My bosses were at the MJ thing yesterday and it's a good thing cuz my morning was free to mourn Metal Church, once-awesome Thrash Metallists who announced today their dissolution. I hate gravelly, gnomish vocals like those of Accept mini-thug Udo Dierkshneidenhoffermansheit or original Metal Church vocalist David Wayne, so the latter's replacement, Mike Howe, was a goddamn godsend. Um so to speak. On Howe's debut, the classic Blessing In Disguise, his cross, commanding tenor was exploited to beautiful effect by producer Terry Date and enormous Metal Church songwriter Kurdt VanderhOOF. Candidates for album centerpiece are many, but Blessing's 'hit' was the epic "Badlands," a perfect example of Howe's versatility and prowess as he ranges from wilted croon to strangled bark and all points between. Date's skillz come in the chorus, which finds Howe's voice doubled until the payoff line I know these are the badlands (rad grammar btw); at this stage, Howe is singular and center channel, totally without effect like the parched, vulnerable loner lost in a metaphorical desert of the song's title.
A guy I know always bitches that when he finally writes a really brutal riff, just as he's falls in love with it and himself for writing it, he slowly and without exception realizes that it belongs to Blessing In Disguise. (The one that sounded like "Rest In Pieces" was a keeper anyway, stubborn egomaniac.) But yeah Metal Church parted with Elektra and Blessing's follow-up, The Human Factor, came out on Epic six months ahead of Metallica's black album and like that icemilk record, it featured more digestible, straight-ahead hook metal -- but pretty great. They then proved they could do melodic heavy rock as well as Anthrax (Volume 8: The Threat Is Real!) and with none of the unfunny grabassery on 1993's Hanging In The Balance, whose hidden classic status was ensured by the world's stupidest cover art this side of PBGA. Aaand on that topic the name Metal Church just does not get it done, dudes. Otherwise Metal on you, Metal Church (1981-2009).