@ The Audio, Glasgow
June 21, 2017
Review by Pete Mutant
Metal Church, the Bay Area’s own metal legends were in Glasgow for the first time in their long, decades spanning career. Of course, they haven’t been a solid outfit since their beginning-with many a hiatus-but for the last five years they have been releasing new material and touring, having gone from strength to strength with the most welcome return of Mike Howe to the vocal duties. It mattered not to the Glasgow crowd that they were still on the album cycle for last year’s ‘XI’ (the first release with Mike Howe since 1993’s ‘Hanging In The Balance’), as we haven’t had any tour that Metal Church had been a part of so, naturally, they could have played almost anything from any previous album and most would be happy. It had been a long wait after all.
The Audio was the venue of choice for their first taste of Glaswegian hospitality, a second home to many (myself included) which has had a great few years of bringing some astounding musical packages to the city. This package included supporting act Comaniac, a thrash band from Switzerland that has churned out two previous albums since their inauguration into the world of metal back in 2010. They were not a band that I was familiar with but there are a few Swiss bands that I have a soft spot for: Celtic Frost (obviously) and Bölzer etc. so I was intrigued to say the least.
Comaniac [3.5/5] started off with a brazen display of thunderous thrash metal. The lead work throughout the song escalated the momentum with some nice sweeps and tapping which sent some of the crowd into fits of headbanging. The crowd was fairly sparse but there was at least 50 punters in by this time and some were prepared to involve themselves. The band took a minute to address the crowd after the opening song and even threw in a copy of their newest release to the crowd; flying straight into the hands of the tallest guy in the venue would you believe?
The second track was the title track for their most recent release ‘Instruction For Destruction’ with fast shifts in tempo, breaks upon breaks with another pristine set of lead work. There was no let up as Comanic took us back to 2015’s ‘Return To The Wasteland’ with more blazing, full pelt thrash in the form of ‘1, 2, Rage’. Another track of interchanging sections that culminate together at a searing tempo; all killer no filler.
By the 4th track, there were some issues arising with the bass but the rest played on. It was unfortunate as the track was building up through some excellent riffs until it lost its beef, yet, funnily enough the track sounded like it could fit into ‘And Justice For All’, all guitars and drums with an absent bass but still a solid effort under frustrating circumstances. The two guitarists shredded away, paying homage to thrash legends as they shredded away in their Megadeth tops.
The bass issues were dealt with in time for the fifth track ‘Self Control’ which vocalist and guitarist Jonas Schmid introduced by speaking of his own lack of self control, apologising for his lack of control over the English language. They finished the set with ‘Cut Throat’ off of their first album, starting with a melodic passage before the all out thrash assault continued. The music built then shifted back to a melodic section, as the high notes built in harmony before a final flurry of impressive leadwork helped bring their set to a close.
It was a solid start to the evening and there were no other supporting acts to follow. The crowd had filtered through now to near capacity as we awaited the coming of the Metal Church. The sermon was set and the parishioners were ready. The Terminator theme tune blared out of the speakers as shouts went up from the crowd. As the band members emerged the energy levels of the crowd built and built, some spending their lungs in sheer ecstasy. Mike Howe was the last to emerge as the band got things underway.
Metal Church [4.5/5] opened with one of their most illustrious riffs as ‘Fake Healer’ got us underway. Not long after the start there was a need to stop due to an issue with the kick drum but the band pulled things back to the beginning as Mike announced “alright, here we go again”. It meant we were treated to that riff again so it wasn’t really a bad thing. Heads were banging away and no wonder, the band were solid after the initial hiccup and the music was flowing well. Mike Howe’s vocals were incredible, it sounded as if we were listening to ‘Blessing In Disguise’ on record. Vanderhoof came in with the first solo of the set with the rest of the band looking more than happy on stage and enjoying themselves.
The second track ‘In Mourning’ took us back to 1991’s ‘The Human Factor’ before we crossed to more modern times with ‘Needle And Suture’ from their last recorded effort. It was now time to go back to ‘The Dark’ with one of my personal favourites of their’s in ‘Start The Fire’. The crowd seemed to favour this as well as there was a large contingent singing along, though I doubt anyone could match Mike Howe’s rendition of David Wayne’s masterful song. Mike was full of energy and the way he sang ‘Like a ship that’s built for destruction, I’m a metal man of construction’ sent shock waves through the crowd. Rick Van Zandt executed the leadwork brilliantly as he took over lead duties for the remainder of the show.
By the sixth track ‘Date With Poverty’, we had survived another short bout of technical difficulties but the band was more than capable of redeeming the situation. On the seventh track ‘No Tomorrow’, legendary drummer Stet Howland was on his feet smashing away with merciless precision. There was no let up as Metal Church continued with their almighty storm of metal. They took a brief moment to announce their love for the road, “we’re old but we feel young on tour” is what Mike declared to the baying crowd. We were taken back to ‘The Dark’ with ‘Watch The Children Play’ as things got a little more harrowing. Again Mike executes the vocals expertly, doing justice to the band’s former fallen comrade.
After the tenth song of the set, Howe and Vanderhoof went off stage leaving Van Zandt with the duties of a solo performance in the guitar. The band came back on after the crowd bestowed their appreciation for Van Zandt’s six string wizardry. We were even given a taste of their first self-titled album with the dark and exceedingly heavy ‘Beyond The Black’. There was barely a still body in the venue at this point and no wonder, we were getting a dose of some of their most iconic and heaviest material. Mike’s voice got so high it seemed to screech with feedback. The band left the stage but they weren’t done yet, we were getting an encore tonight; it was a special night for us after all.
The band emerged again and got the crowd clapping in unison as we entered ‘The Badlands’. To finish the night off, Metal Church played us ‘The Human Factor’ to round off an excellent performance and a top show worth the 36 year wait. A lot of the crowd (myself included) weren’t even in existence when they started plying their trade. Though there has been various lineup changes and several hiatus’, it’s as if there has never been a lull. They have an astonishing presence and have certainly not lost any ability over the years. Every member was playing their A game and it was intoxicating to behold. Hopefully this isn’t the last that we’ve seen of this band in Scotland. They know how to put on a show for the crowd, as if they’ve played here a million times before.
1. Fake Healer
2. In Mourning
3. Needle and Suture
4. Start the Fire
6. Gods of Second Chance
7. Date with Poverty
8. No Tomorrow
9. Watch the Children Pray
10. No Friend of Mine
11. Killing Your Time
12. Beyond The Black
13. The Badlands
14. The Human Factor