Heavenly - Virus 3.5/5

Reviewed: 1-12-07





Tracklist:

1. The dark memories
2. Spill blood on fire
3. Virus
4. The power & fury
5. Wasted time
6. Bravery in the field
7. Liberty
8. When the rain begins to fall
9. The prince of the world
10. The joker (bonus track)
11. Spill blood on fire (bonus track)


The French power metallers, Heavenly, have burst back onto the metal scene with their 4th full-length CD entitled ‘Virus’. This CD is the band’s latest since their 2003 effort, ‘Dust to dust’, which received a lot of praise. There has also been a few line-up changes to the band since their last release. Matthieu Plana has replaced Pierre-Emmanuel Pellison on bass guitar, Olivier Lapauze has replaced Frederic Leclercz on guitar and Thomas Das Neves has replaced Maxence Pilo on drums. All these changes occurred during mid-2004, so the band has had a good year and a half together, and ‘Virus’ is what they have achieved.

‘Virus’ sees the return of the Heavenly sound from their first 2 CDs, ‘Coming from the sky’ and ‘Sign of