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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Metal Church

This Present Wasteland

Review by Gary Hill

I can remember getting into this band in the early days. I really liked their first couple of albums but kind of lost track of them after that. Well, 2008 finds them back with a scorching new CD. This disc really shows a versatile band. While throughout the track by track I bring up different bands in sort of comparing them to similar music, make no mistake – Metal Church has their own sound. Sure, they share coming ground with, and you will be reminded of, various acts in the course of this show, but the combination of sounds and particular melding of these elements is something unique to this group. There a lot of talent in the band and you can certainly hear it on this album. It’s a killer metal CD that’s not afraid to show its gentler and more creative side.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
In The Company of Sorrow
This pounds in heavy and mean. After a time they strip it back for a measure or two and then fire back out. Vocals half growl, half scream over the top as the intro draws towards its close. The music doesn’t alter but the vocals bring in the lyrics over the top. Somehow this song reminds me of early Metallica at times. The chorus is more along the lines of something from Iron Maiden. Mid track they drop it back for a short bass guitar showing and then power it back out. The vocals that come in over this next segment remind me quite bit of British Steel era Judas Priest. They take us back to the intro after a while and we get a decidedly Halford-like scream as they fire back out into the song proper.
Perfect Crime
Coming in with keyboards and more dramatic, more balladic musical elements the opening section of this seems to call to mind both Dio and Queensryche for different reasons. They fire out into a smoking metal grind from there. While the song has its own Metal Church identity the Dio echoes seem to permeate a lot of this one. Interestingly enough, the heavier segment later feels musically quite a bit like Dio era Sabbath yet the vocals seem to combine elements of Geoff Tate and Rob Halford (that one mostly in the closing scream).
Deeds of a Dead Soul
Dramatic tones that have a balladic structure and a mysterious tone start this. After a short time they pound in with a more definite metallic fury. When it shifts out to the riff driven segment I really like it a lot. The vocals bring us back into rather Maidenish territory. This alternates throughout with other musical elements at times calling to mind Dio at others making me think of Queensryche. It’s another strong piece of music on a strong CD. The metal grind mid song is a nice touch. So, is the guitar solo segment that follows it.
Meet Your Maker
Heavy and frantically fast, this is a screamer. The vocals are more brutal on this than on anything we’ve heard so far. There are some moments that call to mind Judas Priest’s Painkiller album, but overall this is the most modern metal sounding track so far. Not nu-metal by any means, though, but more brutal extreme metal. It’s not quite that vicious, but also not all that far from it. The chorus is more old school, though, feeling a bit like Iron Maiden. The most intriguing change is still to come, though. They power this out into a scorching jam that’s just pounding in its intensity. Then it shifts to a mellower and melodic motif that’s almost progressive rock in nature. Eventually this is powered back out towards metal, but it really shows off the versatility of this band. There is a powerhouse segment later that revisits that Painkiller styling, but even more so. It gives way to a more melodic metal motif and then a percussion based brief outro.
Monster
An unaccompanied voice that at once makes me think of Dio, Bruce Dickinson and Geoff Tate sings, “We’ve created a monster.” Then the group fires out into a frantic and rather raw metal excursion that’s just plain mean. In some ways this track is one of the most consistent and less adventurous pieces on show here. There is a breakdown mid track to a more straight ahead 1970’s sound rock, though. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still metal, but it’s got that sound more like Blue Oyster Cult or hard rocking bands like that. There’s also a tasty hard rock guitar solo on this track. There is one decidedly Halford-like scream at the end of the song.
Crawling to Extinction
 A more stripped down sort of 1970’s hard rock and metal approach makes up the main crux of this one. There are a few more Priest-like moments on this track, but overall it’s not the most dynamic track on show here. Still, it’s a killer.
War Never One
A metal ballad style starts this off and holds it through the first verse. They scream out into a killer jam with a soaring scream. Then it seems like it’s about to drop way back down. After a short interlude, though, it’s back to the crunch with a very Queensryche like jam that’s a killer. Interestingly they take us out to an almost progressive rock mellower section for a time and then scream back out. This alteration of styles is an intriguing surprise and makes this one of the most dynamic cuts on show here. It’s also one of my favorites. A killer raw metal grind takes the track later and we get some Halford-like vocals at times over this. The motif is short lived, though and gives way to another change up – this one feeling a bit more like the faster paced old school Black Sabbath.
Mass Hysteria
This is raw and unrelenting. It’s got a sort of freight train feeling to it, perhaps a bit like some of the more powerhouse Motorhead. This is a real screamer. It’s not one of the most dynamic tracks, but it’s definitely powerful.
Breathe Again
Here we have another track that at times makes me think of Maiden. It’s another hard edged screaming metal number. Mid-track they drop it to a melodic jam that has some fusion-like tendencies. The vocals that come in over this mellower segment seriously make me think of Bruce Dickinson, strengthening the Iron Maiden link. When they scream back out to the metal it seems even more furious. This gives way to a melodic (but still crunchy) crunchy guitar solo section before they bring us back out into the song proper.
Congregation
While still packed with crunch the intro here has an almost psychedelic rock twist to it. It gives way to more traditional metal with a scream celebrating this transition. Once again I can hear a lot of Iron Maiden on this. The frantic chorus is a scorcher. Just past the three minute mark they spin us out into an almost progressive rock arrangement. First this serves as the basis for a melodic guitar solo based instrumental section and then it plays host for the next vocal section. This portion of the track would really be at home on a neo-prog album by any number of bands. We are brought back to the pure metal with a smoking guitar solo segment. This pulls us after a time to the song proper.
 
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