Metal Church

The Weight of the World

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Ah, Metal Church. Once one of America's most promising heavy metal bands, originally colleagues (rivals, even) of the mighty Metallica -- has any other band's career been as marked by internal chaos, confusion, and, let's face it, commercial indifference, as that of these Seattle natives? The odds are slim, and yet, conversely, has any metal outfit proved as doggone persistent at the same time? Surely that must count for something, and with the realization that 2004's The Weight of the World amazingly celebrates the group's 20th anniversary (even though it's only their seventh studio album in all that time), there's at least some cause for celebration -- right? Well, if truth be told, that'll depend on the listener. Most of the expected Metal Church trademarks (pure American metal charged with occasional thrashing nuances) are readily available here -- as are the band's maddening tendencies for songwriting inconsistency, matching every memorable turn like "Hero's Soul" or "Sunless Sky" with an equally forgettable outing like "Wings of Tomorrow" or "Bomb to Drop." Never mind that original vocalist David Wayne has once again departed from the fold (after taking part in the nearly-complete classic lineup reunion seen on 1999's Masterpeace) and left lone remaining founders, guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof and drummer Kirk Arrington, to pick up the pieces; new recruits Ronny Munroe (vocals), Jay Reynolds (guitar) and Steve Unger (bass) acquit themselves ably enough, for the most part. If anything, the only weak link is Munroe, whose echo-enhanced presence is curiously reminiscent of Saxon's Biff Byford, but doesn't always have the power or presence to match the surrounding onslaught. And still, longtime supporters will most likely enjoy almost all of the songs they hear here as prototypical Metal Church -- which leaves less enthusiastic old-timers and new arrivals alike left to ponder what all the fuss was about.

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