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Hymns From The Metal Church Parish

Updated: 3 days ago

Many, many years ago, on a distant shore (specifically, the Pacific Northwest), Metal Church was born. Four decades, four recorded vocalists, and 13 albums later, the band has established a unique and powerful legacy that’s impacted nearly every facet of the Heavy Metal scene. They hit the world like a ton of bricks. Then and now, everything about Metal Church has felt timeless, as if they’d always been there - - from their name, riffs, lyrics, and voices to their album art. Metal Church were inducted into the Metal Hall of Fame in 2020. They’ll break down the walls of forever. 

Though the Badlands have been especially hard on the band, rife with tragedies, conflicts, breakups, and numerous personnel shifts, somehow they’ve found their way, and are still going strong in 2024. Founder, guitarist,* chief songwriter, and mastermind, Kurdt Vanderhoof has been the constant through it all. 

Metal Church are almost-universally revered and respected in the Heavy world; be wary of the person who dislikes this band. With so many classic songs in their oeuvre, it’s extremely difficult to pick one favorite, but we’re going to attempt to do just that. My tremendous gratitude to the guest contributors who played along with me in this exercise: Jack Frost (Aldo Nova), Derrick Brumley (Conquest), Rich Catino (Bravewords, MetalAsylum.net), and Sam Saltman (Metal Invasion). You’ve all been chosen. It was you.  


I’ll go first. 





Jack Mangan. Me. Song: “Metal Church.” 

The main riff is pure simplicity**, but the song built around it is epic, nuanced, enthralling, dark, and atmospheric. Kirk Arrington’s hi-hat and drum fills march us through this eerie, 5-minute reign of brooding mysticism and terrors, pulled straight from the depths of Lovecraftian and Hammer horror film lore. David Wayne’s sinister vocals flawlessly blend the melodic and harsh; it’s a performance for the ages. 

I’ll offer consideration for other Metal Church Classics: “Beyond the Black,” “Ton of Bricks,” “Method to Your Madness,” “Watch the Children Pray,” “Badlands,” “Fake Healer,” but my top pick will always be “Metal Church.” It knows just who you are, who you are. 


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Sam Saltman. Metal Invasion. Song: “Battalions.” 

My favorite Metal Church is “Battalions” and has been for quite some time. I bought the album blind in 1984 on Ground Zero Records. It obviously looked like a real Metal album so, as was often the case back then, I took a leap of faith (from the Metal Church?) and bought it. Loved the entire album immediately, no surprise, but the song that absolutely crushed me time after time was Battalions. I have a tendency to like the fastest, heaviest songs the best on most albums and this was definitely that. The way it leapt out out of the speakers with such urgency with the very fast drum intro into the very fast guitar riffing got the adrenaline flowing from 0-100 in a split second. Then, as the song went on, David Wayne's vocals, both very clean and very shrieking were unlike anything I'd ever heard before. The chorus, as is the case with all great songs, is catchy as heck but loses none of the hammering metal momentum. "We form to fight! We kill tonight!". Motivational to say the least. Lastly, Battalions has stood the test of time (like most Metal Church) without losing a thing. It still sounds fresh and relevant 40 years later. The truest sign of a great song. . .


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Derrick Brumley - Conquest. Song: “Metal Church.” 

I gotta go with “Metal Church,” the title track from their first record. That’s the one that made me a fan. That's it.


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Jack Frost Aldo Nova. Song: “Watch the Children Pray.” 


Wow. . . picking just one song that I’m obsessed with is hard! Well, when I first heard Church, I was sold. The  debut was a classic among classics. But when “The Dark” hit, & I saw the video for “Watch the Children Pray,” that was it for me. 

Wayne’s haunting voice takes you on a total vocal ride and Kurdt’s massive riffs on this track are unbelievable. The groove has a swing to it, and just everything about it is killer. To me, it’s one of the best metal tunes ever. The feel, the sound, and the melodies still floor me every time I hear it. 

To this day, I still feel Metal Church set the ground rules for traditional power metal for the many bands that have since followed them. They are definitely iconic & they set the stage for metal music everywhere. . . 


