It’s hard to believe that Metal Church’s debut album came out in 1984. That’s coming up on 40 years of massive metal rockitude (that’s a word, right?). As is the case with almost any band that has been around that long, there have been multiple line-up changes through the years but Mike Howe returned on vocals back in 2015 after a very long break and the current line-up also consists of Stet Howland on drums, Kurdt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt on guitars and Steve Unger on bass. The band’s latest release, From the Vault is an interesting mix of old and new tunes, and if the album is listened to in order it is almost broken up evenly into four sections.
The first four songs would basically fit into the “brand new” category, with one slight exception. Dead on the Vine starts the album off and somehow, Howe sounds exactly as good as he did years ago. The song definitely has a timeless feel, as if it could have been recorded years ago and yet it still fits into the modern metal world as well. The band has also released a lyric video for this tune. For No Reason and Above the Madness are the other two new tunes, and sandwiched between those is Conductor, which, although it is a newly recorded version was actually on an earlier album, Hanging in the Balance.
The next category, which could perhaps be called the “B-sides” are songs that were apparently recorded during the studio session for their previous release. This section contains two full instrumentals, Insta Mental and 432 Hz.
“Covers” would be the next section of the album with Please Don’t Judas Me (Nazareth), Green Eyed Lady (Sugarloaf) and Black Betty (Ram Jam).
The album is finished off with the “live tracks and remix/bonus tracks.” The two live tunes were recorded in Japan: Agent Green and Anthem to the Estranged, and the two newly mixed tunes are from 2016’s album, XI– Killing Your Time (Wizard Mix) and Needle and Suture (Metal Mix).
So, although the title From the Vault might lead one to believe that this is only a type of compilation album or only older unreleased tracks, the new tunes at the beginning of the album promise to be new favorites for long-time fans. And the content of the album makes this a great introduction for new fans to get a little old and a little new before digging into the entire Metal Church discography.