Metal Church

Nuclear Blast Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Growing old is a dangerous thing for a metal band, simply because you're damned no matter which way you choose to go musically. If you decide to continue in the same paths that you tread in the '80s, people will accuse you of living in the past and trying to re-capture old glories. If you try to carve a new musical path, people will say that you've "sold out," or that your new material just doesn't live up to the glory days.

With that in mind, consider, if you will, Masterpeace, the first release from the "classic" line-up of Metal Church in some time. While the band has tried to maintain some semblance of balance over the years, they never seemed to capture the power that their first two releases, Metal Church and The Dark, blared forth. (It didn't hurt matters at the time that bands like Metallica and Megadeth were bringing thrash metal to a whole new audience at the time.)

With vocalist David Wayne and guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof back in the group this time around (though, to be fair, Vanderhoof has kept somewhat involved in the band most of the time), my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Masterpeace shows off one of metal's veteran groups trying to please everyone - and, in the end, they put out a listenable, if not completely satisfying, product.

Oh, sure, hearing Wayne growling out his vocals at high octaves might have been a bit laughable - yet I'll admit to being a hypocrite in saying that I kind of missed hearing them this time around, instead hearing vocals that were more toned down than I was prepared for. Likewise, I was kind of expecting to hear Vanderhoof and John Marshall (who spent some time with Metallica as their guitar tech - and, after accidents involving James Hetfield, actually performed onstage) open up the floodgates and let loose with solos from hell. However, while there were moments that brought back some memories of the past, this outing was more subdued in regards to solos.

You can bet there will be scores of critics on both sides of the fence finding faults with Masterpeace. On early songs like "Sleeps With Thunder" and "Into Dust," you can hear Wayne and crew fighting with the ghosts of the band's early days, and sometimes those ghosts poke their heads through to lead the music. On other songs like "Kiss For The Dead" and "Lb. Of Cure," it almost seems like Metal Church is walking the same type of road that Megadeth did on Countdown To Extinction - slightly less heavy, more mainstream-sounding in comparison.

The funny thing is that Metal Church finds its niche by not merely choosing one of the two factions - instead, they take the best from both worlds and make it their own. Tracks like "All Your Sorrows," "Sand Kings" and "They Signed In Blood" show that the group still has what it takes to bang the heads of today's youths. Unfortunately for them, they find the Rosetta Stone at the end of the album, rather than at the beginning. (Special mention should also go to the instrumental title track, which ends way too early and way too suddenly. When you get a good guitar groove going, even if it's an acoustic one, it's best to let it play out to its own natural end.)

Don't consider Masterpeace a picture of an old, Dorian Grey-like band trying in vain to recapture the glories of their youths. Also, don't consider this album to be a failure in any way. Instead, consider it the first baby step of a band trying to rediscover themselves in a musical era flooded with change. While it takes them the bulk of Masterpeace to regain their footing, Metal Church does make steps in the right direction... but the journey has just begun.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Nuclear Blast Records, and is used for informational purposes only.