Hard Features

Hard Features

Gig Reviews & Special Features

October 2015

METAL CHURCH Frontman Returns After More Than 20 Years!

by Jym Harris

We've been waiting for too many years for this...

You can't say Mike Howe INVENTED the witchy-pirate snarl that became so popular in certain subgenres of Heavy Metal but he most certainly perfected it. From the first time I heard the song 'Metal Church' in 1984 and the moment where the opening lyrics blast in with "MANY MANY YEARS AGO!" I got chills. Suddenly, I wanted to hear EVERY singer that sounded like a cross between DIO and HALFORD... and a pirate... and Witch Hazel from Bugs Bunny. That's right, somewhat cartoonish & otherworldly... I dig that voice!

When original frontman David Wayne (R.I.P) left METAL CHURCH, they got this good-looking shaggy haired bleach blonde kid from Detroit that had moves that would later make Sebastian Bach famous and the SAME voice as their former vocalist (but even better!) so I was (as Mike Howe's famous shirt in the 80's said) "STOKED"!

1988 was a big year for Mr. Howe... after moving to LA four years earlier, he had released his first demo with the Detroit band SNAIR, then was fired from that band only to emerge in HERETIC shortly thereafter and recorded their full length album on Metal Blade Records... which (to hear some tell it) was basically the demo that got him into the major label act to which he has recently returned!

See, with the exception of some guest vocals on an EP by Swiss Metallers 'MEGORA', we haven't heard a peep from Howe in over two decades. Last anyone heard, he cut his hair off, got a "real job", started a family and left the music biz entirely! He wasn't managing or producing bands... nothing music-related at all. We all thought we had lost him forever... The guy who perfected one of my favorite vocal styles in Heavy Metal wouldn't even do interviews. He seemed completely uninterested in returning to show business at all. Apparently soured by certain things surrounding and involving his last (criminally underrated) album with M.C. he really had no plans to come back to the Metal world. Ever. He thought 'if it won't be as good as my other records, why bother?'

During which time, Metal Church wasn't even Metal Church. Look at the lineup on the Mike Howe records... then look at the 'Light In The Dark' & forward lineup. I know, I know Kurdt Vanderhoof was in the background all the time, but still... no common members! Seems weird, right?

While preparing to work with Kurdt on a different project featuring Nigel, the drummer of SAXON, Metal Church suddenly found themselves without a vocalist when Ronny Munroe left! Kinda perfect timing, right?

It took some convincing, but Mike agreed to at least try and work on some material with Kurdt... before we knew it, an official announcement was made to the world via Rat Pak Records on April 30th 2015 that Mike Howe had in fact, to all of our disbelief, returned as the lead singer of Metal Church. (Cue the glorious trumpet sounds & crowd noises)

Since then, I've scoured every corner of the 'interwebz' to find anything regarding this upcoming record (which I'm already guessing will be considered Heavy Metal album of 2016 by many... mark my words) and with the exception of a couple of snippets of new tunes like "Killing Your Time", "Suffer Fools", and "Find Your Way", the only FULL song made available to the public was a newly recorded version of the band's big MTV video single "Badlands" which stayed mostly true to form. Sources close to me who have heard the other material (and aren't easily pleased) say the new record is actually really good! Call me a fanboy... I don't care. I'm giddy.

So far, the folks over at Rat Pak are being pretty secretive with the press, for most part... they aren't allowing any interviews until January, after the album drops, so we will have to wait to talk with the band at that point (as long as we are granted permission) so until then, we'll just anxiously look forward to the LP, a brand new music video (yes!) and the Monsters Of Rock Cruise since no other live dates have been announced for 2016... yet! Keep your eyes peeled, Metal Church fans! I know I will.