The recent loss of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman got me thinking about other great metal artists we’ve lost, specifically those in the world of thrash. None are greater than the loss of The Reverend David Wayne. He died in 2005 following complications resulting from an automobile accident. David Wayne is best known as the vocalist of Metal Church but also fronted the groups Reverend and Wayne.
Metal Church was a pioneering group at the forefront of the trash metal explosion. They had an innovative style and a singer with an identifiable voice who propelled them into the spotlight. Shortly after signing a deal with Electra Records, one of the first thrash bands to debut on a major record label, Metal Church released two critically acclaimed albums: Metal Church (1984) and The Dark (1986).
The self-titled release is a complex entanglement of power and emotion. The album boasts the metal anthems “Beyond the Black”, “Metal Church” and “Gods of Wrath” as well as the speedy fan favorite “Hitman”, the exemplary instrumental “Merciless Onslaught” and a topnotch cover of Deep Purple’s classic “Highway Star”.
Metal Church’s sophomore effort, The Dark, contains some of the more recognizable Church tracks such as “Ton Of Bricks,” ”Method To Your Madness”, “The Dark”, “Line Of Death” and the famed metal anthem “Watch The Children Pray”, a song which really helped the group gain mainstream recognition because the music video was in heavy rotation on MTV. The Dark offered some of the more extreme music metal had to offer in 1986 because Wayne can sing a variety of notes with ease and deliver distinguishable syllables at a break neck pace; when you combine that unique delivery with the creative genius of Kurdt Vanderhoof and then join it to a wall of sound that could only be Kirk Arrington and Duke Erickson, you have something very special and perhaps this is the reason why these albums still stand up today. Unfortunately this classic Metal Church lineup was not to last; inner conflicts inside the group resulted in Wayne’s departure shortly after The Dark tour concluded.
While it’s true Metal Church moved on and released the thrash metal classic Blessing in Disguise (1989) with ex-Heretic vocalist Mike Howe, who is a formidable singer in his own right, Metal Church will always be at their best when they are fronted by Wayne. Mike Howe went on to release two more albums with Metal Church. The Human Factor (1991) and Hanging in the Balance (1994). He left the band a short time later leaving the door open for Wayne to return once again. Collaborative efforts on a Metal Church live recording entitled Live (released in 1998) led to a reconciliation of the band members and culminated with the group’s 1999 effort Masterpeace – the album was highly anticipated by fans but unfortunately turned out to be a mixed bag. Wayne was criticized for his lackluster vocals and the band themselves divulged the album’s recording had been a ‘rushed effort’. Many fans hoped Metal Church would get it right the next time around but sadly that was not to be. Wayne left the group again shortly after this release, this time for good.
While David Wayne’s efforts with Reverend and Wayne are noteworthy, the magic he shared with Metal Church on those first two releases is truly timeless.
Nothing can define your sound better than a solid vocalist; the influence of David Wayne on today’s thrash explosion is sorely missed. \m/
Upon researching David’s career to write this article I stumbled upon a memorial website provided by Tonya Lee, David Wayne’s daughter. The link offers interviews, reviews, articles and other commemorative stuff.