Metal Church was originally formed in 1980 in San Francisco by, former punk rocker of The Lewd, Kurdt Vanderhoof and friends. The name came from the main man’s devotion to Christ and his apartment, which was an altar to metal. This band jammed and issued a several rehearsals. The 1981 tape Red Skies features Rick Condrin on guitars, Steve Hott on bass and Aaron Zimpel on drums. Hitman followed in 1982 and has Tom Weber on drums. Lars Ulrich even jammed with the band. Kurdt moved back two states up to Washington State in 1981 and recruited guitarist Craig Wells and bassist Duke Erickson. An early drummer was Tom Weber who was soon replaced by Kirk Arrington. The band was initially called Shrapnel before reverting to the San Francisco name of Metal Church. An instrumental demo was recorded. With David Wayne on the mike the band issued the Four Hymns demo. Metal Church can be heard on 1984’s Northwest Metalfest with the song Death Wish. The band was also included in Metal Massacre V with The Brave. An early gig featured The Melvins as openers. The band obtained a contract with Elektra, the major label of Metallica, which was hoping for a repeat success, and recorded two acclaimed albums. The debut was initially released in 1984 by Ground Zero. The album’s single was a cover version of Deep Purple’s Highway Star. Earlier Arrington had received an offer to Join Def Leppard as management had not expected Rick Allen to continue with one arm. The debut featured a crucifix-cum-guitar on the cover signifying the band’s Christian ideals. It also sported a quotation on the back from an unnamed Atlantic A&R deeming the band too heavy. The group celebrated New Year’s Eve by playing a joint show with Metallica, Megadeth and Exodus in San Francisco. The Dark landed in the billboard Top 100. Kurdt Vanderhoof left in 1986 and was replaced by a Mark Baker for shows. Baker was followed by (Metallica and Metal Church) roadie John Marshall. The Dark’s touring included dates opening for Metallica. Kurdt would still be involved in the song writing having expressed a dislike for touring. He was also working on his Hall Aflame band. In 1988, David Wayne left to form Reverend and was replaced by Mike Howe of Heretic. Vanderhoof had earlier produced a Heretic album. He would last three albums. Metal Church headlined the Dynamo Open Air in The Netherlands in 1991. In North America the band was part of the Operation Rock & Roll tour with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper and Dangerous Toys. A split video featuring the bands was issued.
With commercial success not forthcoming the band threw in the towel in 1994. The band had completed a tour with Zodiac Mindwarp and Vicious Rumors. In the meantime, Marshall had toured with Metallica as James Hetfield had burnt his hands. A 10-year old performance was made into a live album and the band reformed in 1998. Live In Japan was recorded four years earlier. The line-up now was Kurdt Vanderhoof, David Wayne, John Marshall and Brian Wade with Jeff Lake. There was a tour for Masterpeace, but David Wayne left and was replaced by Ronny Munroe. In the meantime, Wayne had abandoned the Reverend concept to form David Wayne’s Metal Church. Bill McKay of Griffin was signing for the band in 2001-2003. He would return to Reverend and in 2003 form Bastardsun. Ronny Munroe was the band’s latest singer in 2003. Vanderhoof was involved, but was not giving up on his side-project reams with a band called Presto Ballet. The band signed with InsideOut Music. This act would revert to being called Vanderhoof.
David Wayne died on the 10th of May of 2005 from the complications of an earlier accident. American Metal Blast tour 2005 by W.A.S.P. featured Metal Church for several shows. 2004 shows had the band headlining with 3 Inches Of Blood in tow. He was 47. Arrington stepped down from the kit in 2006 to deal with diabetes. Jeff Plate of Savatage fame stepped in. A Light In The Dark paid tribute to Wayne. It came out on May 26th and featured bassist Steve Unger and drummer Jeff Plate. The band toured with Meliah Rage in 2007. Reynolds left the band in 2008. This Present Wasteland became the band’s farewell album. Appropriately, it featured the guitar/crucifix combination of the debut on the cover. Metal Church was initially announced as tour-mates with Overkill in 2009 before the slot being withdrawn due to back issues for Vanderhoof. Metal Church performed on the 9th of July, 2009 at Rocklahoma festival in Pryor, Oklahoma. The act disbanded thereafter coinciding with the bankruptcy of its label, SPV.
Metal Church, with Ronny Munroe on vocals, Kurdt Vanderhoof and Jay Reynolds on guitars, Steve Unger on bass and Jeff Plate on drums, was back and would play onboard 70000 Tons Of Metal in January of 2013. For one of its two shows on board, they would play their debut album, Metal Church, in its entirety. Ronny Munroe on vocals, Kurdt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt on guitars, Steve Unger on bass and Jeff Plate on drums were at Vanderhoof's own English Channel Studio in Washington recording an album due in autumn of 2013 for Kurdt's Body Of Work Recordings. The reformed Metal Church picked Generation Nothing as the title for its next album, which Would be issued through guitarist Kurdt's label Body Of Work Recordings. Singer Ronny Munroe left Metal Church in September. Singer Mike Howe rejoined white metal act Metal Church in April of 2015. He had sung for the band from 1988 to 1994. In 2015, Saxon drummer Nigel Glockler and Metal Church guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof announced they would work together in a new project. Metal Church would issue the new album XI on March 25 through the Rat Pak imprint. The band’s Kurdt Vanderhoof produced it. Guitarist Rick Van Zandt underwent emergency eye surgery to repair a detached retina and was unable to tour with the band. The band first recruited Firewolfe man Paul Kleff and then Savatage guitarist Chris Caffery. Armored Saint and Metal Church toured the USA west coast in the summer of 2016. Metal Church remains one of the bigger white metal bands, perhaps second only to Stryper. Metal Church released an album called Classic Live through its Rat Pak Records on April 28th 2017. It was produced by guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof and recorded during 2016. Drummer Jeff Plate, however, had left the act. Former WASP drummer Stet Howland joined Metal Church. The band would release its next album, entitled Damned If You Do, through Rat Pak Records on December 7th 2018. King Records distributed it in Japan. Metal Church and Doro would tour the USofA in April and May 2019. Metal Church cancelled its Canadian shows in Toronto and Montreal in the summer of 2019 citing illness due to “family health issues.” Former Metal Church Singer Ronny Munroe joined One Machine. Metal Church would release a compilation called From The Vault through its Rat Pak Records in April 2020. This release featured 14 previously unreleased tracks from the Mike Howe era and several re-recordings. The returned singer Mike Howe died at age 55. He committed suicide as he was fighting health issues. He followed David Wayne who died in 2005. The rest of the band pointed at a lack of care and big pharma.
METAL CHURCH - THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD - STEAMHAMMER
There is no reason for this band to exist with this revised line-up other than the fact that the members' other bands have failed to gain a traction. Nearly twenty years after the band's debut sparked much interest on the metal scene, Metal Church is still searching for a worthy follow-up. This album is not bad per se, but flounders in the sea of releases.
The album's opener is called Leave Them Behind and might refer to the band's previous members. It is a good song with very good dual-guitar interplay. It almost sounds like Iron Maiden circa Powerslave. That is about it though. The musicianship is solid, but listening to the first couple of minutes of Madman's Overture makes one wonder if the album came together accidentally. The music, as mentioned, has its moments, but songs like this or Sunless Sky only prove my point that the album is both lifeless and listless. The band has a former Malice/Megadeth guitarist, a dysfunctional drummer and an, at times, brooding singer in its ranks now and they simply don't measure up. The guitars do impress occasionally and the screams show some range, but frankly why would they call this Metal Church is a valid question. - Ali "The Metallian"
METAL CHURCH - LIGHT IN THE DARK - SPV
The same, or at least one of the, guys responsible for the classic 1985 release is here again with Light In The Dark. The title track is very much a typical heavy metal yet uninspiring opener. Beyond All Reason features more melody and is somewhat catchy without being too heavy or soft. Mirror Of Lies is generally faster and its extended guitar solos are enjoyable to listen to. Disappear tries to capture the '80s formula of angry vocals interspersed with heavy riffs. The Believer is where the band try to create a mood, slowing down and using it to create effects ala the original title song of ’85, instead they somehow end up sounding like Iron Maiden’s Alexander The Great. The almost ten-minute Temples Of The Sea unsurprisingly has an acoustic opening and alternates between heavy riffs and acoustic passages throughout, not unlike Watch The Children Pray, covered later on as a tribute to the late vocalist David Wayne. Pill For The Kill is more typical heavy metal that would fit well on an Overkill album, not necessarily a bad thing but not really very effective either. Son Of The Son is not too different from its preceding song with more double guitar leads. More Than Your Master is a slightly less dated song compared to the rest with a more modern sounding bass sound. Blinded By Life, on the other hand is even more dated, the guitar solo and the vocals of the Ronny Munroe placing it perfectly in the '80’s realm. The album ends with the aforementioned cover dedicated to the ex-singer. - Anna Tergel
METAL CHURCH - THIS PRESENT WASTELAND - SPV
Existing in a post-David Wayne and post '80s climatic state for the third album running Metal Church struggle to define themselves. Not that there is anything wrong with being a solid heavy metal band. As such, there isn’t much in terms of ground breaking material here, The Company Of Sorrow opens this 10-song 57 minute release and is not exactly memorable. The Perfect Crime is a good showcase of Ronny Munroe’s vocals. Deeds Of A Dead Soul is an Iron Maiden style lengthy, over eight minute, song. Meet Your Maker is faster but pretty light weight at times. Monster’s opening vocal segment “We created a monster” is annoying, the song itself is solid but unspectacular. Crawling To Extinction features some thicker riffs, the song is catchy and flows more naturally. A War Never Won has an '80s hard rock feel to it, but on the whole it doesn’t sound as dated and ends on a higher tempo note. Ronny Munroe adds a few high pitched screams to the mix adding a bit of variation as well. Mass Hysteria is probably the most pure heavy metal song so far. Breathe Again is melodic heavy metal with guitars driving it from the heavy to the melodic, and acoustic and back. Congregation closes This Present Wasteland and is hard rock and heavy metal on the dated side. - Anna Tergel