Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: Out now!
Genre: Heavy Metal/Power Metal
James Paul Luna – Vocals
Eli Santana – Guitar
James J LaRue – Guitar
Blake Mount – Bass
Tyler Meahl – Drums
2. Bestia Triumphans
3. Dark Passenger
4. Bleeding Stone
5. Ride the Void
6. Too Decayed to Wait
8. Take It to the Grave
9. Sleep of Virtue
10. Silence the Scream
11. The Great Artifice
12. Wake Me When It’s Over
13. Rains of Sorrow
My personal heavy metal story is a bit of an odd one. Indeed, despite the fact that my late dad was into classic rock and metal (Led Zeppelin, Motorhead, Judas Priest and Scorpions, to name a few), I didn’t get into metal until much later down the road. Until my late teenage years, I was mostly into country and pop, scarily enough. Things just happened in a very odd way. I was in a bit of rough spot in my life and one day, I stumbled upon Moonspell’s Wolfheart and bought it on impulse because I liked the cover and well, I can’t explain what happened but that was my initiation into metal. Admittedly, it was quite an extreme first album and I didn’t get into the more “traditional” forms of metal until much later on, in the late 90s, where I had my power metal “phase”.
Even today, I can safely say I often feel more at ease with black metal than I would with power metal. That said, for a while now, I feel a bit of stagnancy in the extreme metal field and this “modern” shift of metal is just not my cup of tea, so I’ve gotten a bit burnt out on the more extreme forms of metal and I’ve slowly jumped back into my other love: progressive metal, power metal as well as traditional heavy metal.
That said, I’m starting to find that the metal genre as a whole is getting a bit overcrowded, and in a sea of mediocre wannabes and poseurs trying to ride the wave(s) of trendiness, it’s becoming harder and harder to find new bands which I find worth my while. So here I am with a new band landing in my lap without any idea what I’m getting myself into. Let’s see…
Holy Grail. America. Heavy metal. Oh boy, we’re off to a bad start. Admittedly, I could never really get into US power metal. I just struggle to find catchy hooks, enjoyable melodies or just plain enjoyable bands in the style. There’s always either one of these: a vocalist that sounds like a dying cat (Cage, Flotsam & Jetsam),
crappy piss-poor production (Manilla Road) or just plain boring wannabe-European power metal (Jag Panzer). Most American bands are usually the Euro-sounding ones, such as Kamelot, Iced Earth or Symphony X. Then again, I learned that the band was founded by ex-members of White Wizzard (James Paul Luna, James J LaRue and Tyler Meahl) who released an excellent EP in High Speed GTO back in 2007. So that brought my hopes up a bit.
At my first push of play, the intro “Archeus” underwhelmed me and did nothing to get me excited for the rest of the album. Thankfully, the first real song “Bestia Triumphans” went into a powerful mix of power and heavy metal which sounded pretty good. The chorus is pretty epic and catchy. However, those harsh vocals are absolutely horrendous and unnecessary, not to mention that the vocalist is a bit of a weakest link to me (I’m not a big fan of his voice). “Dark Passenger” is an ok song, nothing especially remarkable about it to me. “Bleeding Stone” reminds me of what Symphorce’s darker moments (the Become Death album) could sound like. It has a pretty dark vibe and it’s a pretty solid song, once again brought down by iffy vocals.
It was not until the title track that I was suddenly floored. The title track “Ride the Void” is a work of genius. What a powerful, energetic song! I love everything about that song: the vocals, the harmonies, the riffs, the chorus… it’s almost a perfect song and I find myself often looping it, which is obviously a good sign. James Paul Luna really pulls it off masterfully on vocals this time. Whereas the more heavy metal numbers are mostly kind of weak, the power metal ones really bring out the melody in his voice. Faith restored, to say the least.
The next song, “Too Decayed to Wait”, is another powerful power metal number which I really like. By now, it has become clear to me that to my tastes, the band is by far at their strongest while in power metal mode. “Crosswinds” is a miss for me, with those awful harsh vocals screwing things up again. It does however have some good soloing. “Take it to the Grave” gets back to a more power metal driven sound and turns out to be a solid song, with a good chorus and a great vocal performance. “Sleep of Virtue” is another good song, with quite an infectious chorus, a good bridge and a killer solo. “Silence the Scream” is another very strong number here, with killer riffs, vocals and melodies.
Unfortunately, the album gets a bit tired near the end, with “The Great Artifice” being a crappy, almost melodic metalcore sounding song, “Wake Me When it’s Over” is a useless 2 minute interlude (which is weird to put right at the end of the album) and the last song “Rain of Sorrow” is a rather boring ballad that most definitely feels like filler and is out of place to close the album (which if anything, should have ended with “Silence the Scream”).
I’m now at my 7th or 8th listen to Ride the Void and I’m starting to appreciate it more. Still, there are a handful of songs (the traditional heavy metal ones and the ones with those awful attempts at harsh vocals) that don’t quite “do it” for me but then, there are the power metal songs which are so good that I actually put up with the rest of the album, so that’s saying something, since I usually don’t have much patience for that. I’m at a point where I enjoy this album enough to want to check out their debut, which I had missed. I’m sure it’ll have a few clunkers but I’m willing to let my curiosity get the best of me to make sure I don’t miss some killer songs like “Ride the Void”. To me, that is the sign of a band with some great talent and that can only get better with time.
As you can figure by now, my main problem with Holy Grail and this album lies in the inconsistency. The band seems like they’re unsure if they want to be heavy metal or power metal. And sadly, trying to do both on one album ends up being like Ride the Void: half good, half bad. The album feels like a roller-coaster with ups and downs. Thankfully, there are more ups than downs, which ultimately save the album from a much lower score.
If the band chooses one direction for their next album, then it will result in a more focused and better flowing album, in my opinion. If the band opts for the heavy metal route, I’m not sure I’ll be down for it but if they choose the power metal route, I’ll definitely be much more eager to hear their next album because to me, that’s what they do best.
So while I can’t give the album a sky high score, do check it out, since I’m sure fans of either power metal or heavy metal will find at least a handful of songs which will be worth their while. However, I have to rate the album as a whole rather than only for the good songs, and being the roller-coaster of inconsistency I feel it is, I can’t give Ride the Voidany higher than this.
Written by Chris Auclair