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Metal Church > The Weight of the World > Reviews
Metal Church - The Weight of the World

Straight Into a Vicious Wind - 85%

Twisted_Psychology, May 24th, 2023
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Steamhammer

With 1999’s Masterpeace proving to be something of a misfire, 2004’s The Weight of the World could be regarded as the true start of Metal Church’s second wind. Bandleader-guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof and drummer Kirk Arrington are the only members present from the classic era, allowing some new blood to alter the band’s thrashy classic metal style while still staying recognizable. There seems to be a best of both worlds strategy at play with the musicianship dipping into the grit of their eighties staples while hanging onto that nineties polish.

This is best exemplified by vocalist Ronny Munroe making his first of four appearances with the band. His voice is somewhere between David Wayne’s raspiness and Mike Howe’s melodic bark, leaning more in the former’s ballpark but still able to carry the cleaner segments. He may not be as iconic as his predecessors but his scratchy range gives him some distinct character and deserves more acknowledgement. The same can be said for bassist Steve Unger, who may not be an overtly flashy player but has a presence that remains rock-solid to this day.

The songwriting also benefits from a workman approach with the first half offering a particularly strong set of tracks. “Hero’s Soul” is secretly one of the band’s best songs with a choppy gallop, anthemic chorus, and motivational verses that are tailor made for a montage. Elsewhere, the opening “Leave Them Behind” stands out for its alternating jagged riffs, the title track’s hard rock crunch feels like a throwback to Hanging in the Balance, and “Sunless Sky” dips into contemplative territory with more abstract guitar work. Part of me feels like the eight-minute “Madman’s Overture” is too early an climax four songs in, but it’s a worthy epic in itself with plenty of fluctuations to serve the Nostradamus narrative.

While the back half isn’t quite as impactful in comparison, it’s still got some solid numbers. “Cradle to Grave” toys around with some more off-the-wall vocal lines, the bright chug on “Bomb to Drop” has a Deep Purple vibe, and “Blood Money” makes for a nice punchy closer. Cutting a couple songs wouldn’t have hurt but they never waver from a straightforward objective.

I find The Weight of the World to be rather overlooked in the grand scheme of Metal Church’s discography. While it doesn’t reach the heights of their highest echelon, they also hadn’t sounded this confident since the days of The Human Factor. The musicianship and songwriting are tight as the blended aspects of previous eras are spruced up by the new lineup’s enthusiasm. It gets the job done without getting too extravagant and even with the collective conscious to brush off the Munroe era altogether, this one deserves a revisit.

RIP Kirk Arrington (January 23rd, 1962-May 22nd, 2023)

Unremarkable, but fun - 77%

gasmask_colostomy, October 31st, 2016

It’s somewhat of a shame that I heard XI before I heard The Weight of the World, because Metal Church’s most recent album is in many ways a much weaker copy of this one. In some cases, it’s far too blatant, such as the clear similarity between ‘The Weight of the World’ and ‘Sky Falls In’, which ends up clearly in favour of the 2004 song. Where XI uses Mike Howe and quiet “suspense” to attempt something decent, this album simply plays riffs and catchy rhythms in the same style and misses out all the boring bits. It’s also quite a long album, yet it’s difficult to use phrases like “over the top” and “ad nauseum” when the songwriting generally seems well-judged and most tracks are packed with content, without much filler to be seen.

Vaguely a new era for the band, The Weight of the World introduces Ronnie Munroe to the line-up, who – while I don’t rate him as highly as Mike Howe, nor is he as charismatic as David Wayne – does a good job with most of the songs. He isn’t always that powerful and certainly doesn’t sound confident on some of the slower numbers, but he can put on a spurt of anger and snot and suddenly he’s up there with the best of them, while the instrumentalists give him the chance to take a few risks with an exciting backing. He provides the audio snippet at the end of ‘Hero’s Soul’, which is a bit weird, though humour in metal has never bothered me too much, unless it’s really stupid or popped into the middle of a Mayhem full-length. As for the other new additions, there isn’t much to say because they don’t strike me as totally different from the members they replaced, even if they do manage to be nicely consistent in producing good riffs. The guitars are fairly sharp and have a nice melodic resonance for the lead parts, though Steve Unger might have had a snivel about the rather low positioning of his bass in the mix, barring the more adventurous ‘Madman’s Overture’.

The style of ‘00s Metal Church has taken a turn from the original incarnation, pointing at an even less specific strain of heavy metal that incorporates few thrash elements alongside more overt speed, power, and traditional influences. On occasion, you will prick up your ears as you recognize a momentary steal from Iron Maiden (the vocals on ‘Hero’s Soul’, then a very familiar bell on ‘Madman’s Overture’) or any number of old speed metal bands (the riff to ‘Cradle to Grave’), though it seems to be more that Metal Church are playing in the ballpark than on the same base as any other band. There are fairly few moments when the five-piece venture out of their own self-imposed territory, although the ‘70s breakdown in ‘Madman’s Overture’ deserves a mention, if only for Unger’s bass work and the strange slither of a synthesizer that cropped up from somewhere in the studio. ‘Time Will Tell’ wanders slightly from the riffing assault to enter rock ballad realms, though appears unscathed from the brush with acoustic guitars, largely due to a cracking chorus from Munroe.

One thing that might put some listeners off is that all of the 10 songs here lag over five minutes in length (barring two, which are close enough anyway), so there’s nothing that goes directly to the point and remains consistently gripping. The opening ‘Leave Them Behind’ starts out in no nonsense fashion and might well be the best song, though even that plays out to nearly six minutes due to extra verses, melodies, and a longish instrumental section. It might have been nice to see Metal Church stick to a stricter template on some of the songs, since the lulls between key material and additional fun sometimes cause songs to stall and makes the album feel more complex than it really is. That said, there are plenty of songs that are fun to bang your head to, starting out from ‘Leave Them Behind’ and the varied title track and lasting until ‘Wings of Tomorrow’, after which the remaining songs are slightly underwhelming by comparison, particularly ‘Bomb to Drop’.

If you like any kind of non-extreme metal, you would be a fool not to have listened to at least one Metal Church album and, although clearly not the finest, The Weight of the World is a reasonable example of how trad metal should sound in the 21st century. None of the songs will make your jaw drop, but they will all make you stomp your foot or bang your head, which is sometimes just as good. Nothing truly outstanding, just everything you like.

Clawing its way back from a clusterfuck - 70%

autothrall, June 13th, 2012

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.


No surprises...just METAL! - 80%

krozza, October 6th, 2004

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.

Solid effort - 84%

Sidewinder, August 20th, 2004

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.