Metal Church - "This Present Wasteland" (CD)
"This Present Wasteland" track listing:
1. The Company Of Sorrow
2. The Perfect Crime
3. Deeds Of A Dead Soul
4. Meet Your Maker
6. Crawling To Extinction
7. A War Never Won
8. Mass Hysteria
9. Breathe Again
Reviewed by EdgeoftheWorld on March 10, 2009
Growing up in the '80s and '90s, Metal Church always seemed to be at the forefront of the second-tier bands that came out of the early 1980s thrash movement. They weren't as popular or well-known as the "big four" of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer, but like Armored Saint, Testament and a few others, they held their own enough to tour not just with the "big four," but with metal stalwarts like Judas Priest and Motorhead.
Fast-forward to 2008, when Metal Church has created an album that, in terms of both versatility and virtuosity, puts many of the recent releases by the "big four" to shame.
"This Present Wasteland" bursts out of the gate with "The Company Of Sorrow," which sets the stage for most of what you'll hear on the rest of the album. Starting out with some superb machine-gun chugging by guitarists Rick Van Zandt and Kurdt Vanderhoof, it occupies the same sort of "thrash-lite" space as Judas Priest's "Painkiller," (as well as a lot of Metal Church's previous output). The Rob Halford-style screaming from vocalist Ronny Munroe on this track is pure old-school metal.
On the next two tracks, Munroe and the rest of the band pay tribute to another Ronnie — Ronnie James Dio. The intro to "The Perfect Crime" begins with an intro that is more than a little reminiscent of the keyboard parts to early '80s Dio tracks like "Mystery." Munroe's vocals soar nicely over the mid-tempo metal riffs.
"Deeds Of A Dead Soul" has Metal Church worshiping at the altar of Black Sabbath, with full-on doom metal riffing.
The thrash returns with "Meet Your Maker," in which Munroe reverts back to Halford mode.
The band even experiments with something approaching AC/DC-style boogie-blues rock, with "Crawling To Extinction," which also is reminiscent of "2X4" from Metallica's "Load."
"Breathe Again," the album's penultimate track, has a breakdown in the middle that feels very much like the jazz-influenced parts Tony Iommi would occasionally throw into early Sabbath tunes.
The playing on the album is uniformly excellent, with the interplay between Vanderhoof and Van Zandt on tracks like "Meet Your Maker," which whipsaws between thrash and acoustic balladry, standing out.
Bassist Steve Unger gets a cool breakdown part on "In The Company Of Sorrow," and, along with drummer Jeff Plate, provides a solid rhythm backbone that allows the guitars and vocals room to stretch.
The album, unfortunately, ends on its worst song, the slightly dull "Congregation," which feels longer than its nearly six minutes. Still, it does fade out on some good thrash riffing, so all is not lost.
The production on "This Present Wasteland" is excellent, though there are a couple tracks where Munroe's vocals and the occasional guitar solo are in jeopardy of being buried under the rhythm guitar.
"This Present Wasteland" is a superb album, especially for fans of metal the way it sounded in the early '80s. In 57 minutes, you get everything from doom to thrash, with superb vocals on par with greats like Dio and Halford. It's a superb offering from Metal Church, and one my stereo will be worshiping for a long time.
Highs: "In The Company Of Sorrow" and "Mass Hysteria" both feature great thrash riffs, while "Deeds Of A Dead Soul" features a great doom metal riff.
Lows: The album's closer, "Congregation," and some moments where lead vocals and guitars come close to being buried in the mix.
Bottom line: A superb album that effortlessly straddles several metal genres.
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