It has been a few years since Metal Church have graced our shores last travelling here in 2019 and quite a few things have changed since then. With the tragic loss of their frontman Mike Howe, which was a massive loss to the music industry and devastating to fans worldwide. After the initial shock Metal Church regrouped and came together with new singer Marc Lopes and a killer new album Congregation of Annihilation in 2023. Fans have welcomed Marc with open arms and embraced the new album excited for the band to be on the road celebrating the new songs and singer.
It was no surprise to see black t-shirts lined up awaiting entry to The Croxton Bandroom. It has become a stalwart for old school heavy metal gigs and always has a terrific vibe as you are waiting to nab prime position. With lots of excited band banter being had as we counted down to doors, it is always a fun time to reminisce with like minded fans. With a steady stream of people finding their way to the front and beers flowing across the bar opening act Firing Squad started to warm up the crowd. They gave us a quick fire 25 mins of thrash metal, engaging the crowd and getting heads nodding in approval. Some fans wearing their merch and head banging on the barrier with gusto, it was great to see an early turn out and support for them. They had a substantial crowd by the end of their set and one of the guitarists even joined the punters on the floor to shred out the last minute or so.
Next up were thrash five piece Nothing Sacred, a name well known in the scene, these guys have been plugging away for 30 years and their experience showed. They powered through a thirty-minute set delivering some tasty tunes and wicked riffs. Singer Chris Stark has a most powerful set of pipes and I was left in awe just watching. With punters up and about they had a massive audience and the vibes were nothing but positive. Ending the set with Deathwish we were more than warmed up and ready for Metal Church.
The merch desk was kept busy with lots of cool stuff on offer, and things started heating up as the sea of black T-shirts congregated up close to the front. The odd peppering of red or white tops stood out like a sore thumb as the old school rock brigade brought out their finest thrash metal regalia, battle jackets worn with pride and every man and his dog wearing a Metal Church t-shirt. The demographic was a much older crowd, diehard fans still showing their loyalty to their old thrash favourites. As the lights dropped a roar rang out as the band took to the stage opening with the blinder Ton of Bricks from The Dark album. It was one of four from the album and was definitely a great way to get the night off and running. Marc Lopes was in fine form belting out the songs with his trademark long screeching on point all night.
Start The Fire did just that as the crowd were up and about, fists punching the air, singing word for word back to Lopes. Kurdt Vanderhoof has shredding up a storm along with Rick Van Zandt, both keeping the big riffs coming all night. Gods of Wrath really got the bandroom pulsing, with a few of the younger attendees on the barrier head banging with fury. The punters chanting back ‘Gods of Wrath’ for the duration. Pick a God and Pray and Congregation of Annihilation followed both off the latest release of the same name. Stet Howland was a machine on the drums, being a part of the band since 2017 he was right at home, providing backing vocals and vicious hitting of skins, on many occasions playing while standing up showcasing his skills. His spanking DW kit was a shining light in the middle of the stage and he used every piece to his advantage, he really was joy to watch.
Burial at Sea, Watch The Children Play and Fake Healer were welcome additions to the setlist and got the crowd up and about. Steve Unger on bass also added backing vocals and looked all parts the rock star in his leather and studs. He had the bass line covered and worked the stage with the ease of a true professional. Badlands is a loved Metal Church song from the album Blessing In Disguise and the punters enjoyed every minute. As the night was coming towards its end you would usually see the odd grogged up wannabe rockstar try and crowd surf over the top, but the seniority of the crowd put that to rest. All in attendance happy to just head bang on the spot and even that was done with reserved spurts to save the chiropractic bill the next day.
Beyond The Black and Metal Church saw out this killer night of thrash metal finery, Lopes digging deep and giving it everything he had. As he returned with his phone to capture the crowd, arms quickly were held skyward to showcase the love in the room. A quick photo with the crowd and that was it, the show was over with Steve and Rick handing out guitar picks and Lopes pulling up a setlist for one lucky fan. I think many were expecting and encore but at 11pm on a weeknight I was more than happy with the killer performance we had.
Metal Church were so appreciative of their fans with Kurdt taking the time to thank us all for our undying support and I for one would be more that happy to bow down at the altar of Metal Church should they decide to come our way again.