by Derric Miller
– Managing Editor —
Metal Church is not one of those bands you’d call “political,” at least not outright. But if you go back to songs like “Deafening Hypocrisy,” “Ivory Towers,” “More Than Your Master,” and even existential songs like “Blinded by Life,” you’ll see there’s a lot more to Metal Church than the groan you hear at the beginning of “Start the Fire.” Yes, they can be deep if they want—just deal with it.
On their tenth studio release, Metal Church take it upon themselves to coin a term for this generation. We have the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y or Millennials … and now, we have Generation Nothing. Thanks for keeping it positive, gents! But who needs positivity when Metal Church is still making music, and on Generation Nothing, this is as good as Metal gets in 2013.
The new album opens with “Bulletproof,” and if you sported Metal Church clothing mainly because of the band’s affinity for massive, throbbing riffs, it seems Kurdt Vanderhoof found that fountain of sling again—these riffs are simply aggressively stunning, song after driving song. Of course, replacing David Wayne is going to be something people always talk about, but here you have the criminally underrated Ronny Munroe singing in the gray area between Mike Howe and David Wayne. He’s sheer METAL, he’s even better than that. You have as good of a chance at hitting the notes as Munroe wails “I’m bulletproof” in a throaty, ripping scream as the song ends without blowing your vocal chords as you do at winning a fight with Ronda Rousey. Still, if you are going to blow out your throat or lose a fight … both are great ways to go.
“Dead City” is an updated, modernized Metal Church, but the more musically inclined they are to become “current,” Munroe takes it the other way, offering Wayne-like musical screams and shredding, spitting vocals that infuse you with rage. The screams he hits in this song are mammoth. Rick Van Zandt counters all of Vanderhoof’s riffs and leads with piercing, racing solos that make everything about Metal Church so relevant today. Meaning, they do everything right.
The title track is up next, a song that breathes, allowing the bass and drums to take the helm, almost tribal in its pounding fever. Yes, the crazy riffs are there, but it’s the low end that forces you to bang your big fat head. “Generation Nothing” is biting, sarcastic, with lyrics like “Generation Nothing, has got itself to blame. Generation Nothing is just a video game.” Jeff Plate’s drumming shines on this track, with rabid fills and overwhelming power.
Just when you think you have it figured out, they chuck a nearly nine-minute composition at you. “Noises in the Wall” is as slow as Metal Church wanted to write this time out; the rest of the album is mostly breakneck. You get a military vibe from Plate’s drumming, and it’s not often you use words like “deft” or “complicated” when defining a Metal Church anthem, but it is what it is. You don’t get straight ahead time signatures, there’s vast tempo changes, but you do hear Munroe hitting his stride as Metal Church’s singer; his confidence is palatable, and more so on “Noises in the Wall” than anything he’s recorded with the band before. (Did you know he was in Lillian Axe for a brief moment in time? Nothing against Lillian Axe, who are brilliant as hell, but Munroe’s voice needs to stay in Metal Church.)
As the band continues to broaden their scope of songwriting matter, some metalheads might hate the term “maturation,” but hey, “Suiciety” isn’t something a dunderheaded mental blob could write. The good news, it’s a frenetic Metal scream-machine, with bludgeoning drumming, with maybe the best riffs on the release. So, maybe that’ll help you get by thoughts of “mind-control,” “absolution,” and singing along to “You pay for sanity, in a Suiciety!”
The hits keep coming (OK, sure, that’s song number eight, so what) and it all ends with “The Media Horse.” There’s heavy, and then there’s whatever the hell Metal Church created on “The Media Horse.” This galloping, harsh track is a dissection of society. Instead of riding the white horse, Americans are just staring into the endless void of “TV time.” The song touches on rotting brains, basically how stupid and unaware some humans are becoming because of TV. “The channels just pass you by,” Munroe sings. Stupid dummies, in other words.
There’s always going to be fans who want to listen to “Watch the Children Pray” over and over and don’t want to move on. They are doing themselves a disservice. Instead of being a bawl baby and hoping for what can never be a reality, move on with your life and listen to Generation Nothing with the same reverence you hold for Metal Church’s classic albums. If you do that with an open ear, Generation Nothing stands up to everything Metal Church has ever recorded … yes, even to that groan on “Start the Fire.”
Genre: Classic Heavy Metal
Kurdt Vanderhoof – Guitar
Ronny Munroe – Vocals
Rick Van Zandt – Guitar
Steve Unger – Bass guitar
Jeff Plate – Drums
2. Dead City
3. Generation Nothing
4. Noises in the Wall
5. Jump the Gun
8. Hits Keep Coming
9. Close to the Bone
10. The Media Horse
Label: Body of Work Recordings, Rat Pak Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 8.8/10