My first introduction into trash metal was hearing Metallica‘s Ride the Lightning, and after hearing that I was hooked. As I began to seek out more, one of the first bands I came across was Metal Church and the 1984 self-titled debut album. As I listened to the album I immediately connected with the song “Gods of Wrath”. I enjoyed the rest of the album, but I lost interest by the time their second album The Dark came out. Why did I lose interest? I can only think that I miscategorized Metal Church as a thrash band when in fact they are a straight ahead heavy metal band. I followed the path of Master of Puppets and Peace Sells and that is not really what Metal Church is.
I bring this up because after listening to Classic Live for this review I realize what a mistake I made. Classic Live was put out for the fans as kind of a companion piece to go along with the return of Mike Howe to the band. The album does not contain any of the new songs from the 2016 reunion album XI. In founding guitarist Kurt Vanderhoof‘s words, “it also pays tribute to some of the more popular songs of that era. It’s really cool to see so many old fans and new fans of all ages enjoying these classics as we perform them live, so it only made sense to release this.” He could not be more correct.
I had the pleasure of seeing Metal Church live twice on the 2016 Monsters of Rock Cruise and they were a most pleasant surprise. The energy that Mike Howe has infused into the band was amazing. What I had missed so many years ago was just how powerful and moving their music was. Songs like “Date With Poverty”, “Start the Fire”, and new personal favorite “Gods of Second Chance” just blow you away in the live setting with non-stop energy and driving grooves. I was guilty of banging my head last year at their pool stage show, you just cannot help yourself. I was also guilty of chanting, as you will hear in the background of this album, “Metal Church, Metal Church, Metal Church.” Their live performance is just such a joy to watch. It is a show where you can tell that the band is genuinely enjoying themselves. The band consists besides Howe and founding guitarist Kurt Vanderhoof, bassist Steve Unger, guitarist Rick van Zandt, and recently departed drummer Jeff Plate.
Every song on this album is enjoyable and I think Classic Live does a great job of representing the band in all its live glory. As an added bonus the last song is a studio recording of a duet with Queensryche vocalist Todd La Torre on the song “Fake Healer”. Todd and Mike have completely different singing styles which is what makes this song so dynamic. Mike Howe belting out a verse with all the angst he can muster, while Todd comes in and smoothly delivers every note pitch perfect. A great bonus track!
If you are a fan of the band, then you will truly appreciate the disc. If you are not as much of a fan, such as myself, you will be converted after three or four listens to this album. Either way, it is a must buy!