A Light In The Dark
posted on 6/2006 By:
Holy shit did I wanna scream like David Wayne when I first heard Metal Church at the tender age of 15 (hell, I’d still kill to be able to scream like him, even at the enfeebled age of 35). I remember spending countless hours in my room as a youth, spinning Metal Church’s first two records over and over again, but it was the titanic one-two punch of “Beyond The Black” and “Metal Church” that really added to my delusions of metal stardom at the time. In fact, to this day it’s hard for me to think of a better two-song start to a metal album than that which is found on Metal Church’s incredible debut.
Things got a little strange in the Church camp following the self-titled record. Vocalist extraordinaire, David Wayne, split following the major label release of The Dark, and in a relatively strange move, Vanderhoof stepped down as well, but kept his ‘member’ status by continuing to contribute and write songs for the band during their relatively quiet existence through the 90’s. 1999 found a return of all founding members, sans original guitarist, Craig Wells, for the moderately welcomed Masterpeace, but extended inactivity and side-projects following its release quickly forced Vanderhoof to look elsewhere for a second guitarist, bassist, and vocalist for 2004’s excellent, The Weight of The World.
Metal Church’s latest, A Light In The Dark, picks up exactly where the previous release left off, delivering Vanderhoof’s tried-and-true formula of no-fuckin’-bullshit, American traditional metal. This is quite possibly the band’s finest offering since 1989’s, Blessing In Disguise, and decidedly irons out the tiny kinks found on The Weight of The World. Vanderhoof and former Malice axe-man, Jay Reynolds, play off one another seamlessly as they deliver a multitude of fresh, robust, crunchy riffs, and memorable, melodic soloing, while bassist, Steve Unger, and drummer, Jeff Plate (Savatage), fill out the bottom end beautifully and keep the pace of the record firmly nestled at a head-banging gallop. The award for most improved player, however, would have to fall squarely in the lap of vocalist, Ronny Munroe. There were a couple spots on the previous release where his mid-ranged Dio-esque vocals somehow didn’t quite match up with the music, but this time around he sounds more confident in his delivery and has more room to really test his impressive range. He’s particularly good when he utilizes his clean voice during the album's quieter moments.
Musically, A Light In The Dark sounds like a good mix of The Dark days and Blessing In Disguise, with a few of Vanderhoof’s more hard rock leanings just peeking out on a couple songs (“Son of The Son” and “Blinded By Life”). Cuts like the excellent “The Believer”, “Pill For The Kill”, “Disappear” and “Mirror of Lies” (which has the album's catchiest guitar lick) all hold the classic Metal Church crunch that’d plop them comfortably within the band's 1986 repertoire, but the band truly kills when they stretch things out on the more epic tunes. “More Than Your Master”, “Beyond All Reason”, and the superb “Temples of The Sea” (the best song Vanderhoof’s written since “Badlands”) all bend and turn about classic Church-ian riffs, mellow interludes, and soaring vocals. Munroe absolutely slays on the albums’ anthem, “Temples of The Sea”, kicking the shit out of most traditional metal vocalists on the market today. The album closes out with a nice rendition of the classic “Watch The Children Pray”, for fallen king, David Wayne, who sadly passed away on May 10th, 2005, from complications stemming from a car accident. (I think I’ll always wish I could scream like Wayne on “Beyond The Black”…even when I’m really old and grizzled…you will not be forgotten my friend).
Vanderhoof and crew seem to be on a roll with their last two releases. A Light In The Dark delivers exactly what fans of Metal Church want to hear – kickass, heavy, traditional metal with great leads, superb songwriting, and powerful vocals. They also seem to be getting better with each subsequent release, which bodes well for their future if they can keep a steady lineup for the years to come. I would definitely recommend this record for fans of the band and fans of the genre. Highly enjoyable.
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