Metal Church – Hanging In The Balance Review

I’m sure in 1993 after Badmotorfinger, Ten and Nevermind, this may not have been the most popular album out of Seattle, but looking back at this objectively through 2020 goggles it is a damn fine follow-up to their excellent Human Factor album.

This isn’t the album that makes it into all the top-metal album lists, like their earlier work, but it is a fine addition to the discography and one not to be overlooked. It has a fantastic production, partially from Paul O’Neill who was involved in many of the best Savatage albums.  Mike Howe’s powerful vocal work is simply superb (shame he would leave after this record). The lead guitar work is very entertaining, a bit bluesier than their earlier albums. The lyrics are quite interesting too, ranging from topics of racism, nuclear bombs, alcoholism, politics and change.

Stylistically; like all Metal Church albums, it sounds different from the last one, but caries something over. They really never make the same album twice.  This album doesn’t have the early-Queensryche meets early-Savatage similarities of the self-titled debut, or indeed the Thrash tinges of The Dark; but what it does have is a huge upswing in the level of Rush influence. Little guitar lines here and there, vocal melodies, even a whole vibe of a song (‘Waiting For A Savior’). There’s lots and lots of Rush inspiration coming out at all angles. Its arguably the least heavy and most melodic of their pre-breakup albums. There’s a real good acoustic/electric dynamic going on a lot of the time.

That’s not to say its all Rush all the time. Tracks like ‘Conductor’ & ‘Down To The River’ are still  metallic and energetic, while ‘Losers In The Game’ even goes as far as to borrow a few vocal patterns from Judas Priest’s ‘Breaking The Law.’ On the other side of the spectrum, ‘Hypnotized’ seems to be attempting a tip of the hat to Alice In Chains. Speaking of which, Jerry Cantrell provides some guest guitar work on the opening track!

If I was to make a critique of the album, I would propose that it is a tad overlong, and could do with being maybe two tracks shorter, or having a minute shaved off a few of the songs instead to tighten it up a bit, but that’s just nit-picking.

Ps. If there has ever been a case for ‘’don’t judge a book by its cover’’ then this is it. If you didn’t know about this band and saw this ridiculous album art, well, it wouldn’t inspire you just to buy it on spec, now would it? Luckily, whatever they loose in artwork taste, they make up for in musical taste.

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