(8/10) Seattle is known as the city of grunge, no doubt. What is often forgotten in this context is the fact that the city also has a vital metal scene. Bands like Queensryche started their impressive career in Seattle and also Sanctuary had the first headquarter in the northwestern metropolis. Next to these two pioneers, the year 2018 marked the return of Fifth Angel and Heir Apparent, another two underground heroes and it’s the mighty Metal Church that rounds off 2018 with a next album.
‘Damned if You Do’ is record number two of Metal Church after the legendary Mike Howe rejoined the band in 2014. The return of Howe, who already enriched albums like ‘Hanging in Balance’ with his great voice, gave a real push for the powerhouse.
Founding guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, Stet Howland (d), Steve Unger (b) and Rick Van Zandt, together with Howe, created a new power metal album that rocks from start to end. Considering the illness of Stet Howland in 2017 didn’t make the work on ‘Damned if You Do’ to a smooth ride, but even such an unforeseen factor could stop the metal machine from the West Coast. With Howland being fully recovered the quintet recorded an album that picks up where the band ended with ‘XI’.
The ten new songs are kept mostly in a moderate pace. A moment when the guys shift gears though is with the fast ‘Out of Balance’. The hard-working rhythm section delivers a powerful drive to this song and it’s the chorus that is perfect for live shows.
The first song that was unveiled is the title track and it’s also the opener of the new longplayer. The ‘Hmm Hmm Hmm’ parts are bit unusual, but as soon as the actual song takes over, all Metal Church trademarks are present. I mentioned earlier Mike Howe’s great vocals, but it’s, of course, the typical Vanderhoof guitar play being a crucial asset for Metal Church’s sound.
After having listened to the album several times I couldn’t find a weak spot. Tunes like the dark ‘By the Numbers’ are awesome power metal tracks. The song reflects the ‘The Dark’ days as well as the ‘Fake Healer’ era. What else? There is the anthemic ‘Revolution Underway’ with some calmer parts and there is galloping ‘Rot Away’, another uptempo song, built on a typical Metal Church riffing. Things come to an end far too soon with ‘The War Electric’.
‘Damned if You Do’ is Metal Church’s 12thstudio album and it is the anticipated great next step in the new era with frontman Mike Howe on vocal duties. The record provides 46 minutes of very well crafted US metal, done by five guys that are as experienced as they are passionate about what they are doing. Metal Church fans will for sure like this album, a release that also could help the band to win some new fans too. Horns up.
- Damned If You Do
- The Black Things
- By The Numbers
- Revolution Underway 5
- Rot Away
- Into The Fold
- Monkey Finger
- Out Of Balance
- The War Electric
Label: Rat Pak Records / Nuclear Blast Records
Genre: Power Metal
Release Date EU: December 7th,2018