It’s finally happened and it’s finally here.
What am I talking about? The return of a Mike Howe fronted Metal Church. The era, that for me, defined the band as the power metal powerhouse they truly are. Don’t get me wrong, the David Wayne era is what brought the band to the forefront and the Ronnie Munroe fronted version was truly great as well (as a matter of fact, I was lucky enough to witness their first show and return with that line up!), but for me, this is Metal Church.
The bands duly titled XI (11) is a masterpiece of metal in and of itself. The riffs are all there, the rhythm is tight, the vocals are soaring and the band as a unit is spectacular. How could they top that? Why a live show of course, and luckily enough for me, the band took a break from their current tour with Megadeth to grace our little corner of the world with a full hour and a half of greatness.
First we had some local bands opening. Usually in Anytown USA, the opening bands are a lackluster mix of groups with no real direction and just selling tickets so they can have a spot on the show. This time around, we were lucky enough to get some real talent opening the set. Local bands Wuzz and Savage Retribution were spot on perfect openers for Metal Church. There was one other band and I can not, for the life of me, remember their name (sorry guys and gals!).
After Wuzz finished their set it was time for our headliners. The anticipation was killing me. Are they going to be good? Are they going to suck? Is this going to tarnish my memories of a once solid band who are unable to reclaim the glory they once had? Or are they going to destroy the place and leave us all wanting more?
Destroy they did.
Opening with “Blessing in Disguise‘s” “Fake Healer,” it was immediately noticeable that Howe could still hit the notes and the band was playing it tighter than ever. “In Mourning” from Human Factor followed before the band veered into David Wayne era material with “Start The Fire” (From The Dark). Howe sang the songs with pure conviction, jumping up and down around the stage with a huge smile on his face. Guitarist, Kurdt Vanderhoof couldn’t help himself and was obviously enjoying the energy from his singer. Drummer Jeff Plate, bassist Steve Unger and other guitarist Rick Van Zandt also seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere and energy.
Firing on all cylinders the band kept going with “Reset” from their latest album. The pleading sounds of “Gods of Second Chance“ from the bands Hanging In The Balance work was next. I was getting chills hearing this band and Howe’s voice was still holding strong. Another ‘Human Factor’ era song (and also single) “Date With Poverty” followed. Howe’s growling vocals were met with an amazing crowd sing along that delivered the punch that only a live show can do. The band broke into “No Tomorrow” from ‘XI’ after that and at this point, Howe was still running around and acting like a madman. The band was still running tight and solid as the powerhouse, power metal titans they are. How can all this energy and youthful exuberance be coming off this stage from this group?!
At this point I was pretty sure there would be at least one more Wayne era song being played before the night would end, I would be partly right as the next song they played was the hit that put them on the forefront of the metal map, MTV Headbangers Ball favorite “Watch The Children Pray.” Howe’s voice is so different from David Wayne’s voice, but he still sang it like it was his own. The crowd was singing along so loudly I could barely hear his vocals in between! Another Wayne era song, “Beyond The Black” (from their debut self titled album), was at the end of the main set after “No Friend Of Mine” and “Killing Your Time” (from ‘Hanging In The Balance’ and ‘XI’ respectively).
(CONTINUED BELOW AFTER PHOTO GALLERY)
The band returned for an encore with their biggest MTV hit “Badlands” (from Blessing In Disguise). Perhaps Howe’s greatest vocal work up until “XI” in my book and I thought the band would finish there. Nope, they would tack on one more, “The Human Factor” (from the album of the same name) closed out the night. Personally, I thought it should have been the other way around but that wasn’t up to me and I was still pretty happy as was everyone around me.
My friend, who had tagged along with me tonight and had never seen the band before was treated to something special. I asked him if he enjoyed seeing the “Mighty Metal Church”, His reply? “Mighty is an understatement!”
Well said my friend, well fucking said!
The band has stayed true to their roots all these years. Even taking the time to come out and mingle with the fans after the show, who, I was told by the band earlier that day, are the most important people at the shows. By watching the activities after, I could clearly see that was not a statement spoken lightly. Everyone walked away with a photo, a smile, an autograph, a hug. Whatever it was that made them smile the most. I don’t think any of the fans were smiling as big as the guys in the band though.
This band has clearly had another chance to go ’round and that is a rare feat in and of itself. Being on fire since ‘XI’ came out earlier this year and some heavy touring has found the band playing bigger and bigger venues and festivals as well as the current arena tour with Megadeth. What a ride it must be for these guys! It was fun and exciting to get to be a part of another awesome chapter in metal history in the making!