Metal Church - Blessing in Disguise (1989)
This is the first (and perhaps only) Metal Church record I had any time for. With the departure of David Wayne and the arrival of Mike Howe I heard a settling of the Metal Church song writing - which is odd because the majority of Blessing in Disguise was written by the still present Kurdt Vanderhoof (who wasn't a full time band member at this point), John Marshall and Craig Wells. Marshall was Vanderhoof's replacement and came from good stead having been Metallica's guitar roadie (already having stood in for Hetfield in 1986 after James went one way and his skateboard the other) and he also had a brief stint in Blind Illusion.
The new blood in the band certainly grounded things in comparison to their previous two full-lengths which to me lacked consistency and power overall (the lack of the latter being due to the lack of momentum from the former). Although album number three was not perfect by any means it was a step up for me and one that I do find myself revisiting more than any other. Worth mentioning here is that my attention is grabbed from the off by the great Fake Healer which is racy and aggressive and oozes quality which carries well into the more measured Rest In Pieces...and despite the clunky lyrical structure to Of Unsound Mind it does fit the title well and kind of still fits in with a strong opening.
In fact I only think the album really comes unstuck at around the instrumental track It's A Secret which although is energetic it lacks substance overall and heralds the weaker part of the album over these final three tracks. Album closer The Powers That Be is perhaps the worst track on here in all honesty. It feels overall that more thought went into this record than on previous outings, like the band had matured and learned from previous mistakes, exercising some quality control if not entirely managing to pull it off across all of the album. This album feels like an accurate summary of the band in terms of their career for me. They always promised so much and got plaudits and accolades galore but I was never entirely sure why, had they been able to make more albums like this and control line-up changes better then maybe they would occupy a more heady status in my opinion.
After loving the debut self-titled album, Metal Church disappointed me a little bit with The Dark. I figured this one was unlikely to win me over, particularly after hearing that vocalist David Wayne had been replaced for this release. As it has turned out, I find Blessing in Disguise to be a much better album than I'd expected. On top of that, Mike Howe's vocals are great, so the loss of Wayne had no effect on quality.
The album starts with the almost stadium rock of Fake Healer that can't help but get under your skin. Then the brilliant Rest in Pieces follows, leaving me with no uncertainty that Metal Church had come up with a winner. The riffs are consistently attention grabbing, the song structures highly memorable and the leads are decent too. Highlights for me are Rest in Pieces, Badlands and the instrumental It's a Secret. I do think that Anthem to the Estranged overstays it's welcome somewhat, being 9 and half minutes long without doing all that much for me. And Cannot Tell a Lie doesn't quite meet the standard of the rest of the album, so while I really like this album, I can't rate it higher than a solid 4 stars.