German death/metalcore purveyors Heaven Shall Burn are back with their fourth studio release and while I doubt that heaven will actually burn with this release, there is a good chance that some angel wings may get scorched in the process. Long time fans will find much to love about this album but will also be introduced to a more mature, refined version of the band.
The growling, snarling vocals of Marcus Bischoff are still there. Matthias Voigt provides the blast beats and terrific drumming that is a staple of the band. Maik Weichert and Alexander Dietz provide a sonic six string beat down for any with the courage to turn the volume control further to the right and Eric Bischoff never lets you simply sit and listen as his bass work provides the driving force behind this melodic metalcore adventure. So what is different? Well, to start off with there is an emphasis on the melodic that permeates even the harshest of the songs on this disc. They also seem to be trying to expand their territory with a variety of techniques. As I listen to a song like "Buried In Forgotten Grounds" where the band moves you from furiously insane headbanging intensity to an equally forceful breakdown where they add a more melodic backdrop to the harsh vocals it is easy to see that they are determined to show that there is more to the band than just fuel for mosh pit mayhem.
On tunes like "Sevastopol" and "The Lie You Bleed For" you might think that they are wielding a mighty broadsword and full battle regalia as they bring you a little twist that reminds me of their label mates 3 Inches of Blood or Norse neighbors Amon Amarth. The subtle Viking metal touch really suits the band and will give fans both new and old something to smile about.
The band also gives you some thrashy goodness when they try to peel the outer layer of skin with the hard driving "Against Bridge Burners". Drawing on the sound that they grew up on, Heaven Shall Burn tips their respective hats to the mentors such as Metallica and Megadeth.
The biggest surprise is really the last song on the disc "Given In Death". Enlisting Deadlock members Sabine Weniger on vocals and guitarist Sebastian Reichl, the clean female vocals are a terrific counter point to Marcus' harsh screams. It might take the old fans by surprise but sometimes the unexpected is just what the doctor ordered. This is kind of a left turn for the band but sometimes it takes a change in direction to get to the desired destination. This one proves to me that they are not afraid to take chances and only fuels the desire to play this disc and eagerly anticipate what they might come up with in the future.
It is a fine line that a band travels to keep their core fans happy by providing them with what they are familiar with and also trying to evolve and keep the sound fresh and new. Heaven Shall Burn has straddled that fence and come up with a real winner here. It is an album that takes a few spins to grasp the scope of what they are trying to do and when it sinks in there is little chance that you will forget this dynamic work anytime soon.
2. The Omen
4. I Was, I Am, I Shall Be
5. Buried In Forgotten Grounds
7. The Lie You Bleed For
8. Return To Sanity
9. Against Bridge Burners
10. Of Forsaken Poets
11. Given In Death