Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

DC4 is a name that I was not at all acquainted to prior to be granted access to their latest full length “Electric Ministry”, but reading through the bio provided by the band’s label Metal Blade revealed to me some truly interesting info. Apart from the fact that this band has been around since 1997, the man that handles rhythm guitar and vocal duties is no other that Armored Saint axeman Jeff Duncan. Impressed? Wait until you hear the rest! The guy who shreds on lead guitar is a certain gentleman called Rowan Robertson – the same guy who, back in 1990, helped the legendary frontman Ronnie James Dio record his fifth studio album “Lock Up The Wolves”. Now if you add to that partial contributions by Dizzy Reed (keys: ex Guns N Roses), Gonzo (drums: Armored Saint) and production duties by no other than Mr. Bill Metoyer (Fates Warning, W.A.S.P., Slayer), then you expect something truly magnificent, right?

When I begun listening to “Electric Ministry”, the band’s third studio album, I did so without any expectations whatsoever. Actually, I was warned in advanced by a fellow Armored Saint maniac to expect very few such references in DC4’s music and so I was quite happy to eventually become exposed to eleven compositions whose affiliations were more towards 80s Hard Rock that classic Heavy Metal. What I was not too happy about was to discover that most of these songs were featuring performances that can only really be described as average. Sure, the riffs upon which these eleven songs have been based are pretty solid and the solos provided by the guitar maestro Rowan Robertson can be pretty impressive but you still cannot fail but notice that most of the ideas on offer have been used by a good number of similarly-minded bands long before the members of DC4 decided to join forces.

Following a short harmonic guitar intro that listens to the name “Wrecktory”, the album kicks off with the heavy riffed Rock N’ Roll influenced “Electric Ministry”. Its catchy chorus and sing-along refrain are enough to help portray it as amongst the strongest compositions of this album – a great contrast to the fairly simplistic and lyrically quite explicit “XXX” which I never really managed to warm to, no matter how hard I tried. “Rock God” initially comes across as an average track but once a lead guitar melody courtesy of the duet Duncan/Robertson graces us with its presence, the song’s ‘stocks’ are slightly raised. “25 To Life” is another simply crafted composition but one which features an impressive guitar solo and paved the way to “Broken Soul” – a dark-sounding eight minute opus whose atmospheric theme and commanding vocals are of the highest quality. The second half of the album is spitted equally between the pretty average “People”, “The Ballad Of Rock And Roll” and “Glitter Girl”, on one hand, and the more impressive “Sociopath” and “Dirty Hands” on the other. Actually, I will go as far as to say that “Dirty Hands” is the best composition of the album, featuring some truly soulful piano tunes and flamboyant lead solos, all of which operate upon Jeff Duncan’s ins[irrational acoustic guitar tunes. Sadly, it was a case of too little, too late!

When I think of “Electric Ministry”, the expression that comes to mind is unfulfilled potential. The purpose of this project is to enable Jeff Duncan to take a break from the Heavy Metal axeman persona that he sponsors in Armored Saint and look back into his musical roots, and that cannot be a bad thing. Knowing how talented both him and Rowan Robertson truly are, though, I believe that I am entitled to expect better things from them. If and when in the right mood, “Electric Ministry” may become a decent companion, however, in my case, getting to that exact mood is not something that is going to happen very often. The fact that after quite a few spins it is only a couple of compositions whose tunes I can sing in my head is an indications that something went slightly wrong here, hence the reason why an average rating has been provided.

John Stefanis

Rating: *** (3.0/50)

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In this show, first broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 2 February 2020, David Randall plays a selection of tracks from some of the artists who impressed at this year’s Giants Of Rock event in Minehead (24-27 January).

Featured Albums w/c 17 February (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 NEWMAN Ignition (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 BLACK SWAN Shake The World (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 CORMAC O CAOIMH Swim Crawl Walk Run (indie)

Power Plays w/c 17 February (Mon-Fri)

SHAKRA Turn The Light On (AFM Records)
THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA Transmissions (Nuclear Blast)
RYDERS CREED Lost Soul (Off Yer Rocka Recordings)
FRAMING HANLEY Puzzle Pieces (Thermal Entertainment LLC)
ROBERT HART Mysterious (Escape Music)

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