It’s hard to be unbiased when one of your favorite bands releases a new album, especially when it’s a long-awaited album. Yes, it is hard but I’ll try. So, Heaven Shall Burn and their new, ninth in a row album called Of Truth And Sacrifice.
Four long years passed since Wanderer was released. But the band didn’t just sit back and now they release a double longplay with almost 100 minutes of music. It’s an excellent gift for the fans like me and quite risky move in singles and EP era. But Heaven Shall Burn always went their own way without looking on a trends and opinions. “We had a feeling that it was about time to leave the music biz rat race for a while,” – Maik Weichert, founding member/guitarist, says. – “We have always refused to be part of these mechanisms, but still, we have to follow these things. Maybe we’re a bit ‘slower?’ Regarding music, these mechanisms kill creativity and real emotion, so we just wanted to approach our new record without having to be prepared for a tour or a festival run. Some bands start songwriting with a release date in mind. That is exactly what we did not want. Working on this record without any deadline was a great feeling of freedom […] We decided that one album wasn’t good enough, but we wanted to create a double album as a statement. – continues Maik. – Our goal was a total work of art that people could dive into, something that leaves a lot of room for surprises and experiments. It was only fair to give our fans twice as much after letting them wait for so long.”
Heaven Shall Burn were always the band with certain attitude and strong, distinct views that didn’t eased during the years. Nevertheless we have to admit that their songs don’t sound preachy (in contrast to famous “How dare you?”) and this approach is actually works! Because, to quote one of my favorite authors, “Once he saw what had been concealed so painstakingly, he thought it would have been far easier to turn viewers away from sin by showing it in full detail” (like in “My Heart And The Ocean” video). Of Truth And Sacrifice is also a statement: this time the band rise a complicate topic of “truth” in modern society, misstatements and “alternative interpretation of facts”. “Of course, people can have their opinions and points of view, but not if clear morals and non-negotiable rights of men are discussed. – says Maik Weichert. – So many people sacrifice for the truth — just think of journalists getting killed or teachers in Africa that try to bring education and ‘enlightenment’ to poor people. Meanwhile, so many people sacrifice the truth and choose ignorance, just to not change their lives. They’d rather believe lies to continue an existence in nescience and heteronomy. The saddest thing is that many of them do not even decide to be ignorant and blind. They’re raised that way. This is the definition of degeneration.” Illustrator Eliran Kantor (Testament, Iced Earth, Sodom) visualized musicians’ ideas and depicted heavily wounded woman-warrior that covers a naked child with her body. With its seemed directness (woman is a protector (sacrifice) and child is a naked truth), this picture is full of little details and allusions which will open up at closer look.
Like I said before, Of Truth And Sacrifice is composed of two parts: actually …Of Truth and …Of Sacrifice. Generally they can be seen as two particular albums, as they quite different but lots of details unite them into a single entity. So as for me it’s more like diptych.
The first part …Of Truth starts from short intro “March Of Retribution”, which combining heavy riffs, solid drums and melody that create an intense atmosphere. Right after that “Thoughts And Prayers” falls on the listener with huge guitar and drums attack. Guitarists Alexander Dietz and Maik Weichert do their job very well, combining melody and heaviness. Drummer Christian Bass delivers solid and sometimes prohibitively fast drumming with double bass and Marcus Bischoff’s vocals seems like didn’t changed since Deaf To Our Prayers. Next one “Eradicate” gains a frenetic pace for a few seconds: blast beats here and there, guitarists play brutal Death Metal riffs and Slayer-like solos. To tell the truth, in the middle of the song the pace reduced and there comes a melodic solo that takes the song somewhere to Heavy Metal but before you can realize what’s going on, it comes a growl “Destroy! Erase! Eradicate” and brutality comes back till the end of the song. The same thing happens in typical Death Metal track “What War Means”: merciless drums, heaviness of riffs and speed with Marcus’ rough growling without even a hint of melody.
The first single from Of Truth And Sacrifice, “Protector” is that one Heaven Shall Burn that fans waited for. It masterfully combines fast pace, heaviness, melody and catchy motif. The music is slightly reminding a Goteborg oldschool Melodic Death Metal and because of its inspiring lyrics this song was already called the loudest TED performance. “Terminate The Unconcern” also refers to Melodic Death with no less catchy melody and solid riffs and drums. With the line “In the name of progression” this album links to the previous one, Wanderer.
“Übermacht” starts from electronic samples and smooth riff, reminding of Rammstein or even OOMPH! and right after that it breaks down to a hurricane speed Metalcore with atmospheric keyboards on the background and great work from bassist Eric Bischoff. The song gives some rest in the middle, leaving only keyboards; then it smashes again with its heaviness and speed and gradually turns into “My Heart And The Ocean”, solid and melodic too. But here the heaviness of this song is not express the aggression but rather sadness and provides some kind of warning, especially with the video.
The most epic and impressive song in …Of Truth is almost nine-minutes canvas “Expatriate”. For this record the band recruited Minsk Symphonic Orchestra and renowned conductor Wilhelm Keitel. As a result the song sounds really heavy (while guitars and extreme vocals aren’t last for a long time, but not less impressive), changing the mood several times from oppressive to tragic and sometimes frightening, especially when confident, charismatic voice giving a speech in German. Also the orchestra can be heard in “The Ashes Of My Enemies”, full of sadness, which is closing this part.
If the first part of the album was quite consistent, than …Of Sacrifice seems more like a collection of the band’s experiments that they wanted to record for a long time. But don’t put it away because most of experiments here are quite successful. The most outstanding here is probably “La Résistance”: made of electronic samples and rigid guitar riffs, it sounds more like Industrial or even EBM.
“Children Of A Lesser God” can be also classified as Melodic Death Metal, while it’s not so speedy like “Protector” of “Terminate The Concern”. It rather reminds more the early Arch Enemy with Johan Liiva or notorious In Flames from the Colony times. “Tirpitz”, which starts from the 30-40th German record, is also melodic especially in intro. But the smooth riffs’ tremolo and solid drums refer the listener to the legendary Britain band Bolt Thrower.
Fast pace is coming back in melodic “Stateless”, “Eagles Among Vultures” and probably the fastest song in this album, “Truther”. While “Eagles Among Vultures” and “Stateless” sound like significant Heaven Shall Burn songs with heavy guitars, fast drums, solid bass and catchy melody, than “Truther” is two minutes of brutal Death Metal barrage of riffs and blast beats with double bass, which stops only for a couple of second in the middle.
Heaven Shall Burn often put covers in their albums, meticulously choosing the songs that sound relevant even today. Of Truth And Sacrifice isn’t the exception: here the band recorded the warning song “Critical Mass” from Nuclear Assault.
The album ends with sorrowful and magnificent “Weakness Leaving My Heart”, which was released with “Protector”. Here you can hear the orchestra one more time that gives the mood for all the song and heartfelt monologs seamlessly interweaved with extreme vocals. It’s a great end for the album, very emotional, which gives hope despite the main sense of melancholy.
In the beginning of this long review I’ve already said that it’s quite hard for me to be unbiased in relation to this band. Does this album has some lacks? Probably, I can’t say now. But all in all it’s a solid work by all means, interesting and greatly crafted work. 100 minutes of this music were worse the four years of expectations. And if someone still didn’t heard about this band and decided to get acquainted with this band, Of Truth And Sacrifice is a good reason for it.
Of Truth And Sacrifice was released on March, 20th via Century Media Records.
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