METAL CHURCH - Congregation Of Annihilation
May 25, 2023, 2 weeks ago
Dawn of a new era, with Marc Lopes on vocals, a gritty, forceful vocal brawler, in the vein of original singer David Wayne. Mainstay Kurdt Vanderhoof is already on record, claiming the forthcoming live shows will be built around the initial pair of releases, most of which (the late) Mike Howe was uncomfortable/unwilling to perform. "Another Judgment Day" kicks and punches out of the gate, including the shrieks, screams and off kilter intonations declaring this ain't the same attitude/band fronted by Howe.
In all honestly, there hasn't been a Metal Church album like this since the debut. Apologies to BraveWords honcho “Metal" Tim (who loves the album), but apart from "Ton Of Bricks", The Dark was something of a disappointment, all those years ago. The lovable rough edges (mostly attributable to Wayne's sometimes caustic voice) had been filed down. Little wonder he'd soon depart. Well those days are back! Just listen to Lopes' final, vicious intonations on "Children Of The Lie", leading into the subdued, jazzy bass led instrumental, that rounds out the number.
More than a little unhinged, in all the best aspects of Wayne and/or kindred spirit (pun intended) Paul Baloff (Exodus). That said, the rapid fire, staccato thrash delivery of the bass/guitar driven title track almost tries too hard. Love the tasty guitar break though.
The locomotive chug of "Pick A God And Prey" is a smiling, head wobbler, rounding the first turn. As a lifelong fan of all iterations (although partial to Wayne's tenure), actually surprised Vanderhoof can still write songs like this. So the question is, why did he wait so long? Why not do so earlier? Sure the answer has something to do with fitting the vocals. But man, come on! That said, it's not all old school speed metal and there's a few tricks up the magician's sleeve, including a meander, somewhat progressive "Me The Nothing". More akin to the theme of the late night movie, eventually ceasing with creepy, sporadic piano.
Don't worry, the respite is followed by a low rumbling, hard pounding "Making Monsters", the chorus practically snarled by Lopes. It fades in a repeated gallop of bass and a trip around the drums. Musically, "Say A Prayer With 7 Bullets" has a groove that Howe could have sung on, but that maniacal, glint in the eye from Lopes takes it in a darker direction, especially on the titular chorus. "These Violent Thrills" sees the guitars go off, but never losing the melody.
There are two bonus cuts, bringing the CD version up to eleven tunes. The first is "My Favorite Sin", a slightly atypical mid-tempo dose of groove (plenty of ride cymbal, courtesy of Stet Howland) which unleashes three distinct timbres from the singer. The sound fades out. Finishing the expanded running order is riffing "Salvation", with almost yelping vox. Any hidden messages in that title and its placement?