oh, those least-favourites of mine

There’s always someone who likes them enough to shoot an official video =)

To be honest, it’s one of those songs that appear to be primarily designed for live performance. Energetic and all.

I’m not exactly keen on the way they end the chorus – let’s call it “an aggressive hook”. Okay this sort of approach is in line with older (pre-Howe) material, but those songs were generally straightforward stompers on the whole. Here’s an example (yeah that’s Mike again because my throat starts to hurt when I listen to more than one David Wayne track per week).

an academic exercise

I don’t know about you, but I find the institution of cover songs and the situations where a new vocalist in a band sings some older songs quite a useful educational tool.

So, let’s see what we’ve got here: that old Metal Church ballad, originally recorded with David Wayne. Whom I never liked when he was alive (to the degree that had solidly kept me out of the fandom for all those years, hehe), but in hindsight, he was great at what he did. It’s just that the only singer who does those “screams” (aka switching into head voice for a single kinda optional high note above the high tenor C) and doesn’t annoy the literal hell outta me is Lizzy Borden – who often managed to actually integrate those notes into the melody so that they wouldn’t feel completely arbitrarily slapped on just for the sake of showing off.

And then, we have another studio version recorded about twenty years later with Ronny Munroe, who must have been the most misplaced vocalist in history. I mean, a lot of the bands I grew up on, be it classic rock or Euro metal, switched singers like it’s nothing. This obviously creates rifts in the fandom and fuels holy wars. But often, objectively speaking, it’s all fine musically, just different.

Now, I don’t know what Mr Munroe did before Metal Church, and I don’t even want to. Because he painted himself into a corner with them: let’s just say it’s bad enough that his vocal cords barely close, and even if he is capable of shining doing a totally different type of material, I don’t care. That’s how off-putting the impression is.

Those were studio versions. Recently the band put out a live recording with Mike Howe, and let’s just say that while it’s a good one performance-wise, the sound quality of it isn’t exactly the same as, say, that of Blind Guardian’s live recordings. There’s a chillingly powerful version of this song on there, but it doesn’t seem to be on youtube. So let’s try their Rockpalast-2016 appearance – where Mike does lure the audience into singing most of the chorus, but delivers the rest with so much focus it’s scary.

don’t you just HATE the institution of bonus tracks?!

Incentive, yeah yeah yeah. Wait enough, and a compilation will pop up containing everything you ever wanted. Umm no, not all the time.

No idea if there was an overseas digital release of this edition or not, but iTunes Russia doesn’t carry it, and it is frustrating. Because hell, just listen to this song and tell me it’s not awesome.

See, I buy digital music not only because I’m a cheapskate. Hell, there is stuff that I bought digitally but without the benefit of regional pricing. I prefer digital because it doesn’t wear out and doesn’t take up much physical space. If I had to have all my music as CDs, I would need an extra room just for those.

Physical media also has to be delivered physically, y’know. It’s one thing to walk into a store and walk out with something, but ordering anything… I don’t want to play this game anymore.

 

the unexpected happens

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.