ALBUM REVIEW: Metal Church – Congregation of Annihilation


Everyone loves a comeback story, don’t they? A tale of fortunes regained, odds defied and former glories revisited. Unfortunately, as is the way with recoveries and revivals, there always has to be darkness before the dawn. And among all the typical and often comparatively inconsequential trials and tribulations artists face during their careers, death seems to play its part far too many times. A fact with which San Francisco act Metal Church are all too familiar.

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Metal Church Singer Mike Howe’s Death Ruled a Suicide

According to TMZ, the death of Metal Church singer Mike Howe has been ruled a suicide by hanging. He was 55. This contradicts the original report initially by TMZ. The news was broken by the band in a Facebook post, and Mike died at his home in Eureka, California today, July 26th, 2021. One of the best pure melodic singer ever in Heavy Metal, Howe originally hailed from Michigican singing for the band Breaking Point, Howe joined Metal Church for 1989’s Blessing In Disguise.We’ll continue to monitor this story. Continue reading

Mike Howe, Singer of Metal Church Has Died, Aged 55

Sad and sudden news as Metal Church singer Mike Howe has died. He was 55. No cause of death was revealed at this time. The news was broken by the band in a Facebook post, and Mike died at his home in Eureka, California today, July 26th, 2021. One of the best pure melodic singer ever in Heavy Metal, Howe originally hailed from Michigican singing for the band Breaking Point, Howe joined Metal Church for 1989’s Blessing In Disguise and would sing on six more releases from 18989 to 1993, and again from 2016 – to 2020 in his stints in the band. We’ll continue to track this news as it develops. We send our condolences to his family, friends and fans at this time. Continue reading

Metal Church Shares New Lyric Video For “Dead On The Vine”

Thrash and Heavy Metal icons Metal Church have shared a new lyric video for the track ‘Dead on the Vine’! The track comes from the new “lost tracks” release, From the Vault, due out April 10th via Rat Pak Records! The 14-track collection features never-before released songs from the Mike Howe era. Pre-orders are live now, with cool bundles and packages full of must-have extras. Continue reading

Metal Church – Damned If You Do

Metal Church has graced its fans with Damned If You Do (Nuclear Blast/Rat Pak Records). It’s refreshing to listen to new, pure unadulterated Heavy Metal. Some music doesn’t need bells and whistles and Metal Church creates such music. Vocalist Mike Howe still sounds amazing – I, for one, was well chuffed at his return for 2016’s XI – and he shines again on this, the twelfth full-length Metal Church album. Kurdt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt are twin guitar aces and added to this headbanging mixture is the rhythm section of Stet Howland on drums and Steve Unger on bass. Well, this is a win-win for all involved.Continue reading

Watch A New Video From Metal Church – “Damned If You Do”

Legendary American heavy metal band Metal Church has announced their new album, their 12th, for release this December 7th, via Nuclear Blast/Rat Pak Records/America & King Records/Japan. Damned If You Do promises to be full of killer songs and amazing singing in the vein of their best material. Watch the new video for the title track right now! Continue reading

Metal Church – XI

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It’s news to no-one that vocalists play a huge part in the success or failure of most bands. But when singers leave for whatever reason, fans can be left divided in their loyalties. Depending on the reasons for the split, some will follow the singer to a solo career or new band, while others will stay and support the remaining members. Of course there are those who continue to listen to both, but for some reason they still tend to be somewhat of a rarity in Metal.

Metal Church are rather unusual in the fact that, since the release of their début album in 1984, they have had three singers and their fans seem to approve of all of them. Whenever changes have occurred within the camp, there has never appeared to be any ill feeling directed at either side from their fans. Singer and band alike have usually been treated pretty respectfully with every change. Sure, everyone has their favourite frontman, but it’s very rare that you hear anyone say, “Oh yeah, him. The shit one” about a singer from Metal Church.

David Wayne was behind the mic for much-lauded début ‘Metal Church’ (Elektra) and it’s follow-up ‘The Dark’ (Elektra) in 1986, but was replaced by former Heretic singer Mike Howe for third album ‘Blessing in Disguise’ (Elektra) in ’89. Howe stayed for two more albums before they disbanded in 1994.

Citing record sales and management issues as the reason for their break up, it’s probably fair to say that the artwork for 1993’s ‘Hanging in the Balance’ (Mercury) didn’t do them any favours either. In those dark days before the internet, without a sample track available at the click of a mouse, bands could live and die by something as superficial as an album cover. So when the band presented a bizarre, garish cartoon sleeve, depicting a virtually spherical female punk holding a pink umbrella and wearing a stainless steel bra with nipples like spearheads, it’s not surprising that a few eyebrows were raised and many wallets stayed firmly inside their pockets.

