Live in Japan (1993) and Live (1986)
Released: 1998, Blackheart Records and SPV
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
The first live Metal Church album, released only in Japan, is actually an unauthorized release. The band themselves condemn it, not only because it was released without their permission, but also because it sounds like shit. And correct they are! This album was recorded in 1993, on their Japanese tour for their final and under-appreciated album "Hanging in the Balance". Included are 11 tracks, 6 of which are culled from their final LP. The only album you don’t hear songs from is their debut. Although the band has forewarned their fans and has suggested not buying this release, I think it is worthwhile for diehard Metal Church fans. Where else are you going to hear "Hanging in the Balance" material live? Or how about the songs "Badlands", "Fake Healer", and "In Mourning"? The band’s performance is excellent throughout the album, replicating their songs very accurately. "Little Boy", written about the atomic bombing of Japan, is a fitting song for the occasion and came out superb! But as mentioned, the sound quality is fairly poor. It almost sounds like a good bootleg. The guitars are too hard to hear, and Mike’s vocals stand out almost too much at times, as does the bass guitar. John Marshall’s leads come out quite nice though. But the overall sound is muffled and has too much echo at times, making you think you’ve got your stereo on "hall" mode. If you happened to get a hold of the digipak version of "Hanging in the Balance", the three live bonus tracks included are from this same concert and are included on this live album. So you can expect that same sound quality throughout this one. Again, if you’re a big Metal Church fan, I think this is worthwhile…you, like me, will listen past the bad sound quality.
The second live Metal Church album is an official release, comprising songs taken from tapes dating back to 1986! Yes!!! This is the classic Metal Church lineup with Kurdt Vanderhoof and David Wayne! What you get here are 10 tracks from their first two albums, including "Ton of Bricks", "Start the Fire", "Watch the Children Pray", "Gods of Wrath" and "Metal Church", as well as some lesser known songs like "The Dark" and "Beyond the Black". But the two real surprises here are "Hitman" and "Psycho"…definitely the highlights of the album. My only disappointment is "Highway Star"…great cover, but I’d rather hear an original. In fact, why weren’t more songs included on this release? Surely there must have been other songs they could have pulled from the tapes. Why didn’t they go all out on this one? Anyway, the sound quality on this album is a little rough, but this is 1986 for metal-god’s sake! In actuality, the sound is similar to their first album, giving this material a very energetic vibe. In addition, every instrument comes out sounding killer. Metal Church’s performance kicks some serious ass here too, as evidenced by drummer Kirk Arrington’s performance on "Psycho", a demanding song indeed! But most impressive are David’s vocals. He hits those high notes with such ease, and is quite forceful behind the mic. It is an indisputable fact that he is one of the finest live metal vocalists ever. If you need more proof, check out Reverend’s "Live" album. Not only should there be more songs, the booklet should have been expanded. I mean, this is the first Metal Church release since 1993! It shouldn’t have been released with a bang, it should have been released with a KABLOOOOM!!!!!!!