Metal Church - This Present Wasteland
Heavy Metal
10 songs (57'23")
Release year: 2008
Metal Church, SPV
Reviewed by Alex
Major event

Depending on where you sit there are a couple of ways to look at the entity which is Metal Church. You can view it with sympathy, as the band a little ahead of its time, Metal Church eponymous debut album being one of the thrash/speed metal classics. The “great” Lars Ulrich tried for Metal Church and failed to make the band. Or, you can view it as an underdog which many sympathized with, but the one which failed to meet its potential. From that angle they can be considered 2nd tier, a Saxon to a Judas Priest, toiling somewhat in the background, pressed under by the weight of its own expectations. The relocation, multiple lineup changes, David Wayne (RIP) leaving, Kurdt Vanderhoof stepping away from live touring – none of those things helped with consistency and continuity.

I have my own story of Metal Church, however. In the early 80s, when I got into metal in the former Soviet Union, this music was being looked at with much suspicion from the powers that were. The gatherings of metalheads were monitored and dispersed, the tape/LP trading was considered illegal and could be prosecuted if the local police station wanted to make a case out of you. I got my own ass kicked on the few occasions pretty good causing my parents a lot of grief. Poor Metal Church was a double whammy. Not only they were “metal”, but they also had “church” in their moniker, and needless to say the Communists made us all atheists who they hoped would be one day praying at their own twisted altar. So if, judging purely by its name, Deep Purple was forgiven, Black Sabbath not quite understood, then Metal Church was the first LP confiscated if they caught you having a stack at the local park where fans gathered for buying and trading. The few local tape recording houses did not carry it, but it was considered a badge of honor to possess, even if you were not much into thrash. As a result, not many Metal Church albums made it into the Soviet Union and the band remained largely unknown, unlike Metallica which gathered stadium size crowds in Moscow in early 90s.

I have to admit after moving to the States around that time I lost track of what Metal Church was up to, so the debut is just about the only album I have in my collection. On the other hand, this gives me a completely unbiased perspective about their latest This Present Wasteland, without having to compare it with what came between the glorious debut and now.

What I hear is a rugged, full of attitude, not false pretenses, stab at the more muscled less noodly NWOBHM. The songs on the albums are made catchy and not complicated, as they are unclogged in terms of the number of riffs used per song. Further muscle grows out especially due to the heavier production, where one can reach out and practically touch the pulsating bass on The Company of Sorrow and Crawling to Extinction. Not too many weird angles, twisted leads (Monster with its twin touch) or atmospheric dreaminess (Breathe Again and Meet Your Maker where the middle acoustic break makes the song otherwise even more vicious), the album is focused on delivering solid songs with supercatchy riffs (The Perfect Crime) and unmistakable, almost King Kobra-like, American hooks (Monster). Purposefully driven (Congregation), rousing (Breathe Again) or even with a touch of synth in the guitars (The Perfect Crime), which does not bother me one bit as I am probably the only fan of Priest’s Turbo, these are going to translate extremely well into live settings, so be on the lookout for Metal Church rolling into a venue near you. When the need is there to up the heaviness, the tempo is slowed down, reaching into the Holy Diver bag of tricks for ballsy weighty semi-ballads Deeds of a Dead Soul and A War Never Won.

Over all of this backdrop, and up in front as far as the sound is concerned presides Ronny Munroe, with his a little less clear, but quite powerful take on Halford circa Genocide/Tyrant, with Dioesque stretchiness. From gruff to clear to falsetto screaming (the ending of The Perfect Storm and A War Never Won), where needed, this is one solid performance which makes the album whole.

The only concern being song length (is there enough here to support almost every song being over or climbing onto 5 min) This Present Wasteland is still easy to listen to, better without the headphones, turned on louder and in open spaces. Most importantly, the album shows that old does not mean to be dated or stale. Not a bombshell, but the album many, especially more traditional, fans will enjoy.

Killing Songs :
The Perfect Crime, A War Never Won
Alex quoted 85 / 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 - A Light In The Dark reviewed by Mike and quoted 90 / 100
Metal Church - The Dark reviewed by Mike and quoted 95 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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