|Review: Heavenly - Virus|
Label: Noise Records
Year released: 2006
Genre: Progressive Power Metal
Review online: July 22, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Rated 4/5 (80%) (23 Votes)
Progression is, as I have said before, a tricky business. A band can skimp on it even slightly, but then they run the risk of sounding samey or stagnant. On the other side of the spectrum, a band might try too hard and end up producing a gamut of ridiculous noises that might as well be thrown into a flesh aquarium, running the risk of being a mere scene in a memory that will soon be forgotten. How far is too far? Exactly how much innovation should a band take upon themselves to implement?
Heavenly are a band that seems to have these questions down pat. They started off as a rather generic, yet charming, Power Metal act that borrowed heavily from Gamma Ray, Helloween and even some early Iron Savior, along with the charismatic and easily recognizable vocals of front man Ben Sotto to distinguish them from those acts. They were fun and sometimes catchy, and while I missed their third album, the controversial Dust to Dust, I can say that this newest album of theirs completely blows their earlier ones out of the water, with style, class and power to spare. Out go the speedy double bass runs, and instead we get insanely mind-blowing riff monsters like "The Dark Memories," "Bravery in the Field" and especially the excellent title track, breaking down walls of complexity with staccato riffs that build upon each other like Lego blocks. I can't praise these riffs enough! They're punchy, aggressive, and they just keep coming, with all the force of a fucking freight train, and they have the band's masterful ear for melody and songwriting genius behind them, making this album all the better. Virus never gets simple or repetitive or boring, with each song being a complete work, and standing apart from the other ones on here.
Ben Sotto's voice is in fine form, and it is also a tad grittier and more intense than on previous outings, boasting a much stronger resemblance to the immortal Kai Hansen than ever. The choruses on here, while not the main focus of the music, are very well done in their own right - "Spill Blood on Fire" and "The Power and Fury" having the best of the crop, but "Liberty" has some very cool choirs that I also can't get enough of. There is one outlier, though, and it is the cover song, "When the Rain Begins to Fall," originally done by Jermaine Jackson & Pia Zadora. Undoubtedly the catchiest song Virus has to offer, it is out of place in such an aggressive and vicious album, and should have been relegated to EP status.
It's extremely refreshing to hear something in the modern Power Metal genre so complex and intricate without borrowing passages from Dream Theater or Rush and writing 11 minute long songs, and with just this one album, Heavenly have catapulted themselves to the forefront of their genre's respective scene. Virus is a masterclass in songwriting aerobatics and also in catchy, ear-friendly Power Metal, and thus I cannot recommend it more.
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