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Rich Catino. Bravewords, MetalAsylum.net Songs: “Ton of Bricks” “The Dark” 


Yup, as they say over at Sea of Tranquility (where I also contribute), LOL, I am "pulling a Catino" breaking the rules and picked two songs because I love both equally. I remember getting the Metal Church debut on vinyl after seeing the video for 'Watch the Children Pray' either on either MTV (probably Metal Mania in 1985 which was hosted by Dee Snider, or then Headbangers Ball in 1987), more than likely for us here on the east coast a channel called U68 Power Hour which also played heavy metal music video at the time. Yes, I know, the debut is great, their namesake song, 'Beyond the Black, and 'God of Wrath' classics. But 'Ton of Bricks' and the title track to "The Dark" as well embodied all the things from the NWOBHM but now we have the contributions from the bands in North America like Armored Saint, Savatage, Lizzy Borden. Metal Church were between the NWOBHM and Speed/Thrash Metal (Exciter, Anvil, Metallica, Overkill, etc).  Punchy building driving drums and guitars carries a steadfast tempo to 'Bricks' kicking off the album right in to that meaty riff behind 'Start the Fire'. And the title track is a haunting ominous melody created by the choice is guitars and accenting leads as singer David Wayne's wicked unique tone and vocal delivery brings to life the album's artwork as those red eyes peer at the viewer. And I love the arrangement change post solo which switches to another great riffy rhythm.

 

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Three remaining orders of business: 


  • Big thanks to Sam, Derrick, Jack, and Rich for their fantastic input! Especially Rich, who has contributed to a bunch of these articles. 

  • Between the five of us, all of the song choices came from the first two MC albums: the self-titled debut and “The Dark” - - both with David Wayne on lead vocals. Those albums are Hall-of-Fame worthy by themselves, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. . .  If you’re a Metal Church newcomer, then, yes, I recommend that you start at the beginning, but whatever you do, make sure you keep going through the rest of their catalog. There are so, so many more incredible songs and moments throughout. You’ll find highlights across the Mike Howe eras, the Ronny Munroe records (Rich Catino recommends “A Light in the Dark,” “Wings of Tomorrow,” and “Dead City” from the Ronny Munroe albums), and 2023’s “Congregation of Annihilation,” their first album with Marc Lopes on the mic. 

It was a personal thrill for me to meet Marc Lopes in early 2022 and learn directly from him that he was going to be the next Metal Church vocalist. His voice is a perfect fit for all of their songs, regardless of the original singer.  


  • In closing, we need to pay respects to David Wayne, Mike Howe, and Kirk Harrington. Three brilliant lives cut tragically short. May they Rest in Peace, Rest in Power, Rest in Metal. Twenty one guns salute them. 






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Jack Mangan is best known in the Metal world as lead author/project runner for the “Am I Evil?” graphic novel, as a journalist with MetalAsylum.net and the official Metal Hall of Fame. and also as co-host of the popular (sporadic these days) Metal Hall of Fame and MetalAsylum.net livestreams with Rich Catino. He’s made a few guest appearances as a panelist on The Metal Voice. In an adjacent life, he was a podcast pioneer, with numerous appearances on Technorama, Dragon Page, Escape Pod/Pseudopod, and many others, including his own productions: Jack Mangan’s Deadpan, and the Podcast novel, “Spherical Tomi.” Friend him on Facebook if you can find him, but be warned: he’s not great about checking Facebook Messenger.

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Sam Saltman 

-Heavy Metal Fanatic since 1978. 

-Creator of the Facebook page Metal Invasion 

-Video interview of Markus Grosskopf of Helloween in 2018 (see YouTube and Blabbermouth). 

-Metal Influencer


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Derrick Brumley is the founder, frontman, and lead guitarist for the Metal band, Conquest. https://conquestmetal.com/home Their latest album, “Paradox,” was released in Spring 2024.


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Jack Frost is a fixture in the music industry.​ He broke into the heavy metal scene with his first band, ​Frostbite, ​back in 1994, and from there, he’s lent his monster stage presence and signature guitar sound to such iconic bands as Seven Witches, SPEEED, Metalium, The Bronx Casket Company, Savatage, Lizzy Borden, Joey Belladonna, Aldo Nova, and many more. He’s also renowned for his songwriting, musical teaching, and expertise. Clearly, Jack loves what he does, and as long as there’s music to make, Jack will be out there making it!


~


Rich Catino 

Writer, contributor at:  

Metal Asylum (founder)

Bravewords 

Metal Hall of Fame

Sea of Tranquility


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*Except for that 10-ish year stretch when he was only their primary songwriter, not actually in the band. . . 

**The main Metal Church riff is one of the first I ever figured out on a guitar. 


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