Twenty-five years after their inception, Metal Church continues to release solid records. After a dry spell in the 90s and a promising reformation in the new millennium, returning original vocalist David Wayne departed again (and regrettably passed away shortly afterward), leaving the spot open to newcomer Ronny Munroe, whose pipes have graced the last three Church offerings. Where The Weight Of The World was maybe a bit spotty, if overall pretty good, A Light In The Dark righted the ship, and Munroe’s Dio-meets-Dickinson vocals began to feel a bit more at home. I’m pleased to say that This Present Wasteland is another solid offering in the vein of its predecessor.
Gone is Malice guitarist Jay Reynolds—in his place is Munroe’s Rottweiler bandmate Rick Van Zandt. Savatage/TSO drummer Jeff Plate still mans the skins, and longtime band leader/creative mastermind Kurdt Vanderhoof and bassist Steve Unger are back from the prior few records. (It wouldn’t be a new Metal Church record without some kind of line-up change, I guess…)
This Present Wasteland picks up more or less where A Light In The Dark left off, with more of the same American traditional metal. Munroe’s vocals are powerful and ballsy, and as on previous efforts, his only missteps are the rare forays into falsetto screaming. There are times here where he’s a dead ringer for latter-day Bruce Dickinson. These songs are all well-written, with catchy melodies and some killer riffing, but the production isn’t as immediate as Light. The whole thing just seems a li’l bit flatter, more compressed than the previous barn-burner. Honestly, aside from the production, the only other criticism I could level against Wasteland is that it’s A Light In The Dark, Part Two, but that’s fine with me in this instance because, quite simply, I don’t expect anything from Metal Church except quality heavy metal, and that’s exactly what they deliver here.
As I mentioned the songs here are good, with the driving “Perfect Crime,” the brooding “Deeds Of A Dead Soul” and the album-closing tribute-to-the-power-of-metal number “Congregation” among the highlights. (“Perfect Crime” especially reminds me of some of Bruce Dickinson’s solo work, as does “Monster.”) Vanderhoof has always had a knack for penning some killer metal riffs and tunes, going all the way back to the first Church disc all those years ago (which, if you haven’t heard it, absolutely kicks ass).
Fans of classic metal bands like Iron Maiden and Savatage and so on should definitely check this one out, but they should’ve already known that. This Present Wasteland is epic powerful metal with thrash leanings, same as the best Metal Church moments before it. A quarter century in, here’s another good one from a band that rarely disappoints…