Hard rock vocalist Mike Howe, who served two stints in Seattle thrashers Metal Church in the late 1980s and again in the 2000s, has died at age 55. The long-running band announced the news in a Facebook tribute, writing, “It is with our deepest regrets that we must announce the passing of our brother, our friend and true legend of heavy metal music. Mike Howe passed away this morning at his home in Eureka, California. We are devastated and at a loss for words. Please respect our privacy and the Howe family’s privacy during this most difficult time.”
The singer with a classic, powerful metal wail of a voice did two memorable tours of duty in the long-running band formed by guitarist/songwriter and only consistent member Kurdt Vanderhoof in San Francisco in 1980 under the name Shrapnel. After moving to Aberdeen, Washington, the band became one of the leading lights of the burgeoning thrash metal scene thanks to original vocalist David Wayne and guitarist Craig Wells.
Before joining Metal Church, Howe spent time in the Detroit metal act Hellion and later Heretic, with the latter releasing just one album, Breaking Point (1988), before Howe moved on.
After two albums with the initial Metal Church lineup, Vanderhoof reshuffled the deck, with Howe coming in as lead vocalist in 1986 and making his debut on the band’s third album, 1989’s Blessing in Disguise, which featured one of their most beloved songs, the urgent rocker “Badlands.” They followed up with two more albums, The Human Factor (1991) and Hanging in the Balance (1993), before splitting in 1996. Howe was not involved in a 1998 reunion — which resulted in the album Masterpeace — and he did not appear on the trio of albums the group recorded before breaking up again in 2009.
During his two-decade time out of the limelight, Howe said he supported his family by doing carpentry. He was also not back in the mix when the band re-re-united in 2012 with vocalist Ronny Munroe, but he slipped back behind the mic in early 2015, recording two albums with his mates before his death, 2016’s XI and 2018’s Damned If You Do. At press time no cause of death was given for Howe. Original vocalist Wayne died in 2005 at age 47.
Watch a video about Howe’s late-period return to the band and see their tribute below.
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