The Weight of the World
posted on 9/2004 By:
Weight of the World marks the twentieth anniversary of albums from Metal Church, whose successful self titled debut in 1984 brought them underground acclaim and prompt attention from major labels. The thrash movement was then building steam, and Metal Church incorporated this new aggressive sound into their American power metal roots. The band furthered this sound on their next album, and with increased label support, enjoyed some commercial success in the mid to late 80’s. It was during this time that Mike Howe replaced David Wayne on vocals and the band released one of their best efforts, Blessing in Disguise. Howe’s voice had much less rasp, and his cleaner delivery, coupled by a backing off the thrash sound, helped Metal Church cement their style, sell a few albums and maintain their status as one of the leaders of American power metal. Future releases were mostly respectable, but not very commercially successful, and Metal Church took a break in the mid to late 90’s, until they reformed and released a live album of old recordings, and the ill-received Masterpeace. The band now features the two remaining members, guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof and guitarist Kirk Arrington, and new vocalist Ronny Munroe. So now after 20 years, rotating membership, breakups, and poor sales, comes the return of Metal Church. The Church is open, the question remains whether the congregation is still listening.
Weight of the World is a bit of a mixed bag. Most of the riffs and melodies are pleasing, but the vocal delivery as often as not leaves much to be desired. Munroe’s voice is a bit higher than I’d prefer—he’s not going to make your ears bleed, or anything like that, but I think his voice is a bit high to pull off some of the songs. Plus, his clean delivery doesn’t give him much cover and also spotlights the lyrics, which are of inconsistent quality. However, there are also many good moments, and at its best, the album draws favorable comparisons to modern Iron Maiden, Iced Earth, and Nevermore.
Tracks like “Madmas Soul” and “Leave Them Behind” showcase Metal Church’s strengths. The band displays competent riffing and melody, with good variety within the songs, a trait that many bands lose by this stage in their career. Even some of the poorer quality songs have some cool sections. Others are based on strong premises but don’t deliver. “Hero’s Soul” features some Iced Earth-style riffing in the verse and Iron Maiden-esque lead melodies in the chorus, but the vocals and lyrics are a big let down. Unfortunately, that description fits a few songs.
Weight of the World is a decent effort by these long-timers. I think fans of the band will be quite pleased with the album, as will fans of the genre. Beyond that, I can only recommend the album with reservations. The vocals may be a deal breaker for some listeners, and there is some cheese/poor songwriting in places, but there are also plenty of moments where this band reminds you why they’ve been at this for two decades.
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