Metal Church was an American heavy metal band from Aberdeen, Washington. They originally formed as Shrapnel in 1980, their first album was released in 1984, and the band's most recent work, This Present Wasteland, was released in 2008.
Metal Church was formed when the thrash metal genre was still evolving. Best exemplified on their early releases, Metal Church's guitar work and vocals were very aggressive while retaining a degree of melodicism that many other American thrash bands had abandoned. It is debatable whether the band's sound is best described as thrash metal. Lyrically, the band's themes are usually dark, with early topics such as conflict and fear expanding to philosophical and social commentary later on. After releasing five full-length albums and touring extensively throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Metal Church disbanded in 1994, but decided to re-form four years later. Having endured numerous lineup changes since, they worked with their third vocalist, and have released four more studio albums and one live album. On July 7, 2009 it was announced on the bands official website that they are calling it quits.
Early days (1981-1990)
Metal Church was formed in 1981 under the name Shrapnel with Mike Murphy on vocals, Kirk Arrington on drums, Craig Wells and Kurdt Vanderhoof on guitars, and Duke Erickson on bass. Mike Murphy quit, however, citing personal and creative differences. He was replaced by David Wayne.
In 1982, Metal Church released a demo tape called the Four Hymns. This album contained the songs "Battalions", "Deathwish", "Gods of Wrath", and "The Brave". Though the demo has been long out-of-print, the songs are freely available from the band's web site.
In 1984, their self-titled debut album was released. The album included three songs from the Four Hymns demo and a cover of Deep Purple's "Highway Star". Metal Church had to sell 70,000 copies of their debut on their own before being signed to Elektra. According to David Wayne, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich of Metallica urged Elektra to sign the band before some other label did.
By the time Metal Church released The Dark in 1986, they were touring with high-profile acts like Metallica. The Dark was a commercial success, helped by the fact that the band's first music video, featuring the song "Watch the Children Pray", received frequent airplay on MTV. Unfortunately, these positive developments were followed by serious problems within Metal Church, which resulted in a change in lineup.
In 1988, the band replaced Wayne with former Heretic singer Mike Howe and released Blessing In Disguise a year later. John Marshall took over Vanderhoof's position on guitar, who now contributed mainly as a songwriter. Ironically, after being replaced by Heretic's former singer, David Wayne recruited the remaining members of Heretic to form Reverend. It would be a decade before David Wayne worked with Metal Church again.
Break-up and Solo careers (1991-1997)
Following the release of 1991's The Human Factor, Kurdt started working solo. He formed a new band called Hall Aflame, which released a debut album in 1991 entitled Guaranteed Forever through I.R.S. Records. This was the only album Hall Aflame would release, and the band folded shortly thereafter.
Metal Church broke up in 1994 after the release of Hanging in the Balance. Kurdt and Kirk formed "Vanderhoof" and released their self-titled debut album in 1997.
The founding members of Metal Church released the album Live in 1998. Featuring songs from their first two albums and recorded at multiple performances in the mid-'80s, this is Metal Church's only official live album to date. It was during the production of Live that the members of the first major lineup decided to re-form, beginning work on a new studio album. Craig Wells was forced to depart from the band, however, due to familial obligations. He was replaced by John Marshall.
The new album was entitled Masterpeace, and was released in 1999. This was Metal Church's first album with new material in six years. Many fans expected Masterpeace to be a follow-up to Metal Church and The Dark, but some were disappointed when they compared the latest album to the band's early releases. Even vocalist David Wayne expressed some regret with what happened on Masterpeace. This dissatisfaction would influence Wayne's musical output years later.
David Wayne departed Metal Church again in 2001 due to personal and creative differences. He then formed a new band called Wayne and released an album entitled Metal Church with former band mate Craig Wells. (Craig Wells didn't actually play guitar on this album, but he did give permission for his name to be used on it.) Wayne's Metal Church album created significant controversy with the band Metal Church, particularly founding member Kurdt Vanderhoof, who objected to the album's name and cover art. According to Wayne, the purpose of the album's name was to let everyone know of his involvement.
Vanderhoof released A Blur in Time in 2002, and Kurdt started working on new material for Metal Church's studio album.
In 2004, Kurdt and Kirk recruited Ronny Munroe, ex-Malice guitarist Jay Reynolds, and Steve Unger. The result was the album Weight of the World.
On May 9, 2005, David Wayne died of complications from injuries sustained in a car accident that occurred months before. He was 47 years old.
In 2006, Kirk Arrington left the band due to health complications with diabetes. His replacement was Jeff Plate, who previously worked with Savatage, Chris Caffery and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
On June 27, 2006, Metal Church released A Light in the Dark, which featured a re-recording of "Watch the Children Pray" as a tribute to David Wayne. Kurdt Vanderhoof said that the tribute was a way of showing fans that he harbored no ill-will for David Wayne, despite the contentious situation that existed between them before Wayne's untimely death.
2008 album and touring hiatus (2008)
Metal Church released their latest album entitled This Present Wasteland on September 23, 2008, followed by a tour. Guitarist Jay Reynolds left the band before the album was recorded; his replacement was Rick Van Zandt.
In October 2008, the band was forced to take a hiatus from touring for approximately six months due to Vanderhoof's back problems. Vanderhoof stated that he would continue working in the studio on new Metal Church projects and work on Ronny Munroe's new solo album. The remaining members of Metal Church planned to remain musically active until Vanderhoof's health returned.
On July 7, 2009, the band announced on their website and Myspace Blog that they were "calling it quits". They had canceled all concert dates for August and beyond. The band played Rocklahoma on July 9, 2009, which was their last show.
Kurdt Vanderhoof (founding member) - lead guitar (1980-1988, 1998-2009)
Ronny Munroe - vocals (2004-2009)
Steve Unger - bass (2004-2009)
Jeff Plate - drums (2006-2009)
Rick Van Zandt - rhythm guitar (2008-2009)
Ed Bull - (1980-1981)
Mike Murphy - (1981)
David Wayne (deceased) - (1982-1988, 1998-2001)
Mike Howe - (1988-1994)
William McKay - (2001-2003)
Rick Condrin - (1980)
Craig Wells - (1982-1994)
Mark Baker - (1986)
John Marshall - (1988-2001)
Jay Reynolds - (2001-2008)
Steve Holt - (1981)
Duke Erickson - (1982-2001)
Rick Wagner - (1980)
Aaron Zimpel - (1980)
Carl Sacco - (1981)
Kirk Arrington - (1982-2006)