Metal Church guitarists Jay Reynolds (left) and Kurdt Vanderhoof (right).
|Also known as||Shrapnel|
|Origin||San Francisco, California, United States|
|Genres||Heavy metal, thrash metal, speed metal, power metal|
|Years active||1980–1994, 1998–2009, 2012–present|
|Labels||Ground Zero, Elektra, I.R.S., Epic, SPV, Nuclear Blast, Mercury|
|Associated acts||Hall Aflame, Presto Ballet, Vanderhoof, Reverend, Wayne, Heretic|
Rick Van Zandt
|Past members||See members section|
Metal Church is an American heavy metal band. They originally formed in San Francisco, California in 1980 before relocating to Aberdeen, Washington the following year and briefly using the name Shrapnel. Their eponymous first album was released in 1984, and their latest, This Present Wasteland, in 2008.
The band is credited as a formative influence on the thrash metal sub-genre, melding the aesthetics of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and American hard rock through "incredibly tight musicianship" and "piercingly screeched" vocals. Early lyrical topics such as conflict and paranoia later expanded into philosophical and social commentary.
Founding guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof remained the group's sole consistent creative force throughout its career, despite reducing his role strictly to composition in 1986 after tiring of touring. Vanderhoof, vocalist David Wayne, guitarist Craig Wells, bassist Duke Erickson, and drummer Kirk Arrington composed the group's classic lineup featured on its first two records, while vocalist Mike Howe and guitarist John Marshall later contributed to the group's sound. After releasing five full-length albums and touring extensively throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Metal Church disbanded in 1994. They reformed four years later with their classic lineup, including Vanderhoof's return to performance, yielding the Masterpeace album. They endured numerous lineup changes thereafter, releasing three further studio albums while fronted by Ronny Munroe before again disbanding in July 2009. The group announced another reunion in October 2012, featuring the This Present Wasteland lineup, and is currently working on a new album.
Formative years (1980–1984)
Then based in San Francisco, Kurdt Vanderhoof formed the band in 1980 with various musicians. This era included a brief audition period with future Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. The three-song, instrumental Red Skies demo appeared in 1981, featuring Vanderhoof, guitarist Rick Condrin, bassist Steve Hott, and drummer Aaron Zimpel.
Vanderhoof returned to his hometown of Aberdeen in 1981 and began the new group Shrapnel with Craig Wells, Duke Erickson, drummer Tom Weber, and vocalist Mike Murphy. Murphy departed before their next demo, which was recorded without vocals, and Weber departed shortly thereafter. The enlistment of Kirk Arrington and David Wayne completed the group's classic lineup. They released the demo Four Hymns and spent following years touring and accruing material, readopting the Metal Church moniker in 1983.
First two records; commercial success (1984–1988)
In 1984, they released their self-titled debut album, which included three songs from the Four Hymns demo and a cover of Deep Purple's "Highway Star". They sold 70,000 copies of the album independently before signing to Elektra. According to Wayne, Ulrich and Metallica band mate James Hetfield urged Elektra to sign the band before another label did.
By the time Metal Church released their second studio album, The Dark, in 1986, they were touring with high-profile acts like Metallica. The Dark was a commercial success, helped by the fact that the band's first music video, "Watch the Children Pray", received frequent airplay on MTV. Shortly after the album's release, however, they were plagued by lineup changes: Vanderhoof ceased performing with the group in 1986, to be replaced briefly by Mark Baker and more extensively by John Marshall. Vanderhoof nonetheless continued to work with the group in composing thereafter, co-writing their subsequent material.
Further albums; first breakup (1988–1994)
In 1988, the band replaced Wayne with former Heretic singer Mike Howe and released their third studio album, Blessing in Disguise, the following year. Critics responded favorably, including some assertions that the record was the group's strongest effort. Ironically, after being replaced by Heretic's former singer, Wayne recruited the remaining members of Heretic to form Reverend.
After further touring, Metal Church released its fourth studio album, The Human Factor, via Epic Records in 1991. Critics applauded the group for transitioning to a major label and successfully retaining the vitality of their sound, while also releasing a record with conceptual accessibility beyond the heavy metal genre. Vanderhoof formed the short-lived group Hall Aflame, who released Guaranteed Forever through I.R.S. Records later that year.
Metal Church followed with their fifth studio album, 1993's Hanging in the Balance on Mercury Records, but disbanded the following year, later citing management problems and poor record sales as factors. Vanderhoof formed an eponymous new group, Vanderhoof, along with Arrington. They released their self-titled debut album in 1997.
Reunion of classic lineup; Masterpeace (1998–2001)
The members of Metal Church began compiling their first live album in 1998, Live, which featured songs from their first two records performed by their classic lineup. During the production of Live, Wayne, Vanderhoof, Wells, Arrington, and Erickson decided to reform the band and began work on a new studio album. Wells was forced to depart the band due to familial obligations, however, and was replaced by the returning Marshall.
The resulting Masterpeace album was released in 1999 on Nuclear Blast Records. Critics responded positively, hailing it as a focused product that increased the energy over previous releases, despite its ultimately failing to break new ground. Arrington and Erickson were unable to tour behind the record, so the band enlisted Vanderhoof bassist Brian Lake and drummer Jeff Wade for live performances later that year.
Wayne expressed regret regarding the record, which influenced his musical output that followed. He again departed in 2001 due to personal and creative differences, forming the group Wayne with Wells and releasing the curiously titled debut album Metal Church thereafter. Vanderhoof objected to the album's name and cover art; according to Wayne, the purpose of the album's name was to alert the audience of his involvement. Erickson and Marshall also ceased involvement with Metal Church after Wayne's departure.
Munroe-led lineup, Wayne's death, and second breakup (2004–2009)
Vanderhoof's eponymous band released A Blur in Time in 2002, and he began working on new material for Metal Church's next album thereafter. In 2004, he and Arrington recruited singer Ronny Munroe, ex-Malice guitarist Jay Reynolds, and bassist Steve Unger to form a new lineup of Metal Church. They released the band's seventh studio album later that year, The Weight of the World. Critics generally received the record with a lukewarm response, recognizing its accomplishments while noting its lack of consistency and innovation.
On May 10, 2005, David Wayne died of complications from injuries sustained in a car accident that occurred months before. He was 47 years old.
In 2006, Arrington left the band due to health complications with diabetes. His replacement was Jeff Plate, who previously worked with Savatage, Chris Caffery and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Later that year, the band released their eighth studio album, A Light in the Dark, which featured a re-recording of "Watch the Children Pray" as a tribute to Wayne. Vanderhoof said that the tribute was a way of showing fans that he harbored no ill will towards Wayne despite the contentious situation that existed between them before Wayne's death.
Reynolds left the group in 2008 and was replaced by Rick Van Zandt. The band's ninth and final studio album, This Present Wasteland, followed in 2008, which was hailed generally as an effective release consistent with their previous accomplishments. After subsequent touring, the band took a hiatus from performing due to Vanderhoof's back problems. They nonetheless continued studio work, while Munroe and Vanderhoof also completed the former's solo album.
After Vanderhoof's health improved, they returned to performing and composing new material. On July 7, 2009, however, the group announced unexpectedly that they were disbanding following a final performance at Rocklahoma two days later, cancelling numerous further live dates. They cited industry frustrations as a major factor influencing the decision. Several former members remained musically active, including Munroe and Vanderhoof in Presto Ballet and Plate in Machines of Grace.
Second reunion (2012–present)
In October 2012, the band announced its reunion around a lineup featuring Vanderhoof, Munroe, Unger, Reynolds (soon replaced by Van Zandt), and Plate. Their first performances came the following January during the 70,000 Tons of Metal event, a heavy metal cruise. During one of these two shows, the band played their debut album, Metal Church, in its entirety. Shortly thereafter, Vanderhoof told Music Life Radio that Metal Church has been working on a new album. In order to promote their new album, the band will be playing festivals in the summer of 2013.
- "band history page, Metal Church, 2007". Metalchurchmusic.com. July 8, 2009. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- "Metal Church – Metal Church". All Music. February 6, 2012.
- "The Human Factor Review". Entertainment Weekly. February 6, 2012.
- "Album Review METAL CHURCH – This Present Wasteland" (65). Maelstrom. Retrieved 2012-04-29.
- "www.metalupdate.com, interview with David Wayne, 2001". Metalupdate.com. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
- "Blessing in Disguise – Metal Church". All Music. February 6, 2012.
- "The Human Factor – Metal Church". All Music. February 6, 2012.
- "Metal Rules!! Interview with Kurdt Vanderhoof". Metal-Rules.com. February 6, 2012.
- "Masterpeace – Metal Church". All Music. February 6, 2012.
- "The Weight of the World – Metal Church". All Music. February 6, 2012.
- "Interview with Kurdt Vanderhoof, 2006". Metalreview.com. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- "www.metal-rules.com, interview with Kurdt Vanderhoof, 2006". Metal-rules.com. July 27, 2006. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
- "Blabbermouth.net news article April 16th, 2008". Roadrunnerrecords.com. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
- "A message from the band.., October 27, 2008". Metalchurchmusic.com. July 8, 2009. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- "Former METAL CHURCH Singer Ronnie Monroe Comments on His New PRESTO BALLET Gig". Blabbermouth.net. June 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-29.
- "Reunited METAL CHURCH Confirmed For 70,000 TONS OF METAL". Blabbermouth.net. October 6, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
- "KURDT VANDERHOOF Talks METAL CHURCH, PRESTO BALLET in New Audio Interview". Blabbermouth.net. January 17, 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
- "METAL CHURCH Singer Doesn't Rule Out Permanent Reunion". Blabbermouth.net. February 7, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-07.