December 3, 2018 Metal Church – Damned If You Do (Album Review)
Forged from San Francisco, California’a infamous Bay Area Thrash scene, Metal Church return on their new album, Damned If You Do, slated for release on December 7, 2018 via Rat Pak Records.
Looking back, as veterans of 1980s Thrash Metal, Metal Church rose to fame in 1984 after their eponymous indie label debut, Metal Church, was picked up and got the band signed to the iconic Elektra Records. A Metal sound comparable to East Coast thrashers Overkill, Metal Church born wicked hooks and sinister melodies into a brand all their own. Further proof of this came with the 1986 release of Metal Church’s sophomore classic, The Dark. Seeing success similar to the band’s debut, The Dark spent twenty-three weeks on the Billboard Charts and was dedicated to Metallica’s bassist, the late Cliff Burton, who died tragically less than two weeks before the album’s release.
By the early 1990s, Metal Church could still be found touring and pumping out new material for the fan’s pleasure. However, around 1995 Metal Church disbanded, and after some years off, Metal Church returned in 1999 with the release of their sixth studio album, Masterpeace – the band’s first offering since 1993’s Hanging in the Balance. Through the dawn of a new millennium, Metal Church dropped four more albums between 2004 and 2013. Come 2016, Metal Church released the LP XI, which was acclaimed by fans who stuck with the band for over three decades. On top of this, XI became the band’s highest charting album, showing how relevant Metal Church is today. Which leads us to the present where they are back again with Damned If You Do.
As we open the steel gates, Metal Church is preached by Vocalist Mike Howe, who returned to the band in 2015 after twenty years. In regard to Metal Church’s twelfth overall studio album, Howe commented: “I’m very excited about the new release. It all came together way better than I even imagined. It’s a great feeling to work really hard on a musical project pouring your heart into it and hoping it comes out as something you can be proud of in the end. I have been listening to it every day and loving it! I hope our fans do as well!” That said, Howe is joined by longtime Guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, Stet Howland on drums (ex-W.A.S.P., Lita Ford), Rick Van Zandt on guitar, and Steve Unger on bass.
Upon the alter, the darkness of Metal Church commences with the reading of a new testament, entitled Damned If You Do. As the title-track, “Damned If You Do” marks the seething return of one of the most underrated Thrash acts of their time. Hearing our sins, Metal Church banishes “The Black Things” and those who let other people dictate their lives. Direct and intense, “By The Numbers” says we live on borrowed time right before the classic Metal undertones of the slow burning “Revolution Underway.”
Facing the “Guillotine,” Metal Church display some of the band’s most vintage riffs alongside the head banger “Rot Away.” In a possible political outcry of sorts, the melodic lies of “Into The Fold” reach uncharted waters where society is dragged into a situation we did not ask for. Thereafter, the bawdy “Monkey Finger” points the proverbial finger in the wrong direction. In the final act, Metal Church buries one last nail in the coffin with “The War Electric.” A fitting end, this creeping track delivers Metal Church’s most unrelenting, melodic highs and lows alongside a sinister chorus vocal by Howe.
In what should be one of the most anticipated returns of the year, Metal Church put forth a respectable effort on Damned If You Do, as these Metal warhorses keep true Thrash alive. For fans of Metal Church, the most intriguing aspect of this new release may be the thought of seeing these tracks performed in a live setting, which should be a worthy experience. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Damned If You Do 3 out of 5 stars.
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