Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Holy Grail "Ride the Void"

California heavy metal band Holy Grail have the right idea. They have the apocalyptic dynamics of a classic heavy metal band, the vocals of a thrash metal band, the pace of a speed metal band and the lyrics of a power metal band. Ingredients of this nature put in to one band makes for one hell of a ride. Most bands lately that follow similar traits such as White Wizzard (a band that at one point featured a couple of members from Holy Grail) only succeed to make novelty songs that sound like an American New Wave of British Heavy Metal Band (which worked for Metallica but that’s an exception). Holy Grail manages to keep their sound more contemporary to something that more modern metal fans would like while maintaining an appeal to classic metal fans as well, as opposed to just appealing to the latter.

After a tour with groove metal supergroup HellYeah, Holy Grail have released their second full length album, Ride The Void. The album follows similar suite to their 2010 debut Crisis in Utopia, but slightly changes its sound even further away from a nostalgia metal album, particularly with slightly minimized harmonizing vocals (which the debut had a lot of). Otherwise the musical structure is fairly similar.

Just like any good metal album, we begin with a two-minute instrumental, Archeus, which sounds like it belongs to the soundtrack of walking down the road to hell, which is probably the point. The doom metal sound changes immediately when Bestia Triumphans kicks in with its super fast double bass kicks and fast and showy metal riffs as well as a few guttural screams heard throughout. This song starts the album on its intentional speed metal pace.

Dark Passenger keeps the pace of the album to any heavy metal fans delight, this time maintaining a more galloping sound. Just like so many of the songs on the album, as the listener is sure to find out quickly, the song is reliant on drummer Tyler Meahl and his impressive bass drum capabilities. The albums pace continues to slow ever so slightly in to Bleeding Stone. This song sounds very much like a classic metal song, thanks to James Paul Luna’s harmonized vocals heard constantly throughout the song as well as harmonized guitar playing for the guitar solo. Take It To The Grave follows a similar pace and somewhat lacks the complexity that most other songs from the album have. Even its guitar solo, taking full advantage of the fact that the band has two terrific guitarists in Alex Lee and Eli Santana simplifies things a bit, going back and forth between the two as they play well thought out but not so complex guitar solos. Crosswinds has a similar pace as well, but this song sounds more similar to that of a thrash metal song.

The title track shows some metal clich├ęs, but that is to be expected. It starts off with an acoustic guitar and a string section in the background...but we all know what to expect from a speed metal album such as this one; the acoustic intro lasts only temporarily before the song blasts in to another metal song that crosses thrash with speed metal, keeping the pace somewhere between fast songs like Bestia Triumphans and slightly slower songs like Bleeding Stone. Sleep of Virtue also starts off on a slightly softer note, this time using electric guitars rather than acoustic, but then blasts in to a double bass drum attack. Even though this song has a hell of a chorus, the structure of the song just starts to sound the same by this point in the album.

Silence the Scream luckily changes the bands attitude just a bit. This song starts off somewhat like a doom metal song, a little slower, simple yet heavy rhythms in the background as a killer guitar riff plays over top. And even though the song picks up, it still is one of the slowest paced song on the album, giving a much needed change for the listener. The next track, The Great Artifice is also among the slower songs on the album, and follows a more metalcore sound in terms of how it goes back and forth from fast and dynamic to slow and powerful. John even does one of his rare guttural screams at points of the song.

The band takes the album home in expected fashion; a minute long acoustic instrumental called Wake Me When It’s Over which leads in to one last metal song for listeners to remember called Rains of Sorrow. This song is the slowest paced song on the album, but the band makes up for it by turning up the distortion ever so slightly. This is a very good conclusion to the album because rather than concentrating on fast complex guitar riffs or brain concussing drum beats, the band concentrates on the music. Not to say they haven’t done so throughout the album, but this is the most musically intelligent song on the entire album, and it truly leaves the listener wanting more.

What impresses me is the guitar playing on the album. Both Alex and Eli show their capabilities to their maximum at many points, in terms of their speed, but they don’t completely show off these capabilities. They use fast guitar riffs and solos when the moment calls for them, but don’t shy away from simplifying things every now and then. As an album in whole, it is a collection of metal not commonly heard nowadays. I would compare it at times to something by 70’s/80’s metal band Riot in their speed metal days (with the lead vocals even sounding like Riot’s first singer Guy Speranza at times throughout the album). It definitely doesn’t take much influence from modern metal bands, yet has all the possibilities to appeal to modern metal fans.


Too Decayed To Wait” –­ Being, for the most part, a speed metal album, the highlight of the album has to be one that shows the bands capability to combine speed with talent. No better song shows this than Too Decayed To Wait. It starts off with one of the fastest guitar riffs you ever heard. By the time you get to the middle of the song, when the pace completely slows down, you wonder “wow, how did it get to this”. The transitions between the different paces of a song just over four minutes in length is simply too impressive and must be heard to be believed.



8 (Out of 10)


Track List:

"Archeus" (instrumental)
"Bestial Triumphans"  
"Dark Passenger"  
"Bleeding Stone"  
"Ride the Void"  
"Too Decayed to Wait"  
"Take It to the Grave"  
"Sleep of Virtue"  
"Silence the Scream"  
"The Great Artifice"  
"Wake Me When It's Over" (instrumental)
"Rains of Sorrow"  

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