If you have the stones to name your band Heavenly, you sure as hell better play music that justifies such a majestic name. And "Break the Silence" — the opening instrumental track on Heavenly's sophomore album, Sign of the Winner — may just be the theme song you'll hear upon passage from this world into the next. Rich keyboards, magnificent drums and even the sound of a glorious harp signal the beginning of a well-balanced and intriguing power metal record.
The French quartet then slam into "Destiny," a track that's just as good as the one of the same title by Stratovarius — the band Heavenly most seems to be emulating. Singer Ben Sotto's vocal cords soar above all else (much as Timo Kotipelto's voice rises above the rest of Stratovarius' music), while guitarist Fred Leclercq, bassist Pe Pelisson and drummer Maxence Pilo play their hearts out. Both Sotto and Leclercq also are adept keyboard players.
Sign of the Winner is intense, over-the-top stuff — complete with choirs but without some of the ridiculous imagery and lyrics that have given power metal a bad name. "Condemned to Die" takes listeners inside the head of a terminally ill man asking for guidance to his death, while its sequel, "The Angel" follows the man as he crosses the threshold between life and death. "The Sandman" summons childhood dreams, and "Until the End" is a reflection on war. This isn't the best power metal release of the year, but it's a refreshing — I daresay divine — take on the genre that moves beyond the band's appealing debut, Coming From the Sky, and positions Heavenly for a run at Europe's elite.