Metal Church
This Present Wasteland

Metal Church delivers their 10th record and, aside from the lineup, not much has changed since they released their self-titled debut back in 1984. That’s both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they’ve stuck to their guns and continue to deliver what fans expect. On the other hand, the music here is not nearly as exciting as the first time you plugged in 1986’s The Dark and heard “Ton of Bricks” blasting out of your speakers.This Present Wasteland marks the second record with new vocalist Ronny Munroe, and he does an admirable job, though he’s not likely to blow listeners away. There’s a certain old school vibe to his voice that reminds you a bit of classic 1970s bands like Deep Purple or Rainbow. That also brings a little more 1970s rock/early traditional metal flavor to the music here than in past Metal Church outings. His vocals are most felt on the smoky and bluesy opening croon of “Monster,” before the music kicks in.

The songs here are a little slower as well, with only “Meet Your Maker” and “Mass Hysteria” really crossing over into the thrashier territory of The Dark or 1989’s Blessing in Disguise. That’s not a problem, as some of the slower numbers are some of the strongest here.

The album opens a bit weakly with the pedestrian “The Company of Sorrow.” It does its job, announcing that Metal Church is still Metal Church, but you can’t get very excited about it because we’ve heard it all before.

Things pick up with the third track, “Deeds of a Dead Soul,” which features a dark opening piece and a really nice groove. Munroe shows off a Bruce Dickinson-meets-Geoff Tate vocal with a little more 1970s grit. But the real stars of This Present Wasteland come a little later on with “Crawling to Extinction” and “A War Never Won.” “Crawling to Extinction” has more liveliness and attitude than any other song on the record. The best tune here, it has an energy and urgency that’s lacking on other tracks. “A War Never Won” has a nice clean ballad opening that might remind listeners of “Watch the Children Pray” or “Badlands” before exploding into a metallic crescendo with some big, dramatic riffing.

“Breathe Again” is another winner, a nice uptempo number that’s reminiscent of Bruce Dickinson’s solo work, and the record closes the same way it started with “Congregation,” a blast straight from the 1980s but with a little more energy than “The Company of Sorrow.”

The songs here are all well enough written, and the riffing of guitarists Kurdt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt is solid, if not exciting. I would have preferred something just a bit more adventurous here and there, but they deliver probably what most fans expect. It’s perhaps a bit old-fashioned, but still another solid effort from Metal Church.

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Written by Fred Phillips
October 8th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: ceno

    Shame on me, but I’d never taken an opportunity to get to know these guys better before I heard this album. I can just say that it nearly blew me away with its mighty powerhouse from the very first listen. Very good album. I should check out their other works.


  2. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    I’d start with Blessing in Disguise, just because it’s my personal favorite. Also check out The Dark and The Human Factor for sure, though.


  3. Commented by: Cynicgods

    All their records are good. Personal favorites: Metal Church s/t, The Dark, Blessing In Disguise.

    Also check out Reverend, Wayne, Presto Ballet, Vanderhoof and Heretic. All of these bands are related to Metal Church and all of them are worthwhile.


  4. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    I wouldn’t recommend Vanderhoof’s Hall Aflame, though. I saw them opening for ZZ Top years ago, and I was excited because it was Vanderhoof’s band. Never heard the record, but live, they were awful, and I like the whole Southern rock thing. I thought the singer was about to have a seizure jumping around and slapping his knee. My brother and I still joke about it.


  5. Commented by: Erik

    The Human Factor is one of the most solid metal albums of all time. Superb!!!


  6. Commented by: SerenityInFire

    Actually, this is the third album with Ronnie Munroe.


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