Couple of years since the release of Metal Church’s “return” album unimaginably titled XI, the Californian metallers are back with the follow up Damned If You Do.
Calling XI, return-album might be somewhat misleading, because the band was never really gone, but the return of band’s famed singer Mike Howe was a big deal, despite the fact that he’s not band’s original singer.
XI was a rock-solid return, which offered no surprises and as such it played safe by giving fans what metal Church is best known for – no nonsense metal.
With the successful return behind them one could hope that band would spread their wings bit more on the follow-up. Unfortunately, Damned If You Do stays on its predecessor’s path and stepping out of the comfort zone is almost none-existing. It’s pity that we don’t get to experience band unfold their creativity, like they did eminently on their 1993 classic Hanging in the Balance.
But if you can make your piece with that, then the new album will still please your very heavy metal core. On top of that it’s worth mentioning that the return of Howe has infused the band with energy and gave them the newfound spark, which was missing from several of their previous releases.
Same goes for Damned If You Do which despite feeling like XI-part 2 delivers numerous memorable moments such such as the title track, that beside solid song-writing also displays Howe’s ability to create simple yet infectious hooks. And speaking of hooks, “By the Numbers” delivers some truly infectious ones as well, which makes the song stick to your head after a single spin.
“The Black Things” serves as a perfect song-number-two, despite a riff that resembles Iron Maiden’s “The Assassin”, bit too much.
On the other hand, there are also several songs that don’t live up to the standard, like the 70’s inspired “Monkey Finger”, whose intentions are good, but the result is just weak and almost uneasy.
Kurdt Vanderhoof has produced again so even sonically, new album resembles the previous one. So, if you liked XI and you feel like more of the same, skillfully executed heavy metal then this record is surely worth your money. You might even get additional dynamics on this album.
More diversity and overall broader spectrum would serve the band well, but we are in time and age when most of the metal bands who have been around for more than three decades have dropped experimenting and rest on the broad shoulder of their legacy. Just look at the latest releases by the likes of Megadeth, Kreator, Paradise Lost, Anthrax and even Metallica. By playing it safe(r), they are potentially robbing us of some unique new ventures, but they do satisfy the need of the majority of fans and let’s face it – when you are master of your domain, even heavy dose of repetition can work just fine.