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All components considered, The Weight of the World is actually no slouch of an album, with what might be the most professional production of any Metal Church recording to its day, and a far more enthusiastic roster of songs than were found on 1999's Masterpeace. The problem is that this just never sounded like a Metal Church record to me, but a band waving the flag of an established band moniker to keep forcing itself down a spiral into no man's land. Of the classic lineup, Kurdt Vanderhoof and drummer Kirk Arrington remained, but this came after the whole shitstorm of David Wayne once again exiting the band to start a solo project with former guitarist Craig Wells, and Vanderhoof's own pretty miserable side project which had a lot more commercial, wimpy hard rock sound to it. I had my reservations, so the fact that this didn't suck after the band's five year studio hiatus was a testament that there was some fire left burning in the veterans' hearts...well, the cover sucked, but this is no surprise, as the band seems to wish to set a record for 'lame' in this category.
However, it's almost like a new group entirely in tone. This had a far closer sound to traditional/power metal than any of the previous releases, and lacked those marginal thrash elements heard throughout the 80s. Ronny Munroe, who some might remember from the US hard rockers Lillian Axe (who flirted with some success in that decade), took the vocal reins, and like his predecessors, he's got an undeniable charm about him which seems to sparkle whether the band were writing compelling riffs to support him or not. Like Mike Howe, though, Munroe seems far superior when he's inducing some anger to his inflection like on the opener "Leave Them Behind" He's got this catchy, wavering texture to his voice when he sustains a note, and he's mixed phenomenally on the record, bold and clear without inhibiting the backing instruments. That said, there were a few moments on The Weight of the World in which he exchanged a bit of charisma to concentrate on smoother, deeper, generic emotional lines, and here I admit to losing some interest in the guy, since he could have just been anyone.
Another huge difference on the album is just how glorious and uplifting the riffs feel, far brighter than the hazy and menacing miasma that surrounded the older albums. That's not to say they don't get appreciably heavy in spots like the speed-tested "Hero's Soul" or Judas Priest/80s Sabbath worship of "Cradle to Grave" where Munroe has some great lines redolent of singers like Dickinson, but I always experienced a sunny sort of elation to the writing, which is mildly less appealing than something like The Dark. That said, a lot of the riffs and leads are well constructed, at least more so than the three previous records, and the other new members of the group (Malice guitarist Jay Reynolds, and bassist Steve Unger) fit in seamlessly into this style. They even squeeze in a hint of progressive rock influence in the middle of "Madman's Overture". I wouldn't dub a majority of the tracks 'memorable', yet there were moments in "Blood Money", "Leave Them Behind", "Hero's Soul" and even the playful "Bomb to Drop" which cast the impression that this lineup had been together forever, so well do they gel.
It's not a great album, perhaps, but easily a passable one. Not something that I'd recommend so much for Metal Church fans, believe it or not, but more towards those who have a love for the 80s records of bands like Fifth Angel, Riot, or the Dio solo works. Perhaps also Jorn Lande's so output or the heavier Saxon records of the late 90s, in terms of more recent comparisons. The Weight of the World isn't so distant from the old records that one can't draw some parallels, but it feels more epic than the Howe records like Hanging in the Balance and more happy than the old stuff, likely to leave a few of the bands hangers on feeling mildly alienated. That said, they were obviously happy with this outcome, because they'd continue to collaborate with Munroe for years to follow.
In 1984, Seattle band Metal Church wrote and released a definitive piece of metal history. Their self titled debut is without doubt one of the greatest debut albums ever made by a metal band. It clearly remember the first time I heard it – late night metal radio in 1985, the host played the opening two tracks – Metal Church (along with Metallica) pretty much changed my life and set me on the path to seeking out heavier underground metal music. NO metal collection is complete with Metal Church’s classic debut.
As this band is a revered metal act that most of you kiddies don’t have a clue about - some history is warranted: This year, of course, marks the 20th anniversary for Metal Church. And there have been many highs and lows experienced along the way. The debut aside, Metal Church released four other worthy follow up albums – (86’s ‘The Dark’, 89’s ‘Blessing In Disguise’, 91’s ‘The Human Factor’ and 93’s ‘Hanging in the Balance’). Line up changes occurred – vocalist extraordinaire David Wayne left after ‘The Dark’ only to be replaced by the excellent Mike Howe. To make matter worse main song-writer and guitarist Kurt Vanderhoof opted out of the ‘touring’ lifestyle after the ‘Blessing’ album and worked with band in the studio only for the following two albums. Then, with the metal climate in decline, the band called it quits after ‘Hanging in the Balance’.
