Thrash metal is alive and well. It was a genre born in the underground that spread like a wildfire across the globe and today is forefathers continue to unleash pulverizing records that inspire a new legion of fans. Put the recharged Metal Church into that category. After nearly a two-decade absence, vocalist Mike Howe rejoined the band and founding guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof and Metal Church has been off and running ever since. The band dropped ‘XI’ in 2016 and followed that up with their 12thfull-length studio album ‘Damn If You Do’ in 2018. Metal Church has been on the road promoting the new record and played their last show before taking a break at Route 47 Pub & Grub in Fridley, Minnesota to celebrate the past, the present, and future of one of thrashes favorite sons.
Minneapolis thrashers Hex Vortices started the evening off with some break-neck tunes. The four-piece kept things moving as they ripped through a short set. This was my first encounter with them and they were impressive. The band was tight and pulled off their material very well. The band was led by lead vocalist and guitarist Andy Oltmanns and flanked by bassist Dan Nelson and guitarist Matt Hamilton. Buried behind the kit was Tom Croxton. The quartet will be releasing a full length album titled ‘Revival Fires’ this summer. I look forward to learning more about them and seeing these guys again in the near future.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAkgQYYkcj8&w=560&h=315]
Lost Legacy was on next. They are a power metal band that hails from the Bronx, New York. They had an impressive twin axe assault that blended heavy but melodic riffs to their songs that made them memorable. The vocals were soaring and matched the intensity of the band. The band featured David Franco on vocals, guitarist Scott Bennett and Jorge Pulido, Jochen Wittlinger on bass and AJ Spinelli on drums. They blistered through a set that included “Towers,” “Take Me Away,” and “Enough Is Enough” before closing with “Will You Remember.” This was another band I was hearing for the first time and they worked hard to win over the crowd. It’s a tough spot to be in when you playing to a very dedicated Metal Church fan base but they managed to turn some heads during their set.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qe0c8b1cTyo&w=560&h=315]
Metal Church had played a short set in a supporting role on Megadeth’s ‘Dystopia’ tour a few years ago in St. Paul but this show was the first proper headlining gig in Minnesota in some time and fans exploded as they launched into “Damned If You Do” and then “Needle and Suture.” Things got even more amplified as one the bands biggest hits, “Badlands,” rang through the club to a sea of horns being thrown in the air.
The immediate slap to the face was how amazing these guys sounded live. A lot of credit is given to Overkill’s Blitz, Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda, and Testament’s Chuck Billy for maintaining their voices and still delivering the goods live. Mike Howe must be included in that conversation. He hit the high notes with precision and provided venomous snarls with a toxic force. Look no further than “Start The Fire” and “No Friend Of Mine” that Howe laced his vocals with a destructive attitude that spilled off the stage. It was very apparent that this band has a loyal group of fans as they matched the energy that the band was putting out.
Sonically the band was on fire. Along with Vanderhoof, guitarist Rick Van Zandt brought the riffs alive and attacked them with preciseness. The guitar dynamics within then song “Watch The Children Pray” were chilling live. Hearing that song live and seeing the crowd’s reaction to it was an instant reminder how important that song is to the bands catalog. Holding down the backbone of the unit was bassist Steve Unger and drummer Stet Howland, who was an absolute beast behind the kit.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy5q7bxzy0w&w=560&h=315]
Two songs from the newest release, “The Black Things” and “By The Numbers” closed out the main set with the classic “Beyond The Black” squeezed between them. The encore contained one of the all time classic Metal Church songs “Fake Healer” which was a big highlight of the night. The intro to the song built the anticipation to a boil before the main riff blew the top off the place and engulfed the crowd.
I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed seeing Metal Church. They had a great energy about them and it appeared they were fully enjoying themselves. This band seems to fly under the radar when it comes to the genre and I don’t think they get their just accolades for their contribution to the legacy of thrash. The material is top notch and they continue to record and play at an extremely high level. Don’t believe me, go out and catch a show, they still hit like a ton of bricks.
Review & Photography by Jeff Kunze :Originally published at Metalnexus.net