What would you really expect from a band named Metal Church? Basically the same as from Agent Steel, Virgin Steele or any other semi-underground English-speaking 80s metal band. They’re like those endless 19th century poets you’re expected to know for your literature class: you remember the names, maybe a few lines, but they fail to touch you because they all seem to write about the same landscape – autumn harvests, spring blossoms, and the like. Replace autumn harvests with vague SF/F images and spring blossoms with how awesome metal is, especially experienced in a live setting, and you get the drift. Basically Judas Priest all over again, with lyrics being in place to simply make it easier to remember melodies and not because they wanted to say something. And the singers will sound similar to Rob Halford.
But one day (long after you graduated from high school) you notice that one of those singers is back in one of those bands after a 20+ year hiatus, during which he wasn’t playing music at all. Remembering how Leather Leone did the same not that long ago, you get curious and tune in.
And then you realise that actually, their lyrics were not all that perfunctory. And the singer in question isn’t that much of a generic Halford clone. And hell, he still sounds as if it’s 1991.
Yes. Metal Church. Mike Howe is back, and I’m in the fandom, which still feels surprising, but hey I’m in and I’m in deep.
No idea if I manage to lure anyone else in, but here’s what I think to be a good introduction. This one’s a bit of a ballad, has meaningful lyrics with some powerful imagery, and showcases Metal Church’s characteristic harmonic interplay between those epic (I really mean it; “epic” is the only word that fits – you thought Priest’s The Sentinel was epic, and these guys are like that most of the time) guitar riffs and the vocals. Which are very clearly Halford-influenced, but the thing is – unlike many others, Mike Howe didn’t try to torture and rape his voice into emulating that of someone else’s. He just made note of Halford’s aggression and the way he distributes tonal qualities to match the lyrics’ message, but the rest is just plain out solid vocal technique – no false colour, no larynx squeezing or dropping, nothing. And if non-classical music had Fachs, Mike Howe would be definitely the same Fach as Geddy Lee. Not exactly a widespread voice type, and not that many of those sing metal.