Vocalist Mike Howe's sophomore release with those metal veterans Metal Church really drops a bomb on social issues, and the lyrics are so articulate on the variety of subject matter that I feel it is necessary to let them do the talking.
In my opinion, "In Harm's Way" is the album's centerpiece--a very saddening description of child abuse and it's toll on a human life.
"A lonely child with battered eyes
No joy in innocence they cry
Always has to lie his way through life
I've fallen down while playing ball
But mom beat me up and down the hall
Just because she had one of those nights..."
Sort of along those lines is "In Mourning" which brilliantly covers the topic of how music is blamed for kids committing suicide and rightfully redirects the blame to their upbringing. No doubt inspired by the Judas Priest court case, it presents its message clearly and desperately needed to be written.
"Maybe could it be that no one was there to hear
Did you pay attention to their angers and their fears?
You're trying to find someone to blame who can't be put on trial
The enemy you're looking for is laughing all the while
I mourn for those who have been so deceived
You know the last words that they spoke were "Who loves me?" "
On the lighter side, the title track is a blast at phony corporate pop stars who have no real musical talent, use computer programs instead of instruments, and use samples of real musicians' songs to scam their way to popularity. Sadly it is just as relevant today as it was in 1991 when it was written:
"I just can't believe my ears, some music out these days
The human factor has diminished, in oh so many ways
Fancy footwork gets top bill and I'll put on such a show
One more Midi cable and my 'band' is ready to go
One more money-maker and I'm set for life
Stealing from others will make my future bright..."
This is going on longer than I anticipated so I'll cut it short. But I hope enough examples have been given to really express the importance of this record. Metal Church isn't talking about nuclear war anymore, they're covering topics that hit much closer to daily life and do it in a very effective way. Each song is equally strong in its message: "Betrayed" and its tale of alcoholism; "Date with Poverty" about being poor and hounded by collectors; "The Final Word" about American activists who rag on their own country; or "Agent Green" which seems to be about some sort of political espionage or something. Musically it's one of the best songs on here, but I'll be damned if I know what it's talking about. Interestingly, during the acoustic intro to this tune, Mike Howe's voice sounds alot like latter day Geddy Lee.
Anyway, this is a great album with more typically great riffs written by Kurdt Vanderhoof (who was replaced by Metallica guitar tech John Marshall for the recording of this album, but still contributed songs) and stunningly poignant lyrics by Mike Howe. A very dramatic listening experience.