Metal Church

This article is about the heavy metal band. For their self-titled album, see Metal Church (Metal Church album). For the album by Wayne, see Metal Church (Wayne album).
Metal Church

Metal Church guitarists Jay Reynolds (left) and Kurdt Vanderhoof (right).
Background information
Also known as Shrapnel
Origin San Francisco, California, U.S.
Years active
  • 1980–1995
  • 1998–2009
  • 2012–present
Associated acts
Members Kurdt Vanderhoof
Mike Howe
Steve Unger
Jeff Plate
Rick Van Zandt
Past members See members section

Metal Church is an American heavy metal band. They originally formed in San Francisco, California in 1980 before relocating to Aberdeen, Washington the following year and briefly using the name Shrapnel. Their eponymous debut album was released in 1984, and their latest, XI, was released in 2016.[1]

The band is credited as a formative influence on the thrash metal subgenre,[2] melding the aesthetics of the new wave of British heavy metal and American hard rock with "incredibly tight musicianship" and "piercingly screeched" vocals.[3][4] Early lyrical topics such as conflict and paranoia later expanded into philosophical and social commentary.

Founding guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof remained the group's sole consistent creative force throughout its career, despite reducing his role strictly to composition in 1986 after tiring of performing. Vanderhoof, vocalist David Wayne, guitarist Craig Wells, bassist Duke Erickson, and drummer Kirk Arrington composed the group's classic lineup featured on its first two records, while vocalist Mike Howe and guitarist John Marshall later contributed to the group's sound. After releasing five full-length albums and touring extensively throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Metal Church disbanded in 1995. They reformed three years later with their classic lineup, including Vanderhoof's return to performance, yielding the Masterpeace album. They endured numerous lineup changes thereafter, releasing three further studio albums while fronted by Ronny Munroe before again disbanding in July 2009. The group once again reunited in October 2012, and released their tenth studio album Generation Nothing a year later. Following Munroe's departure in the fall of 2014, Howe rejoined Metal Church in April 2015 at Vanderhoof's request,[5] and recorded their eleventh studio album XI.


Formative years (1980–1984)

Then based in San Francisco, Kurdt Vanderhoof formed the band in 1980 with various musicians. This era included a brief audition period with future Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich.[6] The three-song, instrumental Red Skies demo appeared in 1981, featuring Vanderhoof, guitarist Rick Condrin, bassist Steve Hott, and drummer Aaron Zimpel.

Vanderhoof returned to his hometown of Aberdeen in 1981 and began the new group Shrapnel with Craig Wells, Duke Erickson, drummer Tom Weber, and vocalist Mike Murphy. Murphy departed before their next demo, which was recorded without vocals, and Weber departed shortly thereafter. The enlistment of Kirk Arrington and David Wayne completed the group's classic lineup. They released the demo Four Hymns and spent following years touring and accruing material, readopting the Metal Church moniker in 1983.

First two records; commercial success (1984–1988)

In 1984, they released their self-titled debut album, which included three songs from the Four Hymns demo and a cover of Deep Purple's "Highway Star". They sold 70,000 copies of the album independently before signing to Elektra. According to Wayne, Ulrich and Metallica bandmate James Hetfield urged Elektra to sign the band before another label did.[7]

By the time Metal Church released their second studio album, 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, "Watch the Children Pray", received frequent airplay on MTV.

Shortly after the album's release, however, they were plagued by lineup changes: Vanderhoof ceased performing with the group in 1986, to be replaced briefly by Mark Baker and more extensively by John Marshall. Vanderhoof nonetheless continued to work with the group in composing thereafter, co-writing much of their subsequent material. Wayne also departed shortly thereafter and was replaced by former Heretic singer Mike Howe.

Further albums; first breakup (1988–1995)

With Howe, the group released their third studio album, Blessing in Disguise, in 1989. Critics responded favorably, including some assertions that the record was the group's strongest effort.[8] After being replaced by Heretic's former singer, Wayne recruited the remaining members of Heretic to form Reverend.

Following extensive touring, Metal Church released its fourth studio album, The Human Factor, via Epic Records in 1991. Critics applauded the group for transitioning to a major label and successfully retaining the vitality of their sound,[9] while also releasing a record with conceptual accessibility beyond the heavy metal genre.[4]

The band followed with their fifth studio album, 1993's Hanging in the Balance on Mercury Records, but disbanded two years later,[10][11] citing management problems and poor record sales as factors.[12]

Reunion of classic lineup; Masterpeace (1998–2001)

Founding guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof began performing with the group for the first time in 12 years for their 1998 reformation.

The members of Metal Church began compiling their first live album in 1998, Live, which featured songs from their first two records performed by their classic lineup. During the production of Live, Wayne, Vanderhoof, Wells, Arrington, and Erickson decided to reform the band and began work on a new studio album. Wells was forced to depart the band due to familial obligations,[7] however, and was replaced by the returning Marshall. The live album Live in Japan (recorded on the band's 1995 Japanese tour) was also released in 1998,[13] only in Japan.

