Metal Church

This Present Wasteland

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It is no exaggeration to say that Metal Church has been a revolving door over the years. The Pacific Northwest outfit has had quite a few lineup changes along the way, which is not unusual for metal bands -- and on 2008's This Present Wasteland, guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof is the only person remaining from Metal Church's original early-'80s lineup. All of the other participants are 2000s arrivals, including lead singer Ronny Munroe, guitarist Rick Van Zandt, bassist Steve Unger, and drummer Jeff Plate. But here's the good news: with Vanderhoof obviously in the driver's seat, this 2008 edition of Metal Church is quite faithful to the spirit of Metal Church as they sounded in the '80s. Sure, some longtime fans might argue that without the participation of Craig Wells, Duke Erickson, Kirk Arrington, or the late David Wayne (who died in 2005 from complications resulting from a car crash), the band that Vanderhoof oversees on This Present Wasteland isn't really Metal Church. But in fact, Vanderhoof sees to it that the classic Metal Church sound of the '80s -- a tough and hard-driving yet melodic mixture of Dio, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, and Iron Maiden -- is alive and well on engaging tracks like "Breathe Again," "Monster," "A War Never Won," and "The Company of Sorrow." Munroe (the band's fourth lead vocalist) is perfect for Metal Church, and he fits right in with a gruff vocal style that owes a lot to Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale, and Bruce Dickinson. This Present Wasteland falls short of essential, but it's a solid and well-executed effort that underscores Vanderhoof's ability to keep the Metal Church of 2008 faithful to the spirit of Metal Church as they sounded 20 years earlier.

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