Metal Church – Congregation of Annihilation (Rat Pak Records)

Wednesday, 31st May 2023
Rating: 9 / 10

Long-time followers of Metal Church would understand if leader Kurdt Vanderhoof didn’t feel he had anything left in the creative tank for this veteran outfit. Especially given the loss of two pinnacle vocalists with David Wayne and Mike Howe for tragic reasons. Yet the band is back, with Ross The Boss / Let Us Prey singer Marc Lopes in that prime position for this latest studio record, Congregation of Annihilation. Steering the ship back into the wheelhouse of the gritty range and high octane screams of Lopes, it’s evident that those who loved the more thrashy, early David Wayne-era days will find plenty to savor in this material.

The natural rhythm crunch supplied through the axe action of Rick van Zandt and Vanderhoof accelerates in all the right ways, while hitting cruise control to allow Marc ample opportunity to showcases all facets of his metal to the bone register. The attacking nature to many tracks recalls the first two studio albums for the bands, one listen to the thunderous title track or “These Violent Thrills” can attest to this, the latter featuring some nifty cymbal/snare time signature tricks from drummer Stet Howland. Kurdt also excels in creating a left-field moody track that contains a bit more substance and flavor, recalling some progressive or power metal influences. “Me the Nothing” one of those memorable arrangements in that regard, the pacing back and forth dynamic between old Scorpions-like chord progressions into standard mid-tempo metal with savage screams/Halford-esque falsettos in key punctuated sequences of word / phrase emphasis. Favorites change through more playbacks – it’s hard not to be floored by the jagged rhythms, drum build up, and mandatory militant melodies during the first single “Pick a God and Prey”, while there’s a more throwback early hard rock angle to “Say a Prayer With 7 Bullets” that’s irresistible to bounce along to.

Metal Church wouldn’t carry on if they didn’t have something important to say and execute material worthy of its namesake. Congregation of Annihilation contains thoroughly enjoyable songwriting and all-around excellent performances, especially for those who love the standard power meets thrash with bluesy overtones these gentlemen deliver time and time again.

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