A surprising and pleasing level of vitality throughout

It’s a testament to the tenacity of guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof that, considering the amount of drama that has dogged the career of Metal Church, the band has survived to release an eleventh album.

Reunited with erstwhile vocalist Mike Howe, Metal Church sound like they mean business from the opening notes. Many albums this long start to drag after the first half-hour, but solid tracks like ‘Soul Eating Machine’ and the sinister ‘It Waits’ late in the tracklisting help XI maintain a surprising and pleasing level of vitality throughout. As mentioned, ‘Reset’ sets the tone, an aggressive mid-paced outpouring of pure American metal; the next two tracks add some melody and hooky choruses to the stomping crunch of guitars and Howe’s rasping vocal growl. Slightly longer tunes like ‘Signal Path’ and ‘Sky Falls In’ let the intensity drop a little but the band regathers pace with ‘Needle and Suture’ and the dark brood of ‘Shadow’. The guitar interplay between Vanderhoof and Rick van Zandt across some of these tracks is stellar and Howe upholds his end of the bargain throughout. While the longer songs lose some impetus, overall XI is a pretty staunch effort from a band that could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel a long time ago.

1. Reset
2. Killing Your Time
3. No Tomorrow
4. Signal Path
5. Sky Falls In
6. Needle and Suture
7. Shadow
8. Blow Your Mind
9. Soul Eating Machine
10. It Waits
11. Suffer Fools