Review Summary: Heaven Shall Burn continue to make headway with another strong showing.
ICONOCLAST (PART I: THE FINAL RESISTANCE)
Heaven Shall Burn
Century Media Records
Release date: 28 January 2008
Sometimes, band names can spark controversy. The first time I heard the name of this band, I was wondering to myself if they were satanists, or simply anti-Christ for that matter. Being my inquisitive self, I did some research, and discovered that the word ‘heaven’ was actually used as a metaphor, to depict a fake paradise people create.
Hailing from Germany, many would think that this metalcore (melodic death metal? deathcore?) band would bear great similarities to another metalcore band from the same country, Caliban. After all, they did release split albums with Caliban in 2001 and 2005. But in actual fact, they do not. While their fellow countrymen have a pretty clear cut metalcore sound with some hardcore influences, Heaven Shall Burn are a bit more on the agressive side.
From the musical point of view, Heaven Shall Burn barely ever slow down throughout the album, until before the last two instrumental tracks. But when they do, such as on the interlude of "Like A Thousand Suns", they manage to bring about a change in mood, which diverts back to the original in perfect fashion. "A Dying Ember"’s interlude also displays the band’s ability to write slower, emotive parts. Song structure-wise, this German quintet pretty much stick to the conventional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, while breakdowns and solos are not featured. Repetition does occur though, which at times makes it difficult to differentiate between songs. A particular example would be when all the instruments just stop, with only the lead guitar playing a short riff, before barely two seconds later it picks up again. This seems to be a trademark of Heaven Shall Burn’s, and although it is gut-busting, it occurs too many times throughout the album. Lyrics really play an integral role in this band, as they combine themes such as anti-racism and fighting social injustice, which does great favours for the band by adding to the agression and emotion. During the chorus "Like A Thousand Suns", vocalist Marcus Bischoff screams in agony:
Betrayed by their proud leaders,
And executed by atrocious enemies,
So many homes, so many lives,
A silent sense of guilt should rise.
There are some interesting moments, the first which I would point out, the drums on "Murderers of All Murderers". About 15 seconds into the song, the drumming pattern shifts to a really unique, electronica disco-type beat, which you would never expect to hear in this genre, yet it fits so perfectly. Another very fitting musical inclusion would be towards the end of "A Dying Ember", in which a choir-like ambience is created, within the heaviness of the instrumentation.
As mentioned, Heaven Shall Burn are masters of the trade when it comes to brutality. After the first track "Awoken", which is a 90-second intro of piano and strings, "Endzeit" just screams the word heavy. During these close to 50 minutes of heaviness, the vocals may lack variety, but are extremely powerful and refined. Plenty of pounding double bass, which is one of the many characteristics of the impressive drumming, adds to the whole frenzy of things. The guitars are mostly rhythm-oriented, although when some melodic lead riffs stand out during the choruses, they really do soar. A perfect example would be on "Forlorn Skies", and on "The Bombs of My Saviours", which happens to be a song about the strong fight against terrorism in this world today. Luckily for the band, they also succeed in making the bass fairly noticeable at times too.
And just when you’re thinking, slightly more than midway through the album, that all the songs are gonna be just heavy, heavy, you’re wrong. "Black Tears", which is an Edge of Sanity cover done by the band, acts pretty much as a melodic cyclone to keep you and your ears sane (irony of the pun not intended). "Against All Lies" is another song which starts off slightly slower, but predictably goes back into classic Heaven Shall Burn roughly about a minute later, though it generally turns out to be a lot slower and more emotional (especially during the chorus) than the other heavy tracks. The final track, the instrumental "Atonement", showcases great instrumentation once again and is a great way to end the record. This is where pretty much every instrument can be heard clearly, probably helped by the fact that the drumming isn’t the usual, explosive.
Some may argue that Heaven Shall Burn’s first single off their previous album 'Deaf to Our Prayers', Counterweight could have easily been a song off "Iconoclast (Part I: The Final Resistance)". To some extent this is true, but there is definitely an increase in quality of production on this latest album.