Review Summary: What Heaven Shall Burn should have turned out to be. The spearheading unit of modern German metal destined to destroy and reorganize your thoughts on metal and hopefully every day life. Madness? No, this is...SPARTA!!!!
The modern German metal scene is quite powerful in it’s own right often rivaling France in terms of quantity and quality bands. 80’s thrash phase pushed aside momentarily, Germany boasts an incredibly powerful and at times varied metal scene while they seem to have honed a skill for creating gut punching death metal/ metalcore. The flamboyant gayness of Equilibrium aside, several bands have grabbed me by the ears and kicked me repeatedly in the head over the years starting with Caliban. As soon as I stumbled onto the KSE styling’s of Caliban I soon discovered the ferocious death metal/hardcore rumblings of Saalfeld’s Heaven Shall Burn. And soon that list just kept on growing with the Sonic Syndicate meets Bullet For My Valentine sheen of Machinemade God, Fear My Thoughts, Maroon, Fall Of Serenity, Misery Speaks, and the symphonic dual vocal, melodic death metal of Deadlock. However, this last band Neaera, blows each and every one of the bands I previously mentioned in sheer terms of power, aggression, and melody.
Neaera is a Munster based metal band that formed around 2003. Their earlier sound bordered the popularized fusion of metal and hardcore while their latest albums find the band shifting into pure melodic death metal territory. “Armamentarium” is the bands third full length record for Metal Blade Records and the start of a new transition for Neaera. Formerly a metal band ground in hardcore roots, Nearea incorporate more Gothenburg death metal of the At The Gates variety into their sound with minimal hardcore influence. The most accurate way I could describe Armamentarium is as a cross between Heaven Shall Burn‘s pummeling rhythms and scathing vocals with At The Gate’s driving groove factor and NWOBHM style harmonies. Throw in some Kataklysm and Unleashed, and possibly some Caliban minus the clean singing and I think that sets up a vague but accurate description of the album.
The most impressive aspect for this album in my opinion is the stunning guitar work set up between the lead and rhythm duties of Stefan Keller and Tobias Buck. Yeah, the At The Gates worship is quite obvious but the duo rip it up with so much aggression that all can be forgiven. Stefan and Tobias concoct a violent hailstorm of violent grooves and harmonies that would make Heaven Shall Burn envious, if not the masters themselves. The duo solo on occasion yet never fail to deliver a neck snapping rhythm for the crazed German wall of death masses I’ve seen off of youtube. Melodies are uplifting and powerful at the same time, played with precision and power. They help give the music some breathing room before erupting into a furious wall of death and destruction. I love many of these German bands because of the intense vocal delivery that is portrayed. Neaera fails to disappoint because Benjamin Hilleke is as fierce as a metal vocalist as Marcus from Heaven Shall Burn. But where Marcus’s tone remains one dimensional, Benjamin actually holds the advantage. To help keep things from going monotonous, Benjamin opts for two styles, one is the frenzied high pitched screaming technique similar to Marcus, and a lower death metal growl that fortunately never reaches Chris Barnes level. The drumming is blistering and frantic, keeping sync perfectly with the raging guitars. Sebastian Heldt delivers a speed based performance alternating between rapid double bass and blast beats with machine gun fills. If the drum kit is Rambo and you are some soft little grape, all I can say is you’re TOAST!. The bass is efficient but really nothing more than that. Benjamin II is a great player and lays down the law with some mean tapping but that is pretty much the extent of things. The grades are in. Guitars: A-. Vocals: B+ Drumming: B. Bass: B-.
A hidden strength I must say about this album much less band lies in it’s songwriting. The catchiness of this record is hard to explain but each track flows into the next perfectly. The melodies are superb, the solos rock hard, the grooves inspire you to bang heads with anything concrete, and the vocals drive you to the point of utter insanity. The accessibility of this album is a high point and should result in larger fan base on sputnik sooner or later. Fans of aggression, A.D.D, Paramore, and melodic death metal need to give this a spin because bias or not, these guys are spearheading the modern German metal movement to rival that of the American scene. Hail the METAL yesterday, hail the METAL today, and hail the METAL the next day. Godspeed.