Metal Church was one of my favorite metal bands from the US in the eighties and they still are. They released five great albums before they broke up, all too soon. The final three featured current singer Mike Howe and apart from the first side of the debut album I always preferred the Howe period, if I have to choose. The band has since reformed a couple of times, once with original singer Dave Wayne and twice with Ronnie Munro behind the microphone. Even though the five albums they recorded during that period are all very good, it’s not until the surprising return of Mike Howe in 2015 that the band started to release albums on par with the first five classic albums again. This new incarnation of Metal Church has so far released four albums, including the latest “From the Vault”. Three studio albums as well as a live album, and we know that there will be at least one more studio album plus a live in Japan coming sometime in the not too distant future. It’s a good time to be a Metal Church fan.
The new album “From the Vault” consists of a bunch of unreleased, at least on an album, songs. Some new, some single B-sides, some covers, some re recordings and a couple of bonus tracks. 16 tracks all in all. Amazingly the best songs are all excellent while the rest are at least very good. I actually think that this album is just as great as the first two studio albums released since Howes return. I probably have already listened more to this album than the last “Damned if You Do” which was my number one album in 2017.
The four first songs are the new unreleased songs. Well, the third song “Conductor” is actually a remix of a track from the bands fifth underrated now out of print album “Hanging in the Balance”. Anyway, these four songs are classic powerhouse heavy metal and would easily be among the best tracks on any of their previous albums.
Next up is five songs that are labeled “B sides from the Damned if you do sessions”. However, don’t let that fool you, the quality of these tracks is almost as good as the first four songs. I especially like “Tell Lie Vision”. The first three of these tracks are classic Metal Church songs while the other two are instrumentals. “Insta Metal” is maybe more hard rock than metal while “432HZ” is a beautiful acoustic piece.
Now it’s time for the three covers and they don’t disappoint either. In general, I’m not a fan of covers but Metal Church really puts their own mark on these songs without dishonoring the originals of the two songs I’m familiar with. The first cover is Nazareth’s “Please Don’t Judas Me” and it’s in my humble opinion an improvement of the original, and I say that being a big Nazareth fan.
I have actually never heard the original version of “Green Eyed Lady” and wasn’t really sure about that song the first couple of times I heard the album, but now I’m used to it and like it quite a bit even though I think it’s the least good song on the album. Finally, we also get a cover of “Black Betty”. I was a little bit skeptical for a cover of this song, but as soon as I heard it I loved it and it’s at least as good as Ram Jam’s version.
At last, we have the four “Bonus tracks”. First up is a rerecording of “Fake Healer” from the bands third album “Blessing in Disguise”, this time featuring a great duet between Mike Howe and Todd La Torre of Queensrÿche . “Badlands” is also a rerecording from the same album and as this is one of my favorite tracks by Metal Church I’m pleased they included it here as I love this version as much as the original, even though there are some differences.
The last two tracks are bonus tracks from “XI”, Mike Howe’s comeback album with Metal Church. Despite that these last four tracks have been available on different releases before, they are a worthy addition to “From the Vault”.
Band: Metal Church
Title: From the Vault
Label: Rat Pak Records
Date of release: 10/4-20
Time: 79 minutes
Stand out tracks: Dead on the vine, For no reason, Conductor, Above the madness