West Coast metal veterans METAL CHURCH will release their 13th studio album, "Congregation Of Annihilation", on May 26 via Rat Pak Records (America) and Reaper Entertainment (Europe). The new album marks the first release since the tragic death of legendary frontman Mike Howe who passed in July of 2021. It also marks the first album with new vocalist Marc Lopes (ROSS THE BOSS, LET US PREY) who came on board in the summer of 2022, and features the current lineup of founding guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, guitarist Rick Van Zandt, bassist Steve Unger and drummer Stet Howland. The new songs are a return to the band's musical roots harkening back to the vibes of the self-titled first album and "The Dark". "Congregation Of Annihilation" was produced by Vanderhoof and is now available for pre-order in various bundle configurations.
Vanderhoof comments: "This new album is starting a new chapter in the METAL CHURCH legacy. I really love this album. It's a fresh approach for us in one way, but also a return to the very beginnings of METAL CHURCH as part of the New American Thrash Metal movement. This record contains some of the most aggressive songs we have recorded. I hope the fans will like it as much as we do."
Lopes adds: "I am beyond honored to be part of carrying on this legacy into a new era of METAL CHURCH. Working with Kurdt and a band that was a huge influence of mine growing up was a surreal experience, to say the least. For me there was no point in trying to imitate what was already done to perfection. So, with respect to the past, we moved forward to a new chapter and here we are!"
"Congregation Of Annihilation" features nine all new tracks from METAL CHURCH and continues to build upon their iconic sound the band established over three decades ago. Infused with intelligent lyrical content, thundering guitar riffs, and Marc's aggressive soaring vocals, "Congregation Of Annihilation" furthers the bands sonic evolution up to the next level and is guaranteed to enthrall metal music fans around the world. From the first guitar riff of album opener "Another Judgement Day" through the driving outro of album closer "All That We Destroy", it is clear METAL CHURCH is back and better than ever. "Congregation Of Annihilation", "Children Of The Lie" and "These Violent Thrills" showcase the sonically charged songwriting that made the early METAL CHURCH albums such fan favorites. Haunting musical opuses "Me The Nothing" and "Making Monsters" each puts the musicianship that METAL CHURCH was known for on full display in 2023. The album also features two bonus tracks: "My Favorite Sin" and "Salvation".
The LP's second single, "Making Monsters", can be streamed below.
About "Making Monsters", Vanderhoof comments: "Keeping with the METAL CHURCH tradition of combining the heavy and aggressive sound of thrash metal while injecting a good dose of melody and hooks, 'Making Monsters' is a track that showcases what we have done for over 30 years. It has the comfort of old school METAL CHURCH while showcasing how our signature sound has evolved. The band is firing on all cylinders."
Lopes adds: "Just a dark, creepy, heavy-ass driving tune that is lyrically based from the book 'Making Monsters: The Uncanny Power Of Dehumanization' by David Livingstone Smith — a truly terrifying read. It's based on actual real-life research. The dehumanizing of others that transforms them into something so terrifying that they must be destroyed. Deep, philosophical and psychological stuff here, just another day in my train of thought."
"Congregation Of Annihilation" track listing:
01. Another Judgement Day 02. Congregation Of Annihilation 03. Pick A God And Prey 04. Children Of The Lie 05. Me The Nothing 06. Making Monsters 07. Say A Prayer With 7 Bullets 08. These Violent Thrills 09. All That We Destroy 10. My Favorite Sin (bonus track) 11. Salvation (bonus track)
In a recent interview with Chris Akin Presents, Lopes spoke about the inevitable barrage of criticism that he will receive as a result of stepping into the role previously occupied by Howe, David Wayne and Ronny Munroe. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Being in ROSS THE BOSS [the band led by former MANOWAR guitarist Ross 'The Boss' Friedman], I have faced so much stupid bullshit from fans, from MANOWAR fans. At the beginning, it bothered me, years back. Now I can give two shits; I don't fucking care. Because, you know what? If you fucking start worrying about what other people think, you'll never get anywhere. And the way I look at it is, it's, like, look, if you like it, great. If you don't, then fucking go somewhere else. I don't really give a shit. I know that I'm giving it everything that I have to do it and make it sound as best as possible. And if you don't like it, why am I gonna sit here and try to fucking satisfy you? I don't fucking care. I mean, obviously, if everybody fucking hates it, then probably I shouldn't do the gig. But with much respect to the METAL CHURCH community, they've been amazing; they love this new stuff.
