And so continues a new segment, in which I will listen to an album for the first time and give my impressions of said album as I go through. I will provide background information, a track by track review and then final thoughts. Enjoy!
Background – Holy Grail, from Pasadena, California is a part of the new wave of retro-thrash bands coming out in the last few years. This heavy metal retrofitting has been a gift and a curse to the genre, as often times the bands never surpass the original material in which they are imitating. Yet, out of the muck has come some great bands, such as Municipal Waste and In Solitude, so there’s always a chance you’ll uncover a hidden gem.
It is due to a highly favorable review at one of my staples, metal-rules.com, that I picked up their new album, Ride the Void, which was released by Prosthetic Records on January 22nd. The review states that this is pretty much “a perfect thrash album.” I look forward to hearing this, as great new bands are tough to come by.
1) Archeus – We’ve got an interesting little vocal/clean guitar intro going here. OK, throw in some distortion and a tasty guitar melody and we’re hopping now. Oh boy! We’re getting some minor harmonies thrown into the mix. At only two minutes long, it looks like we’re in for an instrumental opener. Fuck yeah…this is awesome so far…great solo to go along with some backing vocals. Awesome intro to kick things off.
2) Bestia Triumphans – This one kicks off with a vocal/guitar intro. Oddly enough, vocalist James Paul Luna sounds a lot like Chris Jericho of Fozzy. As a matter of fact, this track sounds like it could be on one of the more recent Fozzy releases. This track has fairly cool verses, in which guitarists, Eli Santana and Alex Lee really show off their chops. The chorus is catchy and all in all a good, if not great song. This is one of those songs which will be better if the album as a whole is great. Time will tell.
Holy shit! I got done writing for this song and they went into a pretty badass solo/post-solo section….totally remade me think the whole song. The chorus starts off a little slow, but really kicks in and then it goes into a fantastic breakdown and the final chorus really meshed well with that solo part. I like this song a lot more now.
3) Dark Passenger – It creeps me out how much this dude sounds like Chris Jericho. More polished and more talented in the vocal department, but the reminders are there. This one starts with a solid mid-paced gallop. Yet, even with a solid chorus, this one isn’t as good as the two opening tracks. That being said, the guitarists grow on me more with every song. Every solo is tasteful and a lot of fun to listen to. You can tell these guys really gel with each other….great stuff! Great outro too! Man, this is twice I think I’m done with a song and they come strong at the end.
4) Bleeding Stone – An Exodus-like intro kicks this one off. I really like how this vocalist just sings and doesn’t try to switch styles to a growl and screech. Too many bands today try and mix too many genres and things get so muddled. Luna can sing his ass off and a good vocalist is something sorely lacking from a lot of today’s metal bands. This song starts off at a slower tempo with some killer riffs and then goes into an awesome thrashy middle-section, with once again, badass guitars. Wow…ole boy at metal-rules may have been spot on with this one. Each song keeps getting better!
5) Ride the Void – Well well…the slow acoustic intro. We knew it was coming….but what does it lead to? FUCKING YEAH MAN! I thought I was going to be stuck with a ballad. Not here, my friends, it’s a thrasher! I would like to mention here that I really appreciate that these songs are short and to the point (none check in at over 5:30 minutes), yet they all get their points across. No four minute solo breaks, no super extended intro, just straight to the point metal. This song has another great chorus. I keep waiting for one of these tracks to miss a step, but it ain’t happening so far.
6) Too Decayed to Wait – A lot of soloing kicks this one off. This is an old school thrasher with a nice half-time chorus which really delivers. I’ll tell you, halfway through this thing and this is the album I’ve needed for a long time. I bitch all the time that no newer bands just put out an album with great songs, awesome vocals and no agenda. These guys are just what the doctor ordered. By the way, back to the song, this one has a very cool bridge, before going right back and thrashing til the end.
7) Crosswinds – Well shit, I have to nit-pick somewhere don’t I? Well, here it goes. The vocals don’t exactly match up with the super thrashy riff in the intro. But that’s seriously looking for flaws in a diamond, because this song rocks and has the best chorus so far. This track reminds me of some of the newer Masterplan albums. Hmmm…a little death metal part before it goes into another sweet solo…I can dig it!
8) Take it to the Grave – Damn it! Every time I think “oh, this is good, but not as good as the rest of the album,” they’ll hit me with a chorus or solo or something that totally sucks me in. This is a fast track with a really interesting chorus. This chorus is almost like if X Factor was a great Maiden album instead of a turd. That kind of feel though. And I keep saying it, but these solos are so tasty! Very good and intricate, without going on forever, every solo has a really cool rhythm part which underlies it and has used outstanding harmonies.
9) Sleep of Virtue – OK. This one has a ballad sounding intro! Is this the track which finally brings them down? Not a shot! Instead of staying with a ballad, they just go into an awesome guitar melody. These dudes rule! I’m nine tracks in and I already can’t wait to start listening to this album again. Sleep of Virtue is another great track, with another great chorus. I have failed to mention how good this band is at pre and post choruses as well. Each pre-chorus is unique and ties into the song a different way. And the post-chorus usually involves a great melody either by the vocalist or the guitarist. I am man crushing on this band so hard right now! And just to prove how much they own me, they go to the ballad part again, before kicking my ass with another chorus.
10) Silence the Scream – This intro riff is rad as fuck! I swear to god, eventually I’m going to run out of nice things to say about these guys, but I like it so much. I am definitely going to annoy all of my friends and make them listen to this album until they buy it. Probably the weakest song on the album so far and it still absolutely kicks ass.
11) The Great Artifice – I’m not sure what an Artifice is, but I would imagine it has something to do with another consistently good thrash metal tune. And this fucking solo bro….whoah! I haven’t heard harmonies this good in such a long time.
12) Wake Me When It’s Over – An acoustic instrumental track which leads us into the final song. This album has delivered in every way possible. Now we only need to close it out to get the coveted 5/5, A+ rating. God I hope these guys do well enough and don’t break up. I’m so excited about this last track….lets go….
13) Rains of Sorrow – Starts off slow, building on the acoustic piece. Kind of interesting, as there is some use of keyboards and a more synthetic bass sound…certainly more progressive than the rest of the album. This pre-chorus is really good, now for the chorus…what will they do. Ok…so I’ll admit, that chorus didn’t blow me away. But hell, if you want to throw something a little more experimental, the end of the album is a fine place to do it. And this song isn’t bad, by the way, just a little slower, moodier and doesn’t hit me as hard as the rest of the songs.
Conclusion – It’s hard to say that an album will be “Album of the Year” in January, but it is going to be tough to top this one. I am seriously going to finish this review, post to wordpress, and then go right back and listen to this again. And I want to make one thing clear; I don’t really get the “retro” labeling with these guys. This is just a straight up thrash/heavy metal band. The production is fantastic, the music shows influences, but does not rip off any bands and there is enough of a modern edge for this to really stand on its own.
Ride the Void blew me away, through and through. I am going to go back and pick up anything this band has released. As I said earlier, if you want a great metal band, with incredible guitars, a talented vocalists and enough hooks to keep you coming back for months, then this is the album for you.