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Metal Church - 2016 XI



ARTIST: Metal Church
ALBUM: XI
LABEL: Nuclear Blast
SERIAL: NB 3683-2
YEAR: 2016
CD REISSUE: 2016, Ratpak Recods, RPR603068 * 2016, Nexus (Japan), KICP-1744

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Mike Howe - vocals * Kurdt Vanderhoof - guitar * Rick van Zandt - guitar * Steve Unger - bass * Jeff Plate - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Reset * 02 Killing Your Time * 03 No Tomorrow * 04 Signal Path * 05 Sky Falls In * 06 Needle & Suture * 07 Shadow * 08 Blow Your Mind * 09 Soul Eating Machine * 10 It Waits * 11 Suffer Fools * 12 Fan The Fire

RATING:

WEBLINKS: www.metalchurchmusic.com


Background
This outfit might have started as a full-on thrash metal band, but I think you'll find Metal Church just to be happy to be out there playing regardless. If anything, old school 80's style of thrash isn't the same as what youngsters of the 21st century would consider to be passe. However, us oldies who write and read stuff on this site can never turn down an opportunity to listen to a band like Metal Church doing their thing in 2016. Not quite in the Anvil league of metallic dinosaurs, still Kurt Vanderhoof and the troops know how to keep things ticking over, and 'XI' is yet another arrow in the MC quiver.


The Songs
With previous singer Mike Howe back in the team, the five-piece sound re-energized, and they show their 2016 game-face with the short and snappy 'Reset'. The hard driving drum work from Jeff Plate provides the solid underbelly for this under 4 minute opener. Howe is the catalyst for 'Killing Your Time'. Sounding like Blackie Lawless in the vocal department, this track gets solid contributions from all the band members. Some acoustic strumming introduces 'No Tomorrow', before it marches off into the regimented metal territory of the long lost 80's. Excellent stuff. More acoustic lead-in's for 'Signal Path', but the fiery rhythm guitars aren't far behind. This is a long track at 7min 12 sec, with the acoustic passages cutting in at the three points during the song. 'Sky Falls In' takes the groove-metal approach, snaking and sliding its way into your head. The growling vocals gives it a sinister vibe, and then it's onto the very cool 'Needle And Suture'. An ideal song for a horror movie soundtrack I reckon! You could possibly say the same about 'Shadow' too, as its dark and other-worldy feel is tailor made.

'Blow Your Mind' takes awhile to get going; the slow build up taking nearly two minutes to get into gear. It's a tight grinding track with more than enough metal than a scrap junkyard! 'Soul Eating Machine' is one of the racier tracks on 'XI', and I find this one very appealing because of the accelerated tempo. 'It Waits' sounds like another song-title fit for a horror movie soundtrack. The musical atmosphere provides some orchestral backing and ghostly vocals from Mike Howe amid some swirling flanger like guitar parts. It doesn't quite suit the flow of the album, but it's interesting nonetheless. Getting near the end now, and 'Suffer Fools' is another high on the uptempo, flailing riffs and a stomping rhythm section. The finale 'Fan The Fire' is just classic old school metal, that will suit fans of early Savatage.


In Summary
I have many of Metal Church's albums, and usually when an established like these guys turn up periodically, I'm always inclined to go back and listen to their back catalogue. Not just for shits and giggles, but to review their music and make comparisons accordingly. Mike Howe's return has definitely tweaked my interest with 'XI', and even though it's been a couple of decades since the hazy days of 'Blessing In Disguise' and 'The Human Factor', Metal Church have released an album that easily reaches the heights of their best material. A surprisingly good and solid album for 2016.


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