On Pearl Harbor Day, 2018, iconic metal band Metal Church released their 12th studio album (and 5th with Mike Howe on vocals), Damned If You Do. The album continues right where 2016’s XI left off. If you are a fan of any of the albums that the band has recorded with Mr. Howe then you will be absolutely pleased with this release! This album sees the band with longtime W.A.S.P. drummer Stet Howland coming “Into The Fold”. Guitarist/riff master Kurdt Vanderhoof once again has outdone himself with another fresh batch of kick ass songs for our consumption! With Mike Howe and his Rob Halford/Bruce Dickinson style of vocals to boot we are once again in for a treat.
Damned If You Do combines elements from their past and present and gives us a blistering 10 track album! Starting off with the title track, “Damned If You Do” starts with a hum followed by a blistering riff and drum beat that drive the song. While Metal Church without a doubt provide the metal there is not a lack of hooks in the songs! The hook in the chorus will quickly get in your head and stay there! The second track “The Black Things” has an opening guitar sound reminiscent of the classic “Badlands“ from Blessing in Disguise followed by a barn-burning pace that has all the elements of a perfect Metal Church song! Driving drums, rhythm and bass, blazing soloing by Rick Van Zandt and soaring vocals by Mike Howe even made better while layered in the chorus!
The third song “By The Numbers“ follows the lead of its predecessor, a driving song with a great chorus! This album is off to a great start. “Revolution Underway“ starts with a nice clean arpeggiated riff and has a bit of a lighter feel than the previous three tracks but has a great drum beat and guitar riff driving the song. This song has a good mix of a the aforementioned clean riff and plenty of distorted guitar to lead this to being another great song! The following two songs “Guillotine“ and “Rot Away“are both straight pedal to the metal songs that do not let up! Track number 7, “Into The Fold“, starts with a quick arpeggiated intro and drives hard to the chorus that goes into a cool half time beat. The band is clicking on all cylinders on this one! You’ll be nodding along with this one without a doubt! Just when you think Mr. Vanderhoof can’t do it again he delivers another riff that will leave you satisfied and wondering how he keeps doing it!
“Monkey Finger“ is a the song that sounds the most different from anything else on the album. It starts off with a riff reminiscent of the late 1980’s, it’s just a straight ahead rocker talking about judgement and being close minded. Sounds like a life we don’t wanna live! The next track “Out Of Balance“ starts with a nice riff and goes straight for the jugular! A nice double bass line by Mr. Howland and the lead guitar line mimicking the vocals of the chorus helps this song take us on a pleasant and “Out Of Balance“ yet balanced journey! The album closes out with “The War Electric“, starting with a nice drum roll straight into another driving beat, Mr. Howe shows off his pipes in this one. The chorus has a driving beat that goes into a good groove and as the song ends and another one doesn’t start there’s a sense of sadness that the album is over.
It’s not often that a band releases an album almost 35 years after their first release and you don’t even want to skip a song on it because it’s so good! Damned If You Do provides us with such an album! Mike Howe‘s vocals sound as good as they did when he recorded Blessing In Disguise in 1988! Stet Howland‘s drumming is a huge highlight on the album, he is a very welcome addition to Metal Church! He and bassist Steve Unger are a very formidable backbone for the band to build songs. Kurdt Vanderhoof and his top notch riffs topped off by Rick Van Zandt‘s leads make this album one you’ll want to listen to over and over!