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Metal Church – XI Review

Released by: Rat Pak Records

Release Date: Out Now!!!

Genre: Heavy Metal



Line Up:

Mike Howe – vocals

Kurdt Vanderhoof – guitar

Rick Van Zandt – guitar

Jeff Plate – drums

Steve Unger – bass



1. Reset
2. Killing Your Time
3. No Tomorrow
4. Signal Path
5. Sky Falls In
6. Needle & Suture
7. Shadow
8. Blow Your Mind
9. Soul Eating Machine
10. It Waits
11. Suffer Fools


When a musician decides to retire from making music, that’s pretty significant. This applies more to makers of original music, and goes from garage bands to big time International superstars. Creating music, writing music, is very personal and intimate. It’s sharing a part of your soul, your very being. To one day just decide, “I’m done. I’m not going to do this any more,” that is a tremendous decision to make. In particular, when that performer is someone that has made a big impact on music, whether it’s a big impact on music as a whole or a particular genre. By that same token, when a musician decides after a lengthy retirement they’re ready to come back, that too is huge. If much time has passed you run a possibility of not being able to live up to a legacy (if you left one to begin with.) Vocalists for sure have a greater gift to lose and much more to prove if they have stopped doing it on a regular basis. Your voice is an actual attribute of your body. Yes, I know, guitarists, bassists, drummers, etc, their skill is based on physical attributes too, but unless you have lost a limb or other appendage that is central to your instrument or have a debilitating illness that has crippled you up, you can at least make some concerted effort to give it a go again. Guitarists and bassists might have lost some dexterity and speed, and drummers the same, but with enough practice you can at least regain the bulk of what you had before. A singer, once your voice is shot, that’s it. Barring high risk surgery, your singing days are over. Look at so many of the greats from back in the day that are really struggling to keep it going- it’s tough, and usually the most obvious loss to a band.

I said all of that to say that when it was announced Mike Howe was making his triumphant return to Metal Church after a lengthy retirement I was equal parts excited and nervous. Excited because Blessing In Disguise is my all-time favorite Metal Church album, and most of that has to do with his voice and the direction the band went in with his addition. Not to take anything away from those first couple of albums with the late David Wayne as both are very much iconic thrash metal works, but Blessing was so much more. And not to take anything away from Ronny Munroe as I thoroughly loved all of the albums he did with the band, including the last one Generation Nothing, but for me, Howe is the voice of Metal Church. So what if is return was bad due to loss of ability? What if he was trying to reclaim something he lost, thus tarnishing his legacy? Once I popped in XI, I knew immediately that Howe was in top form, and all things are right in the world of Metal Church. Culling their sound from their classic sound, this album is a perfect return for not only Howe, but the band as well. Church has been one of those bands that, in an alternate universe would be one of the Big 4 of Thrash as they have always been trailblazers, daring to take thrash metal into a more melodic and cerebral direction as opposed to many of their peers. With the opening track an homage to vintage Church with “Reset” to the almost hard rock of “Fan the Fire” this album contains no filler. My favorite tracks are the punk/thrash inflected “Suffer Fools,” the creepy Cooper-esque “It Waits,” and biting, cycnical “No Tomorrow” showing that the band hasn’t lost a beat with Kurt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt’s excellent guitar work, Jeff Plate’s thunderous drums, and Steve Unger’s driving bass, not to mention having the excellent voice of Howe back in the fold.

Metal Church have been one of those bands that I have been incredibly passionate about for most of my life. They’ve always been overlooked and over shadowed, yet have consistently put out great albums for a few decades now, minus their time they were broke up. I’ve been one of their most eager fans since they’ve returned to the scene and now having the incomparable Mike Howe back on the microphone, I couldn’t be happier…except if I finally ever get to see them live. That dream is still very much alive. As for XI, this is an outstanding album that will make lifelong fans of the band (especially the Howe era) stoked and should create a legion of new fans.


Written by: Chris Martin

 Ratings:  Chris   9/10


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One thought on “Metal Church – XI Review

  1. I couldn’t agree more!! I have carried the torch for Metal Church for what seems like forever. As a goaltender for my high school and college teams in the late 80’s and early 90’s “Ton of Bricks” was my anthem before every game! I could go on and on but never had the opportunity to see them live, until the Generation Nothing tour, where they played a bar my friends local band used to play…..They killed it, I met the band, had a great time! I wouldn’t change anything. XI has brought everything full circle for me! What a triumph for a band that in my book, has been so overlooked, so under-rated, and like the writer said, should be mentioned in the same regards as Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth as well as the other overlooked band Exodus!!! It should be the “Big 6” that would be one hell of a tour…….Just sayin!


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