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Metal Church - Congregation Of Annihilation review


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Band: Metal Church
Album: Congregation Of Annihilation
Release date: May 2023

01. Another Judgement Day
02. Congregation Of Annihilation
03. Pick A God And Prey
04. Children Of The Lie
05. Me The Nothing
06. Making Monsters
07. Say A Prayer With 7 Bullets
08. These Violent Thrills
09. All That We Destroy
10. My Favorite Sin [bonus]
11. Salvation [bonus]

I'll be at the Congregation for cunctation.

Metal Church have long been high up on my list of bands who should have been bigger, thanks to a fine balance between songwriting craft and talent within their ranks, producing a series of albums in the 1980s that rank highly as some of the best pure heavy metal records going. While the band's reunion hasn't hit the same heights, they aren't resting on their past either, as shown on the band's 13th album Congregation Of Annihilation after the untimely passing of Mike Howe, whose replacement Marc Lopes makes his debut appearance. 

Well, as much as some things change, other things stay the same; thankfully, the quality of Metal Church shines through on Congregation Of Annihilation, though it does so even in the face of some constraints. The band's modus operandi remains the same: namely, to cut the crap and just get down to making a traditional metal record. Thanks to the guitar tandem of Vanderhoof and Van Zandt, Congregation Of Annihilation is a guitar-led record, with tracks like "Say A Prayer With 7 Bullets", "My Favourite Sin" and "Pick A God And Prey" highlighting the band's strengths and turning them up to eleven. While the songwriting isn't as strong as it has been on recent albums, it maintains a consistent level that is enjoyable, though one that is unlikely to have you returning regularly. 

I find myself on the fence with the choice of Lopes as the replacement for Howe; while I fully appreciate he has some big shoes to fill (Howe was one of the more underrated vocalists in metal), he feels like a square peg in a round hole that just about fits if you squeeze hard enough. He does have the powerful voice to add to the bombast of tracks like "Pick A God And Prey", but his raw and raspy tones are too OTT on the likes of "All That We Destroy" and "Me The Nothing", distracting from the rest of the band and detracting from the band's strengths. Given time, Lopes may find the perfect balance and fill the position well, but on Congregation Of Annihilation he's like Michael Bay directing a romcom; he knows all the technical parts, but just is an ill fit by insisting on over-doing the explosions, I mean, vocals. 

The biggest issue with Congregation Of Annihilation is the compressed sound of the production, sounding like the songs are stuffed into a box, rather than free and able to breathe. No matter how loud you crank the volume, the tracks feel constrained on a tight leash. As a result of this, every song seems to be monotonous, in that they don't pop during the chorus or solo, the equivalent of a theatre show without a spotlight (see "Children Of The Lie"). Howland's drums are perhaps the worst affected, sounding hollow and inorganic, reminding me of the tone from albums from the early 1980s. Ironically, the only person seemingly unaffected by this is Lopes, which in turn amplifies the existing problem surrounding his performance. 

Thirteen may not be the luckiest number for some; for Metal Church it's not the worst omen for the band, though it's not the defiance of fate that many would have hoped for. An enjoyable listen, but I won't be swayed into worshipping with this congregation regularly.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 6
Production: 6

Written on 06.06.2023 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.


Comments: 5   Visited by: 74 users
06.06.2023 - 16:01

True indeed, far from the form of the latest releases, if it would not say its metal church probably i would have ignored it completely...
07.06.2023 - 15:34

The Michael Bay directing a romcom analogy is on point lmao
08.06.2023 - 01:45

I understand how people could see Lopes as overdoing it, but that didn't bother me much as I kinda like wild vocal performances sometimes. I do think Lopes has a great voice and range, but so far I've yet to hear an album that I felt made the best use of his abilities, and he's starting to feel like another vocalist that I want to love but that I will be perpetually disappointed with every album they are on.

For me the bigger issue here was the songwriting. It wasn't terrible but not too much really stuck with me, and most tracks felt longer than they needed to be, but then that's a complaint I have with a lot of classic bands on their later releases, particularly in thrash/thrash-ish stuff. Songs that would work fine as 3 and a half minute tracks don't always work as good at 4 and a half or 5+ minutes.
08.06.2023 - 08:37
I am so sorry to say that I have come to a decision that I will defy to participate in the 'congregation' of Metal Church due to the unsatisfied quality of this album.
22.06.2023 - 22:45
Rating: 3

Love the music, cannot stand the vocals.

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