The resulting album, Masterpeace, was released in 1999 on Nuclear Blast Records. Critics responded positively, hailing it as a focused product that increased the energy over previous releases, despite it ultimately failing to break new ground.[14] Arrington and Erickson were unable to tour behind the record, so the band enlisted members of Vanderhoof's side projects, bassist Brian Lake and drummer Jeff Wade, for live performances later that year.

Wayne expressed regret regarding the record, which influenced his musical output that followed.[7] He again departed in 2001 due to personal and creative differences, forming the group Wayne with Wells and releasing the curiously titled debut album Metal Church thereafter. Vanderhoof objected to the album's name and cover art; according to Wayne, the purpose of the album's name was to alert the audience of his involvement.[7] Erickson and Marshall also ceased involvement with Metal Church after Wayne's departure.

Munroe-led lineup, Wayne's death, and second breakup (2004–2009)

Vanderhoof's eponymous band released A Blur in Time in 2002, and he began working on new material for Metal Church's next album thereafter. In 2004, he and Arrington recruited singer Ronny Munroe, ex-Malice guitarist Jay Reynolds, and bassist Steve Unger to form a new lineup of Metal Church. They released the band's seventh studio album later that year, The Weight of the World. Critics generally reacted to the record with a lukewarm response, recognizing its accomplishments while noting its lack of consistency and innovation.[15]

On May 10, 2005, David Wayne died of complications from injuries sustained in a car accident that occurred months before. He was 47 years old.

In 2006, 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.[16] Later that year, the band released their eighth studio album, A Light in the Dark, which featured a re-recording of "Watch the Children Pray" as a tribute to Wayne. Vanderhoof said that the tribute was a way of showing fans that he harbored no ill will towards Wayne despite the contentious situation that existed between them before Wayne's death.[17]

Reynolds left the group in 2008 and was replaced by Rick Van Zandt.[18] The band's ninth studio album, This Present Wasteland, followed in 2008, which was hailed generally as an effective release consistent with their previous material.[6] After subsequent touring, the band took a hiatus from performing due to Vanderhoof's back problems. They nonetheless continued studio work, while Munroe and Vanderhoof also completed the former's solo album.[19]

After Vanderhoof's health improved, they returned to performing and composing new material. On July 7, 2009, however, the group announced unexpectedly that they were disbanding following a final performance at Rocklahoma two days later, cancelling numerous further live dates. They cited industry frustrations as a major factor influencing the decision. Several former members remained musically active, including Munroe and Vanderhoof in Presto Ballet[20] and Plate in Machines of Grace.

Second reformation and Generation Nothing (2012–2013)

In October 2012, the band announced resumption of activity around a lineup featuring Vanderhoof, Munroe, Unger, Reynolds (soon replaced by Van Zandt), and Plate. Their first performances came the following January during the 70,000 Tons of Metal event, a heavy metal cruise. During one of these two shows, the band performed their debut album, Metal Church, in its entirety.[21] Shortly thereafter, Vanderhoof told Music Life Radio that Metal Church had been working on a new album.[22] In order to promote their tenth studio album, the band played festivals in the summer of 2013.[23] The album, Generation Nothing, was released in October.

Reunion with Mike Howe (2014–present)

Metal Church live at Wacken Open Air 2016

Munroe left the band in September 2014 to "pursue other interests". The band announced its plans to continue nonetheless.[24] On April 30, 2015, Metal Church announced on their Facebook page that former singer Mike Howe had rejoined the band, some 20 years after first leaving the band. The band had also been working on their eleventh studio album.[5] The album, XI, was released on March 25, 2016, and is Metal Church's first album with Howe on vocals since 1993's Hanging in the Balance.[1] XI received positive reviews from critics, and was Metal Church's first album 27 years (since Blessing in Disguise) to enter the Billboard 200; it peaked at number 57,[25] making it the band's highest chart position in their career. On the album's supporting tour, guitarist Rick Van Zandt had to go in for emergency eye surgery to repair a detached retina, and was temporarily replaced by former Firewolfe guitarist Paul Kleff, and Savatage guitarist Chris Caffery.[26][27] The band co-headlined a West Coast North American tour with Armored Saint in June 2016,[28] and along with Amon Amarth, Suicidal Tendencies and Butcher Babies, they supported Megadeth on the latter's Dystopia tour in September–October 2016.[29]

When asked in October 2016 if he intends write another album with Metal Church, Howe stated, "We have every intention of doing that and that's what it's all about. If you're not putting on new music, then it's time to go away for me. In Metal Church... it's always been like a two-year cycle band, but we put our album out this year in March. So our album is actually only being out for six months. But we have plans on this fall getting back to writing and try to put something out next year. We're also looking at some dates for the spring possibly back in the States and maybe back over here. But our drummer Jeff, he's also on the TSO. He leaves from the end of October through December. So we might take that time to start writing new record."[30]


