METAL CHURCH – Congregation Of Annihilation (2023)
METAL CHURCH belongs to the forerunners of thrash metal. The band, initiated by Kurdt Vanderhoof launched a stellar debut in 1984 but line-up changes, tragedies and strokes of fate have been in the way for a big breakthrough. At the same time Metal Church are heroes from the underground and compared to some other bands, the ups and downs bound them closer together as a group.
Having rejoined the band in 2015, the hugely talented immensely popular frontman Mike Howe passed away just a couple of years ago, the singer following his trailblazing predecessor David Wayne who himself died in 2005, with the sad news also recently breaking of the passing of former drummer Kirk Arrington.
The moment of Howe passing away was therefore a shock and led to the question how the future of Metal Church will look like. After a period of grief, the band decided to continue and started to work and finish new songs.
Those are now on the upcoming album ‘Congregation of Annihilation’. Not only that the new longplayer is strong and powerful, Metal Church also found with Marc Lopes a singer that fits perfectly to the sound of the band.
The start of the new album with “Another Judgement Day” couldn’t be better, as it becomes clear that Metal Church haven’t lost any of their power. Even if the band, as described, had to go through tough times, it seems like it has been more of a motivation for not giving up.
This new album is a step into the future and at the same time looks back from a musical perspective. This is partly due to Lopes, who has already shown with Ross The Boss that he has a true metal voice. On the one hand rough and boisterous, on the other hand equipped with the possibility of high pitch screams I feel reminded of the first two records of the band, especially ‘The Dark’.
The powerful title track follows with aggressive vocals, a killer middle section, and Led Zeppelin ‘Immigrant Song’ style riff. While some titles are designed to roll off the tongue and some exist purely to sound cool, this just happens to be both.
The belligerent and ballsy ‘Pick a God and Prey’ is followed by ‘Children of the Lie’ with its multiple vocal layers and different effects, four-stringer Steve Unger leading the song to an epic conclusion with a moody, proggy bass-led outro.
The piano-assisted intro of ‘Me The Nothing’ turns into another sturdy melodic monster while ‘Making Monsters’ and ‘These Violent Thrills’ are two more rip-roarers featuring looming claustrophobic riffs and an aggressive groove respectively.
‘Say a Prayer with 7 Bullets’ is a good old-fashioned heads-down rocker while closer ‘All That We Destroy’ is sure to get pulses racing. Continuing with the laid-back but upbeat groove of ‘My Favorite Sin’ and the darkly melodic ‘Salvation’, the record concludes properly with two cuts that deserve better than being counted as mere bonus tracks.
Since the band’s self-titled debut back in 1984, guitarist and founding member Kurdt Vanderhoof has repeatedly shown over the decades he has more than an ear for a great riff, and along with long-standing axe partner Rick van Zandt this looks to be in no danger of coming to an end.
A couple of songs might miss a truly standout chorus or that singular perfect hook but many of its standout moments are easily worthy of their better albums. Drummer Stet Howland is on point throughout, while Lopes manages to sound authentic bringing his own personality to the game and all these various components come together to make ”Congregation of Annihilation” another invigorating blast of high-octane energy.
01 – Another Judgement Day
02 – Congregation of Annihilation
03 – Pick a God and Prey
04 – Children of the Lie
05 – Me the Nothing
06 – Making Monsters
07 – Say a Prayer with 7 Bullets
08 – These Violent Thrills
09 – All That We Destroy
10 – My Favorite Sin (Bonus Track)
11 – Salvation (Bonus Track)
Marc Lopes – vocals
Rick Van Zandt – lead guitar
Kurdt Vanderhoof – rhythm guitar
Steve Unger – bass
Stet Howland – drums