Review Summary: Ambitious reaffirmation of Heaven Shall Burn.
When Heaven Shall Burn announced that their newest album would be a double disc feature I could almost feel the anxiety, the hesitation of their fanbase. See Wanderer
lacked the gusto of Veto
before it, swapping their clinical metalcore meets melodic death metal slant for a world of by the numbers music that featured (and thoroughly misused) metal’s current who’s who throughout the album’s vocal efforts. Where Veto
brought quality songwriting, Wanderer
complemented it with a medley of b-sides, dressed up with featurettes in the hopes that their fan base would… well... eat that s
hit up. So with that in mind, the prospect of a Heaven Shall Burn double album is a daunting, ambitious idea especially considering the rocky foundation released before it.
Moving forward, Heaven Shall Burn looked to an ambitious offering of a double disc with over ninety seven minutes of material. Of Truth and Sacrifice
however pushes against the mediocrity of Wanderer
and reaffirms Heaven Shall Burn’s place as a melodic death metal staple as the record’s first half launches into a clinical (a bit more on that later) display of up-tempo, well-executed melodic death. The opening moments in particular are quite dismissive of the “by numbers” approach of Wanderer
. After a quick, if not a-typical introduction in “March of Retribution”, “Thoughts and Prayers” initially pierces with constant grooves and driving melodies; it’s not anything innovative, especially considering the dominance bands like Heaven Shall Burn (and others) have had over the course of the last two and a half decades - but the clear shift into a higher song-writing gear leaves no doubt that the group’s 2020 piece (both halves) are choc-full of captivating riffs, memorable hooks and - dare I say it - are built from interesting song writing. But it’s not until the listener is greeted by the likes of “Protector” that the Heaven Shall Burn mastery comes to full fruition. Marcus Bischoff’s menacing snarl throws lines like ”to protect and defend/ride burning skies”
and ”I am your shield and sword/this new dominion will be born”
and for all the open cheesiness waiting in every stanza there’s no denying the group’s ability to combine addicting grooves and catchy hooks in an endearing, gratifying way.
Further highlights pepper the first disc’s run-time. “Expatriate” (and the longest track of both discs) adds tasteful electronica and piano orchestral melody that glistens juxtaposed to the album’s heavier moments. The track itself is a short breather when put in the context of the album’s overall runtime, but the break in Of Truth and Sacrifice
is both welcome and atmosphere building. Moments of multilingual spoken word run parallel to orchestral crescendo and occasional melodeath stylings and while it’s a point of difference that stands out amongst the greater death metal appeal of Heaven Shall Burn, the trick has not been missed by those who hear both the contrast and obvious soundscape changes heading into the latter half of the record. “What War Means” in comparison to what’s before it, is the first disc’s most devastatingly heavy effort, but (like the rest of the full-length) doesn’t just bludgeon away for the sake of it. Largely, “What War Means” culminates in a riff-centric testament to melodic death metal that summarises (in style) the band’s best works over the course of the last couple of decades.
Despite all the positive motions of Heaven Shall Burn there are a couple of fleeting issues here; namely in the all too clinical production which could have benefitted from small amounts of raw grit and the overall playing time of both discs. Put simply, Of Truth and Sacrifice
is long - like please wash both hands long. It’s fair to say that Of Truth and Sacrifice
could have done with a light circumcision, not because its creators wanted it, but because it needs
This aside, Of Truth and Sacrifice
is somehow stronger in its second disc. The mood shifts into a more sombre, melancholic version of the disc that came before it, adding more emotional depth to some already superb songwriting. “The Sorrows of Victory” becomes “Expatriate’s” more sinister counterpart, without forgetting the melody or atmosphere of the latter. While “Tirpitz” and “Truther” add an undeniable one-two punch before the quality crescendo found in the record’s remaining thirty minutes. “Eagles Among Vultures” is a thumping romp of melodic death metal met with the diverse overtones of early day Dimmu Borgir, without falling into the trap of copy-catting, but it’s the Heaven Shall Burn’s newest closer that ticks all of the awaiting boxes. “Weakness Leaving My Heart” is a deceptively deeper musical journey that likens itself to those closing pages of a fantasy novel. Individually, the track itself explores gentle notes and steady builds but given the context of the two discs before it the mood becomes welcome, wholesome and endearing. Heaven Shall Burn have gone to great lengths to wrap their ninety-seven minute modern opus in the best possible way - and to that level, they’ve more-or-less succeeded.
From the get go it was pretty clear that Of Truth and Sacrifice
is going to be an ambitious workhorse for the Heaven Shall Burn brand. Given the mixed reviews on Wanderer
only four years ago there was some work to do to ensure Of Truth and Sacrifice
’s larger greatness. For those uninitiated, the album’s length is sure to create a few sprawling headaches and uninterested parties, but for those who tag along for the journey, Heaven Shall Burn’s newest rewards with every spin.