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Metal Church - Metal Church

On July 1984 "Metal Church" released its debut eponymous album.

"Metal Church" emerged from the 1980s thrash metal scene, and often flies under the radar despite their significant contributions to the genre. Formed in 1980 by guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof in San Francisco, California, the band (then called "Shrapnel") released the three tracks "Red Skies" demo in 1981. The same year Kurdt Vanderhoof returned to his home town "Aberdeen", Washington eventually solidifying its lineup with David Wayne on vocals, Craig Wells on guitar, Duke Erickson on bass, and Kirk Arrington on drums. The band released the demo "Four Hymns " in 1983 readopting the "Metal Church" moniker. They spent following year touring and accruing material, while slowly becoming an integral part of the Seattle heavy metal music scene of the 1980s.

Being influenced by the NWOBHM and the San Francisco thrash metal scene the band faced a choice: play heavy metal/power metal like the British bands they admired or thrash metal as their American peers. "Metal Church" mixed both, offering a balanced blend of melody and aggression. This balance, combined with Wayne's aggressive vocals, created a dark, epic atmosphere that defined their debut eponymous album - a classic that showcases the band's unique blend of thrash and traditional heavy metal.

The mix of genres is prominent already at the opening track "Beyond the Black", featuring a lengthy intro with distorted spoken lines. It starts as a heavy metal but around 3:40 minute shifts to thrash metal with powerful fast riffs. Vanderhoof and Wells form a guitar-playing dream team, creating engaging riffs and impressive solos. The dark, apocalyptic lyrics about the aftermath of atomic warfare enhance the track's intense atmosphere.

Then comes the title track "Metal Church" which is undoubtedly the album's standout. It opens with ambient wind sounds and building military drumming before the guitars explode into action. David Wayne's sinister laugh and commanding vocals drive the song, supported by some of the best riffs in the band's career. The interplay between the instruments is exceptional, making this track a highlight.

The blistering drum opening of the instrumental track "Merciless Onslaught" showcases Kirk Arrington’s drumming, which is a highlight, providing a solid backbone and delivering intense, headbanging moments to this album. As its name provides, this instrumental is a full-force merciless metal attack of powerful riffs and fast-paced drumming.

The semi-ballad "Gods of Wrath" that closes the first side of the vinyl is one of "Metal Church's" most memorable songs showing their musical versatility and dynamic range. It begins with a slow, melodic guitar intro and clean vocals, gradually building in intensity. Wayne's high-pitched vocals and the shredding guitars create a powerful contrast.

The second side of the vinyl begins with "Hitman" - A fast-paced, thrashy number that showcases the band's technical prowess. Again this song proves the mix of genres that "Metal Church" blends into its unique style. The song begins slowly, but just after a few seconds explodes into its thrash metal riff combining power-metal screams and lightning-fast guitar solos.

The next two songs are "less memorable" as compared to the rest of the album. "In the Blood" is a decent heavy metal track but its riffs and chorus leaves no impression. "(My Favorite) Nightmare" is a thrash metal track that features clever drumming especially during the intro, but again it does not rise above the rest of the album's songs.

we are getting near the end with "Battalions" which brings back the album’s momentum, with its dynamic drumming, energetic guitar solos, and standout vocals from Wayne.

The album ends up with "Highway Star" which is a fast-paced "Deep Purple" Cover. While it retains the catchiness of the original, it feels somewhat that the band's urge to play it fast cameד at the expense of feel, groove and melody.

"Metal Church's" debut album is considered a classic in the metal community. It helped to establish the band's reputation and influence within the heavy metal and thrash scenes. The album's blend of aggressive and melodic elements, combined with strong musicianship, makes it a must-listen for fans of the genre. Its release in 1984 placed it among other significant metal releases of the time, contributing to the evolution of heavy metal during that era.

For listening: Spotify, Apple Music

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