Bay Area / Seattle Thrash Legends

Metal Church Discography               

Formed in San Francisco in 1980, Metal Church is one of a handful of bands that were responsible for the technical precision and rapid-fire rhythm that would become the thrash metal sound. In addition to being a part of the early 80s Bay Area thrash movement (Metallica's Lars Ulrich once auditioned for the band), they also became a significant part of Seattle's storied music legacy, earning the unique distinction of being founded in both cities. While Metal Church did not enjoy the level of success achieved by Metallica, Slayer or Anthrax, they were very much a part of the formative years of the genre and are cited as musical influence by the same young musicians that worship their fellow thrash founders.

Metal Church began when Kurdt Vanderhoof, formerly a guitarist in a Seattle hardcore band called Lewd, formed the group and dubbed it after the nickname of his apartment in San Francisco. The Bay Area was very much a hotbed at the time for an emerging wave of bands playing a new style of heavy metal music. In addition to Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax, Megadeth, Testament, Exodus, Laaz Rockit, Forbidden and dozens of other thrash bands cut their teeth in the 80s Bay Area scene. After auditioning the soon-to-be Metallica drummer, Vanderhoof settled on a lineup of himself and Rick Condrin on guitar, Steve Hott on bass and Aaron Zimpel on drums. A demo entitled Red Skies surfaced in '81, but got little recognition so Vanderhoof disbanded the first incarnation of Metal Church and returned home to Aberdeen.

Metal Church - Classic Lineup

Back at home, Vanderhoof recruited bassist Duke Erickson and guitarist Craig Wells, both members of the classic lineup on board for the band's first two albums, as well as drummer Tom Weber and vocalist Mike Murphy. The new band was called Shrapnel, but its founder would return to the Metal Church moniker before releasing an album. Murphy left before the band's second demo, for which vocals were never recorded, with Weber leaving just after. That's when frontman David Wayne and drummer Kirk Arrington came on board, completing the lineup that would release the self-titled Metal Church debut and The Dark, both considered vital albums in the evolution of thrash. The band released a demo entitled Four Hymns in late '81 and spent the next couple of years or so playing clubs and writing material.

In 1983, Shrapnel became Metal Church and a year later released their self-titled debut album independently, selling an impressive 70,000 copies without a label. The album caught the attention of Elektra Records, who signed the band thanks to urging from Ulrich and James Hetfield of Metallica. The album was well received and they spent the next two years touring with thrash heavyweights Metallica and Anthrax and compiling material for their next album. The Dark was released in 1986 to tremendous critical acclaim. A single from the album entitled "Watch the Children Pray" was used for a video, exploding the Metal Church fan base thanks to heavy airplay on MTV. The band is often cited in discussions of the best or most important albums of the thrash genre, and was listed at No. 389 on a 2005 list of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time published by Rock Hard magazine. The album stayed on the Billboard 200 albums chart for 23 weeks, peaking at No. 92 about three months after its release.

Metal Church

The Dark

While Metal Church's success was peaking, changes were afoot within the band. Vanderhoof grew tired of touring, and decided to leave, and Wayne departed soon after. Vanderhoof remained involved, however, continuing to handle the majority of the songwriting on all subsequent Metal Church releases as well as producing. Guitarist Mark Baker was brought in briefly to replace Vanderhoof but quickly replaced himself by John Marshall, a former guitar tech for Metallica's Kirk Hammett and a guitarist for Blind Illusion, a progressive rock band that also included Les Claypool and Larry LaLonde, later of Primus. Former Heretic frontman Mike Howe was brought in to handle vocal duties, replacing Wayne. Ironically, Wayne recruited the remaining members of Heretic and formed a band called Reverend.

With Heretic's former frontman on board, and their old singer working with that band's remaining members, Vanderhoof and company entered the studio in August 1988 to record their third set. The record took just over a month to finish, and Blessing of Disguise hit stores the following February. While he didn't perform on the album, Vanderhoof was credited for either lyrics or music on every song except for one. The album was the band's biggest commercial success, peaking at position 75 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and remaining on the chart for 15 straight weeks. The album also produced the single "Badlands," which received heavy airplay on MTV and on hard rock radio stations around the country.

To capitalize on the positive reception for Blessing, Metal Church toured extensively through the rest of 1989 and well into 1990. A label change would soon follow, and the fourth Metal Church effort, Human Factor, would arrive in stores in March 1991 on Epic Records. The album did well initially, it never found its way onto any charts and is generally considered the band's most unsuccessful effort to date. More touring followed, including an opening slot on Metallica's hugely successful "Wherever We May Roam" tour. Hanging In the Balance was released in 1993, on Mercury Records, but the label dropped the band a short time later and Metal Church disbanded.

The band remained inactive for about four years, until Vanderhoof reassembled the classic lineup, including David Wayne, to put together a live album from performances in the mid-80s. Nuclear Blast agreed to take part in the project, and the band's only live album, titled Live, was released later that year. The album featured performances in Texas recorded during the band's 1986 tour with Anthrax. The project was successful enough that the band decided to write material for a new Metal Church record. Craig Wells had to step aside due to family obligations, and John Marshall was brought back in. Masterpeace arrived less than a year later, to a mostly-positive reception from critics and fans. A supporting tour ensued, followed by another breakup spurred by creative differences between Vanderhoof and Wayne.



After Wayne left Metal Church for the second time in 2001, he recruited Wells and formed a new band called Wayne, issuing a debut album called Metal Church in 2002. Vanderhoof objected to the album name and cover art (the Wayne logo was designed to look like the well known Metal Church logo), but Wayne insisted the similarities were only to alert fans that the metal Church frontman was involved. Vanderhoof's eponymous band released its second album, A Blur in Time, in 2002, but he immediately turned his attention to filling out the Metal Church lineup. He brought in vocalist Ronny Munroe, bassist Steve Unger and former Malice guitarist Jay Reynolds. This lineup would produce The Weight of the World in 2004, A Light in the Dark in 2006 and This Present Wasteland in 2008.

David Wayne passed away in May 2005 due to complications caused by injuries he sustained in a car accident. Vanderhood paid tribute to his former bandmate by including a new version of "Watch the Children Pray" on the A Light in the Dark record. Munroe and Vanderhoof, meanwhile, toured after each of the band's final three releases, but decided to call it quits again in July 2009, citing growing frustration with the music industry. Vanderhoof changed his mind again three years later, however, and Metal Church reformed yet again to record Generation Nothing, released in October 2013. The album was well received, and Metal Church has been on the road supporting the effort ever since.


The Metal Church discography spans more than three decades and includes three demos, ten studio albums and one live album. The band featured three different singers and numerous lineups throughout its career, with founder Kurdt Vanderhoof as the only constant. Click Here for more detailed information about the career of the Bay Area / Seattle thrash legends.