"I've gotta be honest — the anticipation is insane, and it's making me more… I'm definitely nervous," Marc admitted. "But at the same time, I'm, like, look, I've gotta go out and do my thing. And the reason that I was put in charge of doing this new era of the band was because I am putting my own spin on it. Am I gonna sound like David Wayne? Maybe in some aspects. Am I gonna sound like Mike Howe? Maybe in some aspects. Am I gonna sound like Marc Lopes? Abso-fucking-lutely. And that's really what it comes down to.
"If this is my era of the band, then I have to do what I do best. Trying to imitate it isn't gonna do anybody any good. And the funny thing is, Ronny Munroe is amazing — he's a great vocalist — and he sounded more like David Wayne than me.
"I've gotta be honest: at first, I was, like, 'Fuck, man. How am I gonna do this?' [Then I was, like], 'Wait a minute. You're already approaching it wrong.' Kurdt would always be, like, 'You're already approaching it wrong.'
"Those guys are not imitatable because they are who they are… And Ronny has his own style too, and the stuff that he did was great. It just was a weird era for the band, I think, in the totality part of it…
"I already know there are gonna be the haters," Marc added. "And I don't care. And for those people — if you wanna waste your time with that kind of shit, then go for it. There's way more things to spend time on in life than being out there going, 'I hate this.' It's kind of ridiculous.
"The biggest joke is I'm a huge IRON MAIDEN fan and I never liked the Blaze Bayley era. And we always used to joke about it. I was, like, I'm a huge MAIDEN fan. Do I spend my time going, 'Oh my God. I hate that. And I hate this.' It's, like, why? I don't listen to it. [Laughs] Not everybody's gonna like everything you do. It's just the way it is."
Howe was found dead at his home in Eureka, California in July 2021. According to TMZ, Howe's official cause of death was determined to be asphyxia due to hanging. A spokesperson for the Humboldt County Sheriff's Dept. told the site authorities are calling it a suicide. He was only 55 years old.
When Mike's death was first announced, TMZ stated that cops in Eureka got a call just after 10 a.m. on July 26, 2021 reporting an unexpected death at a home. By the time deputies arrived, they found Howe dead at the scene.
According to police, drugs and alcohol are not believed to be factors in the death and no controlled substances or paraphernalia were located at the scene.
Four days after Howe's death, the surviving members of METAL CHURCH shared a statement on social media in which they blamed his suicide on the fact that he "was victimized by a failing health-care system and subsequently poisoned by the venom of Big Pharma," a term which refers collectively to the global pharmaceutical industry. "In short and in essence, he fell prey to the real 'Fake Healer'."
METAL CHURCH's statement was quickly met with criticism from some of the band's fans who felt that the long-running metal act was using Howe's death as a platform to assert its political views. As a result, METAL CHUCH pulled its original post from social media and replaced it with a revised version, in which the musicians said they were "in no way, shape or form referring to anything in relation to vaccinations, COVID or politics. We were saying our brother was hurting and while he was seeking medical care for it, the treatments he was utilizing did not protect him," they wrote. "Otherwise, he would still be with us today."
Howe, who fronted METAL CHURCH from 1988 until 1994, officially rejoined the band in April 2015.
Prior to joining METAL CHURCH more than three decades ago, Howe spent two years fronting California metal act HERETIC.
The reunion between Mike and METAL CHURCH was put in motion in July of 2014 when Mike started working with Vanderhoof on a side project Kurdt was forming with Nigel Glockler from SAXON. Through these initial conversations, Kurdt convinced Mike to ultimately return to METAL CHURCH. The idea was to see if they could recapture some of the magic from the three albums METAL CHURCH released in the late '80s: "The Human Factor", "Blessing In Disguise" and "Hanging In The Balance". Out of those sessions, 2016's "XI" was born and captured the sound that made the band fan favorites in the '80s and mixed it with a new, invigorated sound.
METAL CHURCH's latest release was "From The Vault", which arrived in April 2020 via Rat Pak Records. The effort was a special-edition compilation album that featured 14 previously unreleased songs from the Howe era, including four newly recorded studio tracks, among them a redux of the band's fan favorite classic "Conductor".
Howe is not the first singer of METAL CHURCH to die. David Wayne passed away in May 2005 from complications following a car crash. He was 47 years old.
Wayne sang on METAL CHURCH's first two classic offerings (1984's "Metal Church" and 1986's "The Dark") before leaving the group and being replaced by Howe.
Left to right in photo: Stet Howland (drums),Steve Unger (bass),Marc Lopes (vocals),Rick Van Zandt (guitars),Kurdt Vanderhoof (guitars)
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