Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reverend of a Metal Church

Heretic – Breaking Point

Metal Blade Records – 1988

Lost and Found Records – 2009 reissue

Alright muthas, let’s go back to that golden year of 1988 when Metal Blade released a crushing blast of power/thrash metal by Los Angelinos Heretic called Breaking Point. Heretic had first been featured on Metal Massacre VII with the track “Impulse” which had Julian Mendez on vocals. In 1986, the band released the EP Torture Knows No Boundary but Mendez had been replaced by Mike Torres on the mike. Torture was an excellent slice of power/thrash with high pitched vocals and included a great cover of the Russ Ballard song “Riding With The Angels.”

Following this release, the vocal slot changed again but this time in stepped the diminutive but golden throated Mike Howe. With Howe on vocals the band released Breaking Point but before they could really exploit this album Howe had left to be the front man for the mighty Metal Church. Oddly enough, bass player Dennis O’Hara and guitarist Brian Korban teamed up with former Metal Church vocalist David Wayne to form Reverend.

The Metal Church connections don’t end there because the co-producer on the album was none other than Kurt Vanderhoof - the guitarist, songwriter, and founder of Metal Church! The Metal Blog Of Metal is sure that Vanderhoof put in the word for Howe to get the job with Metal Church which turned out to be very beneficial for all parties involved, except Heretic who were quickly forgotten and consigned to the slag heap of metal history.

Enough with the history, let’s get on with the review of Breaking Point already. If you like Mike Howe era Metal Church you are going to love this album. It’s got that not quite power metal - not quite thrash metal vibe that Metal Church could pull off with aplomb. The songwriting is hooky and memorable without a crap cut on the entire album.

The first track “Heretic” starts off with a short acoustic part and then we’re off to the races with up tempo speed metal. Howe is in fine voice here and effortlessly is hitting the high notes. Also of note is that the bass is right up front and not lost in the mix like on most thrash albums.

“And Kingdoms Fall” is up next and it’s another speedy number with just superb vocals. Howe hits the highs and lows with power and grit. The soloing is excellent here as are the gang vocals in the chorus. The “Circle” starts at a mid-pace and just keeps building until the cut ends with Howe screaming for what seems like 10 minutes.

I defy any non-deaf person to not play “Enemy Within” over and over again on repeat. It’s just so hooky that it requires repeated plays. This is a stand out track on an album comprised of nothing but fantastic songs. Chuga-Chuga-CHUGA!!!

“Time Runs Short” is one of two almost seven minute songs on the album. It starts out with a little bass intro like Megadeth’s “Dawn Patrol” and then it’s time to crank it into overdrive for a bit until it’s back to mid-pace skull crushing. Excellent variation in one song that asks, “Is there no love left in the world?” Answer = no.

”Pale Shelter” is a short acoustic interlude before the speed and power of “Shifting Fire” which is chock full of tasty riffage. This is followed by the even faster “Let ‘Em Bleed” which slays. The chuga-chuga is back in full force on “Evil For Evil” which also has most excellent solos.

Closing out the album is “The Search” which is the other 7 minute long song. Howe puts on a vocal clinic here as the song winds its way through multiple tempo changes in the style of “Watch The Children Pray.”

Lyrically this album deals with common themes in thrash such as drugs, war, violence, hypocrisy, government corruption, etc. No dragons, battle, brotherhood, fighting the world or uplifting songs here. Remember, in 1988 thrash was king and Dio was uncool so lyrically you couldn’t sing about Viking warlords and be cutting edge. I believe assholes call these types of lyrics “thought provoking” as they flit off to a Death Cab For Cutie Concert.

In 2009, Lost And Found Records reissued the album with a nice remastering and a bonus track – the aforementioned “Impulse” from Metal Massacre VII. Before that, this was one of the most expensive metal CDs out there and very rare. The Metal Blog Of Metal tracked one down years ago for the princely sum of $75 which represents the most expensive disc in the vast archives. For the sake of heaviness er, I mean completeness, the reissue was also added to the archives. Unfortunately the reissue is itself now out of print and rising in price. Grab one while you can.

The good news is that if you really want the album you can download it from iTunes or get it on vinyl because it’s now available in a wax reissue from JDC records.

The final piece of great news is that Heretic have gotten back together with original members Dennis O’Hara, Brian Korban, Julian Mendez, as well as new members Federico Dupay on drums and Glenn Rogers (Viking, Hirax, Steel Vengeance, etc…) on guitars. Check them out on Facebook. I know they are working on getting a Torture Knows No Boundary reissue out if they can get Metal Blade to go along and they are playing a show with Bitch and Malice. Hell yes!!!!


The Bottom Line: Seek out this rarity and add it to your collection. It’s a prime slab of metal and holds an honored place in the pantheon of great albums. All the tracks are fantastic - the vocals slay, the riffs are a flyin’ and the bass is chugging. Come on man, what the hell else do you want? This is a desert island LP of the highest order. Buy or Die.


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