In 1999 the metal world was ecstatic at the reformation of Metal Church with both Vanderhoof and Wayne back in the fold fulltime (unfortunately original guitarist Craig Wells didn’t join them). The result was ‘Masterpeace’, now unlovingly referred to by Vanderhoof, as ‘Disasterpiece’ such was the disappointment it turned out to be. The whole ship then folded like a deck of cards. Then, one of the more bizarre Spinal Tap moments occurred – in response to the direction of ‘Masterpeace’, David Wayne up and released an album using the ‘Wayne’ moniker and entitled it….wait for it…’METAL CHURCH’. He even used the classic iconic graveyard guitar that graced the original album of 1984. Incredible, but true! Needless to say, the original MC line up won’t be getting together again anytime soon.
Resigned to the fact that MC was finished completely, I was quite surprised to hear this year that the band was to continue. Five years on from the ill-conceived reformation, only two original members remain. Joining mainstays Kurt Vanderhoof and drummer Kirk Arrington is former Malice guitarist Jay Reynolds, bassist Steve Unger and new vocalist Ronnie Munroe (ex-Rotwieller). Without belittling the importance of Jay and Steve, it is the addition of Munroe that most MC fans will be most interested in. As a replacement for the David Wayne and the underrated Mike Howe, Munroe has a lot to live up to on this, his first outing. As it happens Ronnie has the perfect combination of MC’s former vocalists – the Wayne high pitch screams and Howe’s authentic mid range tones. Ronnie may not be as charismatic, but overall he puts in a super performance on WOTW.
As for the musical direction of WOTW, there are no surprises here punters. This is fucking Metal Church ferchristsakes! It is very much in keeping with the traditional metal sound that they forged during the period between 1984-1991. As Kurt would go on to say in a recent interview: “We didn't want to try to update the sound, we didn't want to be Nu Metal, or anything we weren't known for, try to be anything that we weren't,….we wanted to keep it very old school, melodic metal”. And whilst any new Metal Church material suffers in comparison to those first two albums (particularly the debut), WOTW is still recognizable as a Metal Church album. As a point of reference it reminds of the somewhat polished and refined sound they were able to achieve on 1991’s ‘The Human Factor’. This is the period where Kurt’s song writing ideas became more mature and his playing was more concerned with technique and melody rather that straight up thrashers. Sure, his best days are behind him, and WOTW probably ranks as NO.5 or 6 out their seven studio efforts, yet it’s still stands up as a worthy enough metal album and one I think they should be proud of.
WOTW will appeal anyone who enjoys the 80’s metal tradition. I doubt whether ‘WOTW’ exists to attract a new crowd. Metal Church still have a massive following, but it’s safe to say the majority of their audience are veteran metal heads (like myself) who still have a penchant for good old school traditional metal. As far as I am concerned this shit will always bury the modern metal/nu metal clowns no matter how hard they try. Kurt Vanderhoof still knows how to write a catchy metal riff, and while they’ll never reach the dizzy heights of past glories, I am stoked they’re still around and flying the metal flag.
Metal Church don't release bad records. That should be evident to everyone by now. This album isn't particularly thrashy like some of their previous works, it's just straight up 80's heavy metal, complete with a few faster songs and a few ballads. Those are a little too slow for my tastes and I don't feel new vocalist Ronny Munroe has a deep enough voice to carry them on his own. He's still a competent vocalist, it's just that some songs like 'Time Will Tell' beg for an amazing vocal performance that isn't delivered. The vocals are only nice on 'Cradle to the Grave'. That song definitely has the best riffs of the album and on the whole just flows really well.
All the songs are still solid and the album is consistent throughout. It's hurt by the lack of any real standouts save perhaps 'Cradle to Grave'.Catchy choruses (in Blood Money, Bomb to Drop, most songs actually) abound as well as interesting mid-tempo riffs. There is nothing amazing about this album unfortunately. It's consistently good to very good and there are enough decent ideas for 'The Weight of the World' to stay interesting throughout. Just don't go looking for something emotionally creepy like 'Fake Healer' or brilliant like 'Badlands' on here.
This new album from METAL CHURCH is a vast improvement over 1999s lackluster "Masterpeace" ! I really didn´t like that one and was quickly bored with it after one listening. As of now there are only two original members of METAL CHURCH still in the band (Kurt Vanderhoof and Kirk Arrington) and they´ve recruited the great singing voice of Ronny Monroe, formerly of ROTTWEILLER and guitarist Jay Reynolds from MALICE. Ronny really shines on this album, often reminding me slightly of Dio. Basically the album, unlike the thrashier earlier work, is straightforward Heavy Metal with lots of good riffing and melodies. A decent release that I recommend to anyone who was disappointed with the last album but liked the previous work and don´t expect to hear something like the first few albums.