When the band reformed in 1998, David Wayne returned for the following year’s ‘Masterpeace’ (Nuclear Blast) but left them a second time shortly after, replaced by Ronny Munroe (unfortunately, Wayne died in 2005 at the age of 47). Munroe released four albums with the band before leaving in 2014, to be replaced by former frontman, Mike Howe.

So, it’s reunited with Howe (well, sort of, as there have been a few other line-up changes over the years) where we find the band now. Releasing their eleventh studio album, cunningly entitled ‘XI’ (Rat Pak Records), it sounds exactly how you’d hope a Metal Church album released in 2016 would sound. It sounds like Metal Church.

Right from aptly titled opener ‘Reset’ the riffs come at you thick and fast. Big meaty slabs of metal with more hooks than the final scene of Hellraiser. If you don’t find yourself banging your head along to the likes of ‘Killing Your Time’, ‘No Tomorrow’, ‘Suffer Fools’, and ‘Needle and Suture’, then Metal Church really aren’t the band for you. Each track sounds fresh and new, but also has a strong, positive sense of familiarity. New material which makes you feel like you’ve known it for years.

Howe’s voice is on top form, like he’s never been away, and longtime member, guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof plays his heart out along with fellow guitarist Rick Van Zandt, while the rhythm section of drummer Jeff Plate and bass player Steve Unger drive the record along with urgency. Even during the album’s slower moments, you always feel like you’re heading somewhere good.

Offering no surprises and giving no apologies, ‘XI’ is exactly what it is and makes a more than worthy addition to the Metal Church catalogue. And all without the aid of stainless steel tits.



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Serious Black – As Daylight Breaks

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Well, that’s shut me well and truly the fuck up

(You wish…)

It’s apt to begin a commentary on a release from one ex-Helloween guitarist (Roland Grapow) with reference to the man he succeeded in the pumpkin-obsessed kings of Power Metal, one Kai Hansen, who titled the third Gamma Ray album Insanity & Genius (Noise) and referenced in the lyrics how thin the line between the two is. Well, the line between generic and uninteresting pap and Power Metal Glory is even thinner, perhaps as thin as the hair-line on Herr Hansen’s fivehead these days. But with As Daylight Breaks (Nuclear Blast) Serious Black (contenders for best new band name – certainly best Harry Potter themed one) have released a debut that is so far over the line on the side of quality, the line is a dot to them (answers on a postcard if you get that reference).

Having written off Power Metal in my mind as a genre that, no matter how well its composite parts could be put together, was done, creatively redundant and in the type of artistic morass that Death Metal found itself in for twenty years, nevertheless, like the child poking the disembowelled frog with a stick and hoping for some twitch or reaction, with morbid curiosity I find myself drawn to it. See, when Power Metal is on it, there’s very little better for invigorating the mind and soul. And Grapow’s latest offering slapped me round the chops, leaving me with a fiendish grin, a rediscovered enthusiasm for the genre and a frog named Lazarus.

The brainchild of Grapow and former Visions of Atlantis bassist Mario Lochert, with the rhythm section rounded out by former Blind Guardian tub thumper Thomen Stauch, Serious Black absolutely nail everything that is joyous about Power Metal infused hard rock, from the driving opening pair of ‘I Seek No Other Life’ and the simply massive ‘High And Low’ through to the theatre-y and slightly camp closing ‘Older and Wiser’.

The band is led by the underrated and under-celebrated vocal talents of former Tad Morose pipes, Urban breed who avoids being one of a million Kiske-clean wannabes by injecting power and tone; at times channelling Jon Oliva, particularly on the keys led title-track, at others Mike Howe (Metal Church), and able to carry a faster verse alongside the ubiquitous sizeable choruses.

Musically, you can bandy about names such as Kamelot (‘Akhenation’), Within Temptation (the uptempo rock romp of ‘Trail of Murder’), Savatage, Stratovarius, and Sonata Arctica if you like; there definite elements of Blind Guardian and Helloween, and that’s absolutely fine, as Serious Black sit as a kind of summation of all that “is” from the polished end of Power Metal.

As Daylight Breaks benefits from a great, full, vibrant production and above all exudes the sensation of a band really enjoying their work. As they rightly should. I once incorrectly tagged Grapow as a Janick Gers figure who had ruined one of my favourite bands. He well and truly proved me wrong – I even quite like Pink Bubbles Go Ape now, and I’m one of the few people on the planet who love Chameleon (both EMI) – and with Serious Black he’s done it again, proving as Edguy did with last years’ Space Police (Nuclear Blast) that, when done well, Power Metal can be fulfilling rompy-pompy.


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