Current members
  • Kurdt Vanderhoofguitar (1980–1986, 1998–2009, 2012–present); co-composition (1986–1995)
  • Mike Howelead vocals (1988–1995, 2015–present)
  • Steve Unger – bass (2004–2009, 2012–present)
  • Jeff Platedrums (2006–2009, 2012–present)
  • Rick Van Zandt – guitar (2008–2009, 2013–present)
Touring members

Former members
  • William McKay – lead vocals (1980)
  • Ed Bull – lead vocals (1980)
  • Rick Condrin – guitar (1980; died 2014)
  • Steve Hott – bass (1980)
  • Rick Wagner – drums (1980)
  • Aaron Zimpel – drums (1980)
  • Carl Sacco – drums (1980-1981)
  • Duke Erickson – bass (1981–1995, 1998–1999, 2000–2001)
  • Craig Wells – guitar (1981–1995, 1998)
  • Mike Murphy – lead vocals (1981)
  • Tom Weber – drums (1981)
  • Kirk Arrington – drums (1981–1995, 1998–1999, 2000–2006)
  • David Wayne – lead vocals (1981–1988, 1998–2001; died 2005)
  • Mark Baker – guitar (1986)
  • John Marshall – guitar (1986–1995, 1998–2001)
  • Brian Lake – bass (1999)
  • Jeff Wade – drums (1999)
  • Ronny Munroe – lead vocals (2004–2009, 2012–2014)
  • Jay Reynolds – guitar (2004–2008, 2012)



Studio albums
  • Red Skies (1981)
  • Hitman (1983)
  • Four Hymns (1983)

Live albums
  • Live (1998)
  • Live in Japan (1998)
  • "Gods of Wrath" (1985)
  • "Start the Fire" (1986)
  • "Watch the Children Pray" (1986)
  • "Iron Man" (1988) (with Sir Mix-a-Lot)
  • "Badlands" (1989)
  • "Fake Healer" (1989)
  • "Date with Poverty" (1991)
  • "In Harm's Way" (1991)
  • "In Mourning" (1991)
  • "The Human Factor" (1991)
  • "Gods of Second Chance" (1993)
  • "No Tomorrow" (2016)
  • "Killing Your Time" (2016)
  • "Reset" (2016)


  1. 1 2 "Metal Church To Release 'XI' Album In March". January 5, 2016. Retrieved January 5, 2016.
  2. "band history page, Metal Church, 2007". July 8, 2009. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  3. "Metal Church – Metal Church". AllMusic. February 6, 2012.
  4. 1 2 "The Human Factor Review". Entertainment Weekly. February 6, 2012.
  5. 1 2 "Metal Church Rejoined By Singer Mike Howe". April 30, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  6. 1 2 "Album Review METAL CHURCH – This Present Wasteland". Maelstrom. Retrieved 2012-04-29.
  7. 1 2 3 4 ", interview with David Wayne, 2001". Retrieved 2010-09-11.
  8. "Blessing in Disguise – Metal Church". AllMusic. February 6, 2012.
  9. "The Human Factor – Metal Church". AllMusic. February 6, 2012.
  10. "METAL CHURCH INTERVIEW: "THERE IS NO EXPIRATION DATE ON US OLD ROCKERS"". Iron Fist Magazine. 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
  11. "Musicmight :: Artists :: Metal Church". Retrieved 2016-08-21.
  12. "Metal Rules!! Interview with Kurdt Vanderhoof". February 6, 2012.
  13. "METALLIAN - Metal Church". Retrieved 2016-08-21.
  14. "Masterpeace – Metal Church". AllMusic. February 6, 2012.
  15. "The Weight of the World – Metal Church". AllMusic. February 6, 2012.
  16. "Interview with Kurdt Vanderhoof, 2006". Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  17. ", interview with Kurdt Vanderhoof, 2006". July 27, 2006. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
  18. " news article April 16th, 2008". Retrieved 2010-09-11.
  19. "A message from the band.., October 27, 2008". July 8, 2009. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  20. "Former METAL CHURCH Singer Ronnie Monroe Comments on His New PRESTO BALLET Gig". June 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-29.
  21. "Reunited Metal Church Confirmed For 70,000 Tons of Metal". October 6, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
  22. "Kurdt Vanderhoof Talks Metal Church, Presto Ballet in New Audio Interview". January 17, 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
  23. "Metal Church Singer Doesn't Rule Out Permanent Reunion". February 7, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-07.
  24. "Vocalist Ronny Munroe Quits Metal Church; Band Vows To Continue". September 24, 2014. Retrieved 2014-09-24.
  25. "Metal Church's 'XI' Lands On Billboard Chart". April 4, 2016. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  26. "Metal Church Guitarist Rick Van Zandt Forced To Sit Out Shows; Temporary Replacement Announced". February 19, 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  27. "Metal Church Taps Savatage Guitarist Chris Caffery For Upcoming Tour". March 2, 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  28. "Armored Saint To Team Up With Metal Church For West Coast Tour". April 22, 2016. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
  29. "Megadeth Announces U.S. Tour With Amon Amarth, Suicidal Tendencies, Metal Church, Havok". July 18, 2016. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
  30. "Metal Church – vocalist Mike Howe". October 13, 2016. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
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