Metal Church & Hatchet – Asylum, Portland, Maine, March 24th, 2016

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Metal Church formed in 1980, and four years later they would release their first, self- titled, LP. The band would go on to record eleven albums with its latest entitled XI, dropping the day after this show. Metal Church has stayed true to their name, and if this new release is anything like the new material they played live, it should be a success in the metal community.

Opening the show were Hatchet who, like Metal Church, come from California. Hatchet came out strong and played a ripping set, making the band quite a few new fans among those in attendance. The band was strong in both musicianship and songwriting, and I think they fit well with this tour. With all the “Nu-Metal” out there these days, I was afraid it was going to be more of the same, but I found Hatchet really refreshing. One could argue they sound a lot like the old school metal of early Megadeth or Exodus, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. For me, “old school” is good metal, before everybody did the cookie monster vocals and the distortion rating at eleven.

Hatchet are: Julz Ramos, Clayton Cagle, Ben Smith and Devin Reiche. All have great stage presence and, as mentioned above, all have some real talent. I think the only mistake this band made live was leaving the stage early, which I assumed was to get the audience to call them back to play a few more songs, but instead their exit just left a lull in the room. As good as they are and as much as the crowd seemed to dig them, they are still unknown up here in Maine and the audience was there to see Metal Church, but again, that takes nothing away from this band who played a great set. Check out their latest release: Fear Beyond Lunacy, out now on The End Records.

After a short teardown of equipment, Metal Church came on stage to the crowd’s chants of “Metal Church, Metal Church…” The band opened with “Fake Healer,” a song from the band’s third release, Blessings in Disguise, and also the first album that featured Mike Howe on vocals, who after a hiatus has rejoined the band at its helm. The crowd welcomed Mike with cheers, many literally yelling, “Welcome back Mike!” From there, the band went into “In Mourning,” from their fourth release, The Human Factor. Again the crowd ate it up.

Metal Church’s performance was great. I’ve seen a lot of shows, as had these fans, and we all know that a really great band can “phone in” a show and it makes for a really bad show, or a really bad band can play a solid set and still perform a bad show. This is commonplace in metal. But sometimes and much less often, fans get a really good band playing their hearts out, making it seem like it was their first time in front of an audience with all the energy and all the smiles. In return, the audience reacts with energy and smiles. It is almost like perpetual motion when energy feeds off energy and each keeps the other alive and going. It was clear that these guys were having fun and in turn so was the audience.

Metal Church are: Kurdt Vanderhoof, Mike Howe, Steve Unger, Jeff Plate, and Rick Van Zandt. Van Zandt was out with an eye infection, so joining the band on the tour is Chris Caffery of Sabotage/TransSiberian Orchestra. The band played a thirteen song set which included many songs from their abovementioned new release, which unfortunately could not be sold at this show as it was a day too early. The band ended the show with “The Human Factor,” the title track from their fourth album.

After the show both bands hung out and chatted with fans, selling merch and taking photos. Not only is this a great bunch of performers, they seem like really great people. The world of metal is proud to have them as their own.
The Setlist:

Fake Healer – In Mourning – Start the Fire – Reset – Gods of Second Chance – Date with Poverty – No Tomorrow – Watch the Children Pray – No Friend of Mine – Killing Your Time – Beyond the Black – Badlands – The Human Factor

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