Aside from being one of the most terrible/awesome album covers in the history of music, 1993′s Hanging In The Balance was actually a more subdued departure for Metal Church. Solid songwriting, clean passages, mid-tempos and a darker atmosphere where all places where Metallica floundered and, perhaps by simply avoiding overexposure, precisely where Metal Church excelled. Truthfully if you’re going to get your feet wet with this legendary Seattle band, this may not be the album to start with but for those who spin the self-titled debut regularly and aren’t familiar with their 90s work, Hanging in the Balance is packed with more pleasant surprises than a pan of brownies from at an Occupy bakesale.
“Waiting for a Savior” – Mike Howe is beyond underrated in my book but that’s there isn’t a clear consensus among fans. His voice is not especially deep and is accented by a coarseness that is very quintessential of the 90s. In any case, when the topic is agnosticism and the hook has this kind of punch, he’s very much in his element.
“A Subtle War” – In fact, this album is very much about the memorability of the vocal hooks and guitar melodies. There is a lack of overall aggression but Howe intonations, obviously influenced by the dramatic flare of Dio, lend a certain weight to even slower songs such as this one.
“No Friend of Mine” – This was a period where Anthrax, Testament, Metallica and Metal Church were all exploring a similar sound. For the most part, this is condemned as an attempt to cash in on radio rock. It’s hard to believe however that Metal Church was doing this with such an album cover and sounds that’s somewhat minimalistic and still riff-centric.
“Little Boy” – Plus, it’s not like they were completely devoid of edge. The killer riffing on this track kills anything Metallica did in the 90s and, based on the song title, comes on the track you’d least expect it to. I’ve also learned that this song actually bears some backing vocals from Joan Jett. Though the first two Metal Church albums are usually seen as the essentials of the discography, Hanging in the Balance is often a blind spot even for Metal Church fans. Perhaps it’s the lulzy and completely arbitrary cover art or the toned down, hook-centric nature of the songs but in any case it’s definitely a record worth resuscitating.