METAL CHURCH - Damned If You Do
January 18, 2019, a month ago
Let’s get this out of the way – it’s a shame this record came out in December when most publications have already made their top albums lists because this would have easily made the cut. For whatever reason, this second hefty load of metal anthems with Mike Howe has seemed to fly a bit under the radar. After the fabulous return with XI, Damned If You Do builds upon those foundations with a more well-rounded effort and tracks that hover around the 4-and-a-half minute mark. It’s straighter to the point and thematically fits with The Human Factor. Personnel wise, drummer Stet Howland takes the kit, replacing longtime skinsman Jeff Plate and while Plate utilized a more thunderous and crushing approach to his drumming, Stet is a bit classier with his rhythms and fills. I however had to deduct points due to the production qualities as I’m befuddled why the instruments were compressed to hell. Classic quality traditional heavy metal like Metal Church is built to be played loud and proud but once you turn up the knobs, you can hear the fuzz come through and it’s irritating. If the songs were just as poor in their quality, this would have been a terribly low score.
But the music rocks and rocks hard. Listen to the “Badlands” vibe of “The Black Things” or the melodically driven and desperate chorus of “Revolution Underway”. I’m still amazed at how incredible Mike Howe sings. He still has all the charisma and stylings to his voice and no offense whatsoever to previous singer Ronny Munroe, but man they should have snagged back Howe way sooner! The humming intro of the title track turns into the bouncy opener that wonderfully sets the table for the Damned as mainman and guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof has done a great job constructing killer, meaty riffs while Rick Van Zandt provides tasteful, melodic soloing that will earn repeated listens. A perfect example are the back to back thrashers “Guillotine” and “Rot Away”. The former features a thumping bass from Steve Unger and the riffage is similar to classic Anthrax. The latter is a corker of guitar work and love the drum patterns featured within. Would love to hear both live! Another is the Armored Saint like “Into The Fold”; it’s a kick ass trad metal burner I could see John Bush singing. While some of these songs seem simple; other acts would kill for this kind of quality.
Audiophiles will probably be annoyed at the sound quality, but if you can look past such measures, there is absolutely no reason to stay away from this record because I’m happy to say the Church successfully continued their momentum from XI. Sitting at a tight 45 minutes, this was way easier to digest than the almost hour long previous effort. I am absolutely still a member of this Church and you should be too!