Thursday, March 7, 2024

Metal Church - From the Vault (2020)

Fortunately for us all, there was a little more in store with Mike Howe at the helm before the tragic event of 2021. From the Vault is not your proper Metal Church record, it's more of a compilation, but unlike so many such releases that prove entirely useless, this one actually features some new material. And what new materia! One of the fresh studio pieces here, the opener "Dead on the Vine", is among my favorite tracks that the band had ever recorded, just scorching and extremely well produced. As potent and angry as anything off of Damned if You Do, but a little more polished in the direction of XI. The others new tunes like "For No Reason" or "Above the Madness" are a little more hard rocking and balanced in pace, but still really good and Mike's voice is just off the chains as it was a couple years before.

If this wasn't enough great unreleased material, you've also got some extra tunes from the Damned if You Do sessions, like the cruising and crunching headbanger "False Flag" or the acoustic instrumental "432hz" which is quite beautiful. You can hear why a few of these were clipped from the full-length, but these two at the very least were worthy, and the mix on these is certainly full studio quality if a bit drier in overall vibe than something like "Dead on the Vine". The cover songs included here are also recorded rather well, and slightly unique choices like Nazareth's "Please Don't Judas Me", which is solid if a little silly when Howe puts some goofy grit into some of the verse lines; the others actually sound a little better, like the more metalized "Green Eyed Lady", but here Mike's vocals also get a little cringe. It's not that he sounds bad, just that the edge and venom to his style is a little overbearing in this context...then again, there are some lines where he harmonizes in the latter that sound pretty awesome, and the leads in that one are also quite nice. There are ADDITIONAL tunes from the XI era like "The Enemy Mind" which is also pretty good, and some new mixes ("Killing Your Time", "Needle & Suture") which also feel pretty lethal, though some of this is only on the digital version or the vinyl box set, not the core CD/vinyl.

Because that's not enough of a fan package for your time and money, there are also a couple of live songs, and they sound pretty clear from Japan, but they don't quite match the energy of the studio material and that's probably just because of the particular tunes selected. Mike sounds alright but some of his higher pitched screams are a little much. Regardless, this is the worst that you're going to find on From the Vault, and it's a great complimentary tribute to the two prior studio full-lengths in terms of going back and celebrating Mike Howe's contributions when he rejoined the band. Had all the studio content here been mixed more fluidly as a third new studio effort with him, that might have been superior, there are a few distractions like covers or B-sides that don't live up to the rest, but overall this has at least an EP's worth of killer material that shouldn't disappoint you if you've enjoyed either of his tenure's with the band.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]

No comments: