Metal Church - A Light In The Dark
Heavy Metal
11 songs (60:26)
Release year: 2006
Metal Church, SPV
Reviewed by Mike
Album of the month

Twenty years ago, Metal Church released The Dark. Since that time, we've seen David Wayne leave the band twice, Mike Howe front the band for three excellent albums, a controversial solos release from David Wayne entitled Metal Church, and the addition of Metal Church's third vocalist, Ronny Munroe. That brings us to the new Metal Church album, A Light in the Dark. Obviously, this title is a play on the band's second release, The Dark. With the high esteem The Dark is held in by fans of the band, Metal Church absolutely must release a killer of album to be worthy of that name. Honestly, I had my doubts about whether or not they could produce an album that would justify a name of essentially "The Dark 2." After all, Kurdt Vanderhoof is the lone original member of the band still left. Also, I thought Weight of the World was a good album, but nothing more. I just wasn't fully convinced that Metal Church of today could produce a gem like The Dark.

Fortunately, I was wrong as I grossly underestimated how much I would enjoy this album. I don't know what happened in between Weight of the World and A Light in The Dark, but the songs on this album are so much better than its predecessor. Forget the fact that Vanderhoof is the lone original member left in the band. The rest of the guys in this band are talented musicians, and very much up to the task of creating a killer album with Kurdt. Just like The Dark, this album contains some heavy as hell tracks that are insanely catchy at the same time. I don't think Beyond All Reason will escape my mind any time in the near future. While not all the songs are instantly catchy like this, they are all killers in their own rite, thus earning tremendous play time in my stereo.

Vocalist Ronny Munroe sounds much more a part of the band on this album, whereas he sounded a bit uncomfortable and/or restrained on his first Metal Church album. He has really improved dramatically on this album. On A Light in the Dark, the man proves that he has lungs of steel as he sings with power and character from start to finish. On Weight of the World, I found him to be a bit stale and generic at times. I guess he worked out the kinks, because he is just incredible on this album. If you imagine the combination of the voices of David Wayne and Jon Oliva, you'll get a pretty good idea of how Munroe sounds on this album. Ronny's voice flows seamlessly with the songs, and his very powerful voice fits perfectly with these songs. Furthermore, he sings like he means it; each of these songs takes on a lot of character, especially when compared to his more mediocre performance on Weight of the World. Munroe has really come into his own on this album, and the metal world will very much be able to associate a unique sound with the name Ronny Munroe going forward. Along with Vanderhoof's slick guitar playing and songwriting, Munroe's vocals have to be considered a crucial ingredient to the excellent result of A Light in the Dark.

Speaking of Jon Oliva and Savatage, Jeff Plate who has been with Savatage since Dead Winter Dead handles the duties behind the kit on this album. He does a fine job with the more intricate licks on the speedy tracks, but sounds equally at home with the more mid paced, very Savatage like Disappear.

Like The Dark, this album leads off with three balls to the wall heavy tracks that also have an infectious catchiness about them. Beyond All Reason is definitely the highlight of these first three. During the chorus line, a slight progressive quality can be heard, very similar to Kurdt's solo album A Blur in Time. Both this track and Mirror of Lies feature some intricate, staccato style riffing which comes at you like a speeding freight train. The title track kicks off the album, and you'll notice right away that Ronny Munroe has improved his game on this album. Disappear and The Believer follow suit, both with a mid tempo sort of Savatage feel to them. The Believer has an ever so slight use of keyboards in them, providing a haunting atmosphere. Again, this progressive element seems to be something the Kurdt incorporates from his solo outing a few years back. Temple of the Sea (a nod to Burial at Sea from The Dark?) is very well written nine minute epic that features some of the best songwriting on the album, and some of the strongest I've heard from the band over its career. During the build phases of the song, the guitar work has a classic tone very similar to that of Diamond Head's Sucking My Love. Vanderhoof provides some solid, meaty riffs to digest, while Munroe puts forth a gutsy and emotional performance behind the mic. With certainty, this track is a highlight of the album. Pill for the Kill is a mid tempo metal track that again reminds me a lot of Savatage. Some interesting lyrics, sinister vocals, and thundering riffs are the dominate themes here. Towards the middle of the song, some staccato riffs and blazing solos are on display, providing the song with a slight thrash flavor. Son of Son has a bit of a late 80's Iron Maiden feel to it, particularly with the dual rhythm guitars that carry the track. Some very 80's sounding shreds and dual solos are also on display. More Than Your Master sounds like it could have appeared on the second half of The Dark. Some acoustic passages start the song and also provide a brief breather in the middle of the track. Otherwise, this track is a mid paced, heavy guitar driven cut with another gutsy performance by Ronny Munroe. Blinded by Life is another riff driven that features some thrashy guitar work added to the mix. Munroe adds some demonish shrieks to accompany the many solos and staccato style riffs making for a very 80's thrash sounding track.

Concluding the album is a nice tribute to David Wayne and the album that A Light in the Dark borrows its name from. Watch The Children Pray 2006 is dedicated to the original vocalist of Metal Church who passed away in 2005 after an automobile accident. The guys stay pretty true to the original. The only notable difference is that the backing vocals aren't as present on the current version, which is something that really helped give the original its dark and haunting vibe. Still the guitar work is a bit tighter, and the production is obviously better this time around. It's pretty much impossible for a band to top an original classic from the past, but I do think this version is well worth hearing, especially because of the band's motivation for recording it.

Obviously, A Light in the Dark is a big surprise for me. I expected a good album, but I certainly didn't expect an album to rival past classics of the band. With this being the second album of the current lineup of the band, it sounds like things really clicked this time around. The individual performances (especially Munroe's) are much better, and the songwriting is tremendously better. Not every band that originated in the 1980's is still producing relevant albums today. However, Metal Church have persevered through some tough times, and are obviously determined to deliver top notch, ass kicking metal to their dedicated fans. A Light in the Dark is a big success as far as that goes.

Killing Songs :
Beyond All Reason, Mirror of Lies, Temple of the Sea, Son of the Son, Watch the Children Pray 2006
Mike quoted 90 / 100
Jeff quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Metal Church that we have reviewed:
Metal Church - Generation Nothing reviewed by Andy and quoted 82 / 100
Metal Church - Metal Church reviewed by Cory and quoted Classic
Metal Church - Hanging In the Balance reviewed by Thomas and quoted 83 / 100
Metal Church - This Present Wasteland reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
Metal Church - The Dark reviewed by Mike and quoted 95 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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