Camden Underworld, London
Tuesday 10th May 2016
Steve Göldby: Photos by Ferenc Collins
How ironic that the day started off with an article in my inbox written a couple of years ago where a retired Episcopal Bishop tells about how the church invented the concept of Heaven and Hell as a means to control people. This "revelation" is not surprising at all but what is hard to fathom is that millions around the world still subscribe to and devote themselves to self-serving world religions that clearly do not have their best interests at heart.
There's a war going on right now between these different man-made religions and it's got absolutely nothing to do with God, Allah, Buddah or whoever your favourite imaginary friend may be. It's about power, control, money and who ultimately gets to have jurisdiction over your soul for the rest of your time on Planet Earth and fear of death and what may happen afterwards will ultimately decides who wins.
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So off to Church we went, primarily to purge ourselves of and have a temporary respite from all the bullshit that's going on in the world right now and our healthy dose of reality came in the form of Metal Church, long-time Heavy Metal evangelists who were back on the road with frontman Mike Howe, his first outing with the band for twenty-two years. A night of fire and brimstone was in store.
Guitarist Rick Van Zandt had to have emergency eye surgery to repair a detached retina just before the tour began and was temporarily replaced by Trans Siberian Orchestra and Savatage guitarist Chris Caffery for the US tour, which commenced March 24th in Portland, Maine and ended April 10th in Rochester. Rick is back now and on absolute top form as a set of fine quality hymns belted out from the Underworld.
Communion gratefully partaken of, the band took to the stage in a wave of expectation and duly delivered a Metal sermon that enthralled the flock and converted any non-believers who may have wandered in to the wrong venue. Yes - this was where the music really was at tonight as Metal Church's old and new testaments were brought together to create an apocalyptic soundscape.
Metal Church's new album 'XI' (reviewed here) sold 11,000 copies in its first week of release in the United States, and debuted at number 57 on the Billboard 200 chart, making it their highest chart position and their first entry on the Billboard 200 chart in 27 years since 'Blessing In Disguise'. It also became the band's highest-charting album in Germany, peaking at number 34, and becoming their first album to chart there since 'Hanging In The Balance' reached number 79 in 1994.
"At first I struggled with the decision to come back but after hearing the riffs that Kurdt was writing I just couldn't resist, the music called to me and I wanted to be part of it," says Mike, who was Metal Church singer from 1988 until 1994, replacing David Wayne who very sadly died on May 10th 2005 aged 47 from complications following a car crash.
But Mike has clearly made the right decision as his voice is impeccable tonight and the congregation most certainly are extremely appreciative and Mike expresses his gratitude for that in a very sincere way. He knows he's done the right thing in rejoining and Metal Church seem born again due to his resurrection.
Surprisingly they don't start off with the 'XI' opener, instead we get 'Fake Healer' from 1989s 'Blessing In Disguise' album, one of four that Mike has fronted. He may not look totally like the Mike Howe of days gone by but he carries these songs in a way that only he could. The late David Wayne notwithstanding, Mike Howe really is the voice of Metal Church.
We're four songs in before we get 'Reset' from 'XI' and it's greeted by wild applause so clearly the gathered masses are here on the strength of the latest offering and not here to relive past glories and exactly the same can be said for the band who pull off an explosive performance of biblical proportions. 'Reset' is preceded by the intoxicating 'Start The Fire' from the classic second album 'The Dark'.
Mike didn't need to introduce 'No Tomorrow', the track from 'XI' that was the subject of the first promo video from the new album. As soon as he mentioned "latest video" everyone knew which song was coming next and duly started it off for the band. A brilliant moment.
You can't have a Metal Church gig without 'Watch The Children Pray' and it was slotted in at the perfect moment, just after 'No Tomorrow' and 'No Friend Of Mine', also from 'Blessing In Disguise', which included a superb Rick Van Zandt guitar solo. If you're not familiar with 'Watch The Children Pray', here's the original. Last night it sounded just as polished and epic as it does here.
'Killing Your Time' from 'XI' and 'Beyond The Black' from 1984s debut album brought the set to a close before we got rousing encores in the form of 'Badlands' and 'The Human Factor' rounded off a triumphant night of secular entertainment that is much more real than anything you are fed on a daily basis by the mainstream.
Romans 12:2: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
"I prey upon your morbid fear
Of terminal disease
You won't know the difference
Now it's time for surgery
Another shot, another pill
Two weeks therapy
I take all major credit cards
Your money is what I need"
'Fake Healer', from 'Blessing In Disguise' 1989
Here's the opening half hour of the gig Metal Church played at BB Kings in New York on 28th March 2016 with Chris Caffrey on guitar. Below it you can see the videos of 'Reset' and 'No Tomorrow' and Mike talking about his return to the band.
Catch Metal Church on tour this summer if you can because if it's real Metal you want, played by absolute masters of their craft, then you won't do a lot better than the Church. Sacred stuff indeed and a-fucking-men to that!
Start The Fire
Gods Of Second Chance
Date With Poverty
Watch The Children Pray
No Friend Of Mine (including Rick Van Zandt guitar solo)
Killing Your Time
Beyond The Black
The Human Factor
Metal Church are:
Mike Howe: Vocals
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Guitar
Rick Van Zandt: Guitar
Steve Unger: Bass
Jeff Plate: Drums