Review Summary: A forgotten metal gem?
Heir Apparent was a Seattle based metal band formed in 1983 by guitarist Terry Grole. Their 1986 debut album “Grateful Inheritance” was not released in the US, but had its share of semi-success in continental Europe. Terry Gorle and bassist Derek Peace share most of the songwriting credits. A mix of early Maiden aesthetics governs over, traces of Dio Sabbath, Arch era “Fates” and the singer wants to copy a “The Warning” version of Geoff Tate. Hell of a mix if done correctly, most would nod. Many rank this as a forgotten metal gem.
What went wrong and Heir Apparent disbanded, following another release three years later? Putting aside band interrelationship friction (Terry’s bandmates tried and managed to screw him off the band), I will focus on musical incongruities tracing back to this release.
Lyrics anent dragons, cloaks, and heroic destiny were certainly not out of fashion in 1986, but be warned about that aspect if you are not a fan of such narratives. Contrary to consensus, what really hurts “Grateful Inheritance” is the production, post production mainly. Semi-pro recording is one thing, justifiable by a low budget amounting to borrowed money; some may even state that this adds to the rawness or the sincerity of the recording, the cult effect, so to speak. Bad mixing and mastering spells bigger problems though, unless you are fond of uneven sonic results or you fancy tracks sounding like they belong on a different cut.
Furthermore, regarding four string application, I could forgive unswinging metal bass lines being frontline in the mix under certain conditions: The lines must add something to the tune, density perhaps or a trip away from the guitar parts. Either add counter lines like Geezer Butler, or unconventional rhythmic use of the instrument itself, like Steve Harris. Unfortunately, the appliances of Derek Peace are pretty generic and should have a less prominent spot; bass frequencies have a nasty habit of engulfing all the other instruments, if not dealt properly during the mixing and mastering procedures (notice how trebly Steve Harris opts to be -or Martin opted for him- when so in front). The end result in “Graceful Inheritance” is a vanguard of bass thumping round the root of each chord atop drums, guitars and vocals... which are muffled.
The above is unfortunate, because what is muffled underneath is actually good - not consistently great throughout the recording but, in portions it can be satisfying for the classic metal head. “Another Candle” sounds like it came out from Queensryche’s EP, and that spells good stuff in my books. The guitar play through this album is smart regarding the rhythm parts; the riffs have a Manilla Road-esque fuzziness, unstatic as well, providing an element of much needed motion; too bad they take back sit in the mix. On the contrary, the leads are not so smart, trying to tip toe in shredding waters, as evident in “Running from the Thunder” -wanking the floyd rose won’t make you a shredder- nonetheless sporadic melodic fills, serve their purpose tastefully, breathing brakes now and then. Paul Davidson is a competent screamer, but not a top class one… in “The Keeper of the Reign”, a promising tune in all honesty, at times he sounds like reaching for higher registers than he should, falling flat and falsetto thin. As I said, he wants to copy early Geoff, or the songwriters wanted him to sound like Tate; he screaks out some Dianno like screams now and then - maybe more fitting to his range - maybe out of frustration.
Otherwise, I presume that “Hands of Destiny” could even find some radio play back in the day, if it were not for the aforementioned four string anomalies. Derek Peace flirts out of rhythm here; regardless, along with “Keeper of the Reign” this maybe the best cluster of metal present, even if the latter should stop at the 2.51 mark instead of venturing into a redundant 4.50. Duration issues become further evident on tracks such as “Masters of Invasion”, which makes me point out: there are no epics with regard to time, yet a bunch of 4.30 to 5.00 minute long tracks, would serve this album much better if they where cut down to the three minute mark. “The Cloak” and “Dragon’s Lair” are excellent examples of what short tunes can accomplish. I'm left with that demand for duration efficiency throughout the three quarters of the hour this album lasts. Oh, and there is a track with no reason to exist at all… filler definitive stuff: the instrumental “R.I.P”, featuring needless guitar and bass interplay reaching the five minute mark.
At the end of the day - Dogro lived on with lyric ponderosity, contradicting adequate riffage - “Grateful Inheritance” leaves me wondering what would happen if some of the former issues were addressed; it leaves me feeling sad for Terry Grole 'cause some of these misdemeanours could have been subsided one way or the other - the bass in the mix, proper mastering attenuating sonic unevenness, track durations, a bunch not making the final cut, etc - addition by subtraction to sum it up. So, historical value? Yes, when it pertains to US proto-power metal. A forgotten metal gem? Only if this were an EP containing five tracks. I guess most of you are familiar with early Maiden stuff, so go listen to “The Warning” by Queensryche, and early Fates to witness the kind of hybrid this album wanted to achieve. Hell of a mix if done correctly, most would nod…
Shame, I nod back, because it could have been done in a more effective manner.