Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Beyond the Black: The Fall and Rise of Metal Church

*to be published in Hails & Horns Magazine
Kim Kelly 2008

So, here’s a brand-new interview with a dude named Kurdt from Aberdeen, Washington.

Now that all the closet Nirvana fans reading this have collectively shat themselves, allow me to thoroughly rain on their parade and introduce Metal Church’s Kurdt Vanderhoof, the OTHER super-influential musician to surface from beneath Washington State’s nigh impenetrable stormclouds. Metal Church were one of the first American thrash bands; their tried’n’true balls-out heavy metal thunder was a definite precursor to the hellish cacophony that was to come shredding through several years later.
In 1981, Kurdt, Mike Murphy, Kirk Arrington, Craig Wells, and Kirk Arrington started a band that they dubbed Shrapnel. Along the way, Shrapnel shed their moniker for the way-cooler tag of METAL CHURCH, covered a Deep Purple song that wasn’t “Smoke on the Water,” toured with Metallica, went through a score of lineup changes, broke up, reformed, and through it all, stayed true to themselves and the thrashy heavy metal that made them every 80’s-era hesher’s favorite band. Now it’s 2008, and the band they created is still alive and kicking ass. It’s been a long hard road, but as they say, heavy metal never dies. With a highly-anticipated new album due out any day now and the most solid lineup they’ve had in years, Metal Church are poised to reclaim their past glories and show the new generation how it’s done!
Kurdt Vanderhoof was kind enough to spare a few minutes to answer some questions and share the remarkable story of Metal Church. He’s a man of few words, but really, his music speaks for itself.

Can you shed some light on the band’s history and briefly summarize the saga of Metal Church for those who are not yet familiar with the band?

25 yrs and counting A few line-up changes and one death.

Who is currently part of the Metal Church lineup?

Ronny Munroe Vocals
Steve Unger bass
Jeff Plate Drums
Rick Van Zandt guitars
Kurdt Vanderhoof guitars

You have a brand-new record, This Present Wasteland, coming out next month. What can you tell me about its creation – writing, recording, and how you managed to capture that old-school Metal Church vibe in 2008?

The approach was pretty much the same and steering away from trends keeps us consistent in what Metal Church is known for.

What kind of expectations did you have for the album when you first started writing new material? How do you feel about the record now that it’s done, pressed, and soon to be unleashed upon the masses?

No real expectations, I have learned that it’s not a good idea these days to have to many of those. I’m quite proud of it actually , I think it has some good Metal tunes on it and I think it will please the Metal Church fans.

How do you feel it fits in with the rest of your catalogue?

I do think it’s one of the better records of the last few years. I think it will be a good statement to where Metal Church is now.

Metal Church has always been a very positive sort of band – no Satan, no gore, no inverted crosses, just pure heavy metal. What sort of lyrical subjects come up on the new record?
The lyrics have a slight theme running through it this time. It deals with the state of the music industry and the current state of people in America.

Will you be touring to promote This Present Wasteland?

We are going to try.

Metal Church has long been hailed as one of the forefathers of thrash metal, and a knowledgeable ear can pick out traces of the MC sound stamped all over the genre. What do you think of the current thrash metal revival?

I like it - as long as they have a good singer, who actually can sing!

You’ve been involved in heavy metal for over two decades now, if not more. How have you personally seen it change and grow over the years? The ‘80s put metal on the map, the ‘90s tried to kill it off, and nowadays it seems as though heavy metal is finally coming back into the limelight and getting some of the respect it deserves.

I think it is too, I don’t think it can ever truly die.

How did you get into heavy metal in the first place? What drew you to it, and why do you still love it so much?

It first appealed to the aggression of the typical teenager. And unlike the Punk movement it had a lot more musicality and skill.

How does it feel to be the only other famous band to come out of Aberdeen, Washington? I can imagine how sick of hearing about Kurt Cobain and grunge you must be by now!

Well, if you knew what type of town Aberdeen is then its quite remarkable that it had any musicians that went national to come out of it. In that respect, I’m quite proud.
And yeah, to a point I guess I am, but, Nirvana really changed things and I have to respect them for that.

Can you tell me a bit about Vanderhood and Presto Ballet? What’s going on with those projects now that Metal Church is keeping you so busy?

Vanderhoof morphed into Presto Ballet. I just released the 2nd Presto Ballet album called “The Lost Art Of Time Travel” and we are playing the Calprog festival this October.
Presto is a labor of love for me.

It’s been quite a wild ride for you guys, but through all the lineup changes, solo projects, and heartbreaks, you’ve stayed strong and true to your roots. What is it that has kept this band going? What has caused you to continue the fight and not give up on Metal Church? What inspires you to continue?

I think it’s the fact that there is nothing more important to me than music. And as long as somebody is enjoying what I’m doing then that in itself is its own reward.

What is next for Metal Church?
Well, after the 1st of the year we hope to do some shows but it’s really hard to say at this point. I hope we can get out and play a bit. I will be working in the studio and trying to put together a Live album and hopefully release the Metal Church remasters next year.

Any parting words or thoughts you’d like to share?

Thanks to everybody for all the long years of support. It means a lot to us!

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