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Heaven Shall Burn - Of Truth and Sacrifice

Heaven Shall Burn
Of Truth and Sacrifice
by Justin "Witty City' Wittenmeier at 18 April 2020, 1:44 PM

HEAVEN SHALL BURN is one of the most thought provoking, intelligent bands in existence.  Their lyrics, which preach defiance against fascism, racism, oppression and many other important topics. What is just as impressive is they stick their musical guns as well.  Considering their subject matter, if they changed their sound to a much more mainstream display, they would no doubt spread their cause further and probably become radio darlings.  They have my utmost respect for never doing this—they recognize that Metal, however extreme it can be, is a valid musical genre and it can speak for those who cannot—it is up to others to listen.

And listen I did.  I’ve been following the band for some time (since I blind purchased “Antigone” upon its release) and although I don’t think they have made a bad album, I, of course like some more than others. “Deaf To Our Prayers,” was the last one to really blow me way though.  When “Wanderer” came out, they once again garnered my attention. So, what of their ninth full length release, “Of Truth & Sacrifice?”  I have to be honest—I was extremely worried when it was announced as a double album.  It wasn’t that I thought the band couldn’t handle it per say…but even the best bands can be bogged down by excess.  There are many examples of double albums being a bit too much but, at the same time, a few bands have pulled off the concept well.  So where does HSB fall?

They pulled it off, for the most part.  I although I still feel it is too much music for this style, there isn’t one bad track.   In fact, I would say it is one of the best in their long career and certainly their best since, “Deaf To Our Prayers.”   The fact they pulled off the double disc factor isn’t the only reason why either.  Perhaps the biggest case for having more than one disc is variety—and Heaven Shall Burn do indeed present two discs that are different in nature. Don’t worry—each disc definitely sounds like Heaven Shall Burn.  There are not real style changes per say—just doing their brand of Melodic Death in a different shade.

Disc one, “Of Truth,” is the straight-forward MDM machine we have all come to know and love. Riffs that mix in both groove and melody swirl around the deadly vocals of Marcus. Seriously—his vocals have always been among the best of the business. The man sounds like he has swallowed glass and age has not deterred him one bit.

March of Retribution,” opens up the first disc with a short melodic interlude.  It serves as a decent intro to what is to come and just seconds after the last note ends, “Thoughts and Prayers,” bursts through the door with a growl from the depths of hell.  Musically, the album is more closely related to Death Metal, especially the groove laden BOLT THROWER, who are an influence of the band if I remember correctly.  The melody appears during the chorus for that timeless HSB sound.  However the best part of the song is around the 2:53 mark where the music gets clean and quiet—while Marcus screams over it.  Shortly after, a beautiful bass movement settles in with the guitar then joining in.  The distortion kicks back and the song finishes off appropriately moving and epic.

My Heart and the Ocean,” begins with heavy but somber riffs.  Melodic leads drench in melancholy meld in seamlessly. Christian’s drums keep the song from being lost within itself with his exuberant drumming.    The rest of the song perfectly balances heartfelt melody with sheer angry aggression—something the band has always done well but it is even more potent here.

The next song is “Expatriate.”  I noticed a lot of people think it is the best song on the whole album—I personally wouldn’t go that far but it is an effective track because it shows the bands willingness to put their hearts on their sleeve.   The beginning is beautiful keyboards that are later joined by violins, confirming that HSB can pull on the heart strings just as easy as they can bang the head.  While the spoken words do add an immediate effect to the song’s subtle urgency, they do get very annoying—I think Marcus’ screams would had sufficed instead, although those are  presented within the song as well.

In deeper parts of “Of Truth”, the band sheds some of its MDM style and shifts towards the more extreme sounds of full on Death Metal.  “What War Means,” is a very intense display and would be right at home on a VADER album.  The drums are solid throughout but go through the sudden concentrated bursts of speed that shook my headphones.  This the heaviest the band has been in years and a barn burner of a track.

Unlike the first one that began with an intro, the second disc, “Of Sacrifice,” begins with “Children Of A Lesser God,” and gets the ball started right away.  The song is a bit slower paced than most of the tracks on the previous disc, revealing the more subtle tone of this second half.  The ending is especially somber, but the tone works well.  I bet this song will be killer in a live setting, assuming bands ever get to have shown again.

The next track, “La Resistance,” experiments with techno/dance beats and it works very well.  They have incorporated elements like this in previous releases but never do this degree.  They pull it off because they never try to be what they aren’t.  Even with the varied sounds presented in this track, they are still a Metal band—the vocals, riffs, melody…everything that makes the band works is still in “La Resistance,” but with extra components.

Although this second disc is a bit more intricate in its approach, they do go full speed ahead at time.  “Stateless,” and “Truther,” are both ragers that bring the band once again more towards actual Death Metal intensity rather than their more natural, melodic leanings. The final two tracks, however, are the highlights for me.  “Eagles Among Vultures,” consists of a stellar rhythmic foundation and an even song flow. Starting at around 3:07, the song changes to more expressive artists tones.  The bass and drums hold down the song’s rock-solid bottom end and let the keys and vocals give it their all for a swirling, emotional ending.

The final track, “Weakness Leaving My Heart,” is without a doubt one of the very best songs the band has ever written.  Quiet, ambient tones and orchestral elements birth the track as techno/dance beats get added to the mix, but they make it work—it never sounds corny but instead extremely emotive.  When the piano hits, so does the feels and my heart dropped. Anyone who says Metal can’t be beautiful or moving needs to hear this song.  The rest of the band comes in, a slow-paced dirge of haunting Melodic Death Metal.  This is one hell of a way to end such a long album and the fact such a deep cut on a double album can be this good is a testament of the band’s will and power.

Of Truth and Sacrifice,” is a statement of the world we live in and the genre HEAVEN SHALL BURN represent.  I imagine most fans will be pleased with this and will also bring in many new bands.  Being this far into their career and still releasing music this good proves that HEAVEN SHALL BURN are one of the best modern bands around in Melodic Death Metal.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
Disc 1 - Of Truth

1. March of Retribution
2. Thoughts and Prayers
3. Eradicate
4. Protector
5. Übermacht
6. My Heart and the Ocean
7. Expatriate
8. What War Means
9. Terminate the Unconcern
10. The Ashes of My Enemies

Disc 2 - Of Sacrifice

1. Children of a Lesser God
2. La résistance
3. The Sorrows of Victory
4. Stateless
5. Tirpitz
6. Truther
7. Critical Mass (Nuclear Assault cover)
8. Eagles Among Vultures 05:05
9. Weakness Leaving My Heart 07:31  
Lineup:
Eric Bischoff – Bass
Maik Weichert – Guitars, Piano, Synths, Electronics
Marcus Bischoff – Vocals
Alexander Dietz – Guitars, Piano, Synths, Electronics
Christian Bass - Drums
Record Label: Century Media Records
     


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