Metal Church - XI - (9/10)
Published on April 19, 2016
After lacklustre-at-best Generation Nothing in 2013, Metal Church’s stock plummeted in the eyes of many of their fans, re-igniting the deep-felt longing for the times when Mike Howe manned the podium of the church. Not to say that the Ronnie Munroe material was not worthy, but many felt and still feel that Hanging in the Balance was the last great Metal Church album. Then out of nowhere the news hit that band leader Kurdt Vanderhoof had managed to entice the former fronter to sign up with the Church and that a new album was in the works and the buzz started in anticipation of the cleverly titled eleventh album XI.
And XI almost seamlessly picks up, where Hanging in the Balance had left off, marking Metal Church’s full return to form and 23 years after said album the Washington-based band is back with a vengeance! Never since then have they sounded so fresh, so on edge, bristling with energy and overflowing with this spirit that had made them one of metal’s prime acts in the 80s and early 90s.
Aptly titled opener “Reset” exemplifies the new found vigour in Metal Church’s sound, driving in nature, with soaring guitars and a Mike Howe that sounds like the last 23 years never happened. His inimitable voice still seamlessly switches from smooth crooning to a venomous delivery completing this band’s sound and marking it as undeniably Metal Church. And they continue with their powerful approach through driving, crunchy “Killing Your Time” and the first video “No Tomorrow”, where the riffing of Kurdt Vanderhoof and Rick van Zandt sounding sharper than ever.
Metal Church never were ones for one-note straight up power metal, with the acoustic infusions of “No Tomorrow”, the at times thrashy undertone in the riffing or the groovy swagger of “Sky Falls In” and the almost sinister atmosphere of a song like “Shadow” complementing the all-out metal assault of “Reset”, “Kiling Your Time”, “Needle and Suture” or “Suffer Fools”, resulting in a very variable yet ultimately tight, cohesive album that sums up everything Metal Church have stood for since the release of their eponymous debut album 32 years ago.
Many reunions end up in lacklustre affairs that seem to be nothing more than attempts to recapture long lost territory, but XI is a glorious return to form with the probably ultimate Metal Church singer (no offence to David Wayne). Metal Church are back with a vengeance and are giving the vast majority a run for their money. Powerful, fresh, classic. A power metal classic that stands shoulder to shoulder with Blessing in Disguise, The Human Factor and Hanging in the Balance!