Metal Church – This Present Wasteland (2008, SPV)
- The Company Of Sorrow
- The Perfect Crime
- Deeds Of A Dead Soul
- Meet Your Maker
- Crawling To Extinction
- A War Never Won
- Mass Hysteria
- Breathe Again
Ronny Munroe – Vocals
Kurdt Vanderhoof – Guitars
Rick Van Zandt – Guitars
Steve Unger – Bass
Jeff Plate – Drums
Total Time = 57:23
I have been a Metal Church fan from way back in the beginning with the debut album but I started to lose faith as the years went on and the band kept changing members. After the self-titled debut in ’84 and THE DARK in ’86,Metal Church just became another Metal band. Fast forward to 2004 and lead guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof brought in new vocalist Ronnie Munroe and the core of a new Metal Church was born. Since then the band has released three albums that exemplify what American Heavy metal is all about: loud guitars, great vocals, and solid songwriting.
The new album, THIS PRESENT WASTELAND, is a continuation of the sound that the band has laid groundwork for with the last two albums THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD (2004) and A LIGHT IN THE DARK (2006) with monster size guitar riffs, solid drumming, and impressive vocals. Opening song ‘The Company Of Sorrow’ sounds like a speedy Judas Priest cut, it’s fast and aggressive with a twin axe attack from Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt and double bass pounding from Savatage/Trans-Siberian Orchestra skinsman Jeff Plate. Ronnie Munroe does a good job of channelling a cross between Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and former Metal Church singer David Wayne (R.I.P.) with his deep voice and his splitting screams. When I reviewed A LIGHT IN THE DARK, I was thrown off by his style but now I like what Munroe brings to the mic…..he really puts on a top notch performance all over this album. ‘The Perfect Crime’ continues the assault with a more controlled pace: it starts out slow and Ronnie sounds almost Dio-ish but the tempo builds into the main riff. The song has more of a Hard Rock style than all out Metal but it sounds so heavy. Things slow down for ‘Deeds Of A Dead Soul’ with it’s Black Sabbath-like brooding plod. The downfall of this song is that it’s way too long and it gets repetitive after a while, it’s a change of pace though and shows that the Church can do some different things. I don’t really like the keyboard that gets sprinkled in a little as it sounds out of place.
‘Meet Your Maker’ is another speed demon rocker that shows off the pounding from Plate and the riffery from the Vanderhoof/Van Zandt duo. This song chugs along as Munroe adds some high pitch highs and a bit of a growl around the chorus. This is one of the more varied vocal performances of the album, Ronnie uses all his techniques and gives the song some different sounds. The song breaks down in the middle for the solo and it slowly builds up speed again. The fast pace continues with ‘Monster’, one of my favorites on the album. Vanderhoof keeps churning out big riffs and Munroe sounds completely in control of the song but the genius here is the rhythm section of Steve Unger and Jeff Plate, both the bass and the drums sound so thick and make a great foundation to build a song.
‘Crawling To Extinction’ has the same pace as ‘The Perfect Crime’ but it’s not as good…..it sounds like I’ve heard it all before. The opening of ‘A War Never Won’ sounds like early Queensryche with Ronnie doing a good Geoff Tate over an acoustic intro. The song builds into a more heavy guitar line but it’s a mid-tempo song that sounds all too familiar. Things kick in again with the faster ‘Mass Hysteria’ and ‘Breathe Again’. ‘Mass Hysteria’ sounds like the rest of the faster songs on the album but it has some melodic parts especially around the chorus while ‘Breathe Again’ has a breakneck main guitar and a soaring vocal. The song breaks down to a ballad in the middle and you’d swear you were listening to present day Queensryche because that lower vocal register sounds like Geoff Tate. I like the duelling guitars thoughout the song, they give that added punch that the last few songs lacked. The closer is ‘Congregation’ and I swear that I can hear a little ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ in the opening bassline! It’s brief but I swear it’s there! That aside, ‘Congregation’ continues the uptempo metal attack that has been deployed on all the faster songs but then there’s another breakdown mid-way through that also appears on many of the songs. This is where things gets repetitive and the album takes on more of a generic feel.
Overall, I would classify THIS PRESENT WASTELAND as a solid Heavy Metal record but not a great one. The first five songs are really great but the second half of the album, aside from ‘Breathe Again’, is just more of the same. You can almost predict what the band is going to do: some sort of intro, moving into a fast main riff, slow breakdown in the middle, move into the fast riff again. With four or five songs like this it’s obvious Metal Church is following their formula too closely…..a little diversity would go a long way. Even though there are some repetitive parts, I enjoyed the album as a whole. If you’re a Metal Church fan then you know what to expect, especially if you own the previous two records.
Favorite Songs: ‘The Company Of Sorrow’, ‘The Perfect Crime’, ‘Breathe Again’, ‘Monster’, ‘Meet Your Maker’