metal church






From The Vault

(Rat Pak Records)

      As a die-hard fan of all things Thrash Metal and Thrash Metal-related, my fascination with San Francisco, California-born icons Metal Church was, for lack of more succinct terms, 'disturbingly intense'. Having endured a particularly misspent youth, I found solace amid the group's blistering sophomore effort The Dark (1986) and it's self-titled predecessor (1984). The release of Blessing In Disguise (1989), The Human Factor (1991) and, to a lesser extent, the oft-maligned Hanging In The Balance (1993), only further solidified their impact upon my fragile, still-metamorphosing psyche. Even as I inevitably aged and arguably matured, I routinely found myself returning to the group's most extreme moments (i.e., “Ton Of Bricks” and “Psycho”) in times of trouble, turmoil and tragedy. Now, nearly nearly thirty (!) undeniably long years later, the group continues their unlikely, Mike Howe-propelled resurgence with the highly-anticipated issuance of the rarity-laden compilation From The Vault.

      On the ingenious From The Vault (2020), an expertly assembled sixteen song collection of Thrash-infused Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the rumbling--if not outright ferocious--“Dead On The Vine” the maddeningly infectious “For No Reason” and the snarling, histrionic-laden “Above The Madness”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Seamlessly blending an array of new and previously unreleased material by delving deep into their recent history, the group fires on all cylinders early and often, without, believe it or not, attempting to reinvent the 'wheel'. Effortlessly obliterating the few misguided congregants still doubtful of their ability to persevere amid an already inanely overcrowded global Heavy Metal populace, the group offers scant opportunities for criticisms by not-so-gently reminding us all of their hard-fought and, for the most part, indisputable reputation as Godfathers of their genre.

      Continuing with the thought-provoking lament “Mind Thief” the hook-laden (and perhaps politically-fueled) “False Flag” and the fist-pumping Prog 'exercise' “Insta Mental”, the airtight--to say the very least--combination of vocalist Mike Howe, guitarists Kurdt Vanderhoof (Hall Aflame, The Lewd, Presto Ballet) and Rick Van Zandt, bassist Steve Unger and drummer Stet Howland (Lita Ford, Temple Of Brutality, W.A.S.P) steamrolls ahead like a well-oiled machine. Having already added a sorely-missed element of legitimacy and stability to the group's ever-morphing ranks via Damned If You Do (2018) and XI (2016), the group drives home each key focal point via the multi-octave Howe and an avalanche of razor-sharp riffs and solos. Wisely avoiding the self-plagiarism that has befallen so many releases of such ilk, their initial efforts, while far from groundbreaking and certainly not revolutionary, go for the jugular by maintaining an inhuman focus upon deftly-crafted songwriting.

      Other standouts, including the soaring, acoustic-tinged instrumental “432HZ” a deftly-executed rendition of the Sugarloaf AM classic “Green Eyed Lady” and an incendiary live version of 'crowd pleaser' “Anthem To The Estranged”, serve as a much-welcomed reminder of the group's unabashed lyrical and compositional prowess. Fortified throughout via covers of the woefully-underrated Nazareth gem “Please Don't Judas Me” and the Ram Jam staple “Black Betty”, From The Vault finds the group boldly forging ahead while retaining their trademark blend of crushing heaviness and unnervingly barbed harmonies. Most definitely not for the faint of heart (or, for that matter, anyone without a genuine and sincere interested in all things Thrash and Thrash-related), one must, at the very least, sincerely admire their ability to persevere despite the most insurmountable of circumstances, a factor that cements what must be described as one of the most highly-improbable Heavy Metal reunions to date.

      In conclusion, what ultimately separates the fist-pumping, mosh-inducing From The Vault--and as a result, the improbably long-running group itself--from it's few contemporaries is their already much-celebrated ability to effectively re-capture and/or re-create the gargantuan tonalities of their Blessing In Disguise (1989) and The Human Factor (1991) heyday without sounding forced or dated. While one might effectively argue that it serves as little more than a 'stop gap' (this is, after all, a quasi-compilation), the end result(s) of the group's more-than- -considerable efforts are seemingly guaranteed to leave both die-hard completists and clueless newcomers alike only wanting for more. As a result, if you've once again found yourself in search of a refreshingly Old School alternative to the painfully mindless banalities that are so often force fed en mass via the proverbial mainstream, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane salve for what ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Select Discography

From The Vault (2020)

Damned In You Do (2018)

Classic Live (2017)

XI (2016)

Generation Nothing (2013)

This Present Wasteland (2008)

A Light In The Dark (2006)

The Weight Of The World (2004)

Masterpeace (1999)

Live (1998)

Hanging In The Balance (1993)

The Human Factor (1991)

Blessing In Disguise (1989)

The Dark (1986)

Metal Church (1984)

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