whole song. Mike Howe chants 'never again' but we know that the same will apply to the next track on the album.

And, sure enough, hello Revolution Underway, a tasty little number that's the standout track for me this time around. It has everything mentioned above but adds some intricate drumming from new guy Stet Howland, formerly of W.A.S.P., and both soaring and sensitive lead work from longer standing members Rick Van Zandt, who's been with the band for a decade, and Kurdt Vanderhoof, who founded the band way back in 1980 and who hasn't been far from it even when he left for a while.

What makes this album shine is the fact that there isn't a duff track anywhere to be found. Sure, nothing else quite matches Revolution Underway but the worst track is still worthwhile and I'd have a hard task trying to choose which one that would be. Into the Fold, maybe? I'm less fond of that one after four or five times through but there's not a thing wrong with it and it could easily be your favourite. Maybe it'll be mine when I come back to this album again however many months into the future. That's how consistent Damned If You Do is.

It's easier to suggest tracks that contend with Revolution Underway at the other end of the spectrum. I'd go for By the Numbers and Out of Balance but there are a whole bunch in competition, including the title track and the oddly titled Monkey Finger. If you're a Metal Church fan, this is an essential purchase. If you're not, maybe you should pick this up and get converted. I'm down with being an evangelist for this Church.

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