Metal Church take their metal seriously, some might say religiously, and, with the exception of the line-up, little has changed in their camp since their early eighties inception as one of the prime movers on the Bay area thrash scene. If it’s hard riffing and rough-edged vocals with plenty of fear and drama thrown in that you’re looking for, this album is for you. It’s so metal you can almost smell the leather.
From the word go it’s back to 1983, the retro guitar sound of the opening riff to ‘Reset’, with its urgent drums and traditional metal vocal, sounding totally old school. ‘Killing Your Time’ follows at similar tempo and it’s “time to pay for all your evil ways” with shout-along choruses, fist pumping and a lorra head-banging.
But, you know what? It rocks. MC know their way round a good solid riff, can knock out a scorching solo at the drop of a hat and there are plenty of hooks in their tracks. It may be far from groundbreaking, but it is all highly proficient. From the scatter gun riffing and hot-rocking groove of stand-out track ‘No Tomorrow ’, through to the epic ‘Signal Path’ and ‘Sky Falls In’, replete with atmospheric touches and big choruses, it’s all well-executed.
However, some tracks like ‘Blow Your Mind’ are unnecessarily long; the six-and-a-half minutes of brooding drama proving a little indulgent. Also, the theatrical ‘It Waits’ and the one-paced ‘Needle & Suture’ are indicative of the more cliché aspects to their sound.
On the whole though, if you don’t mind the obvious throwback feel, ‘XI’ is largely enjoyable and boasts a fine array of riffs sure to please their army of hardcore fans and any ardent metalhead.
‘XI’ by Metal Church is released on 25th March on Nuclear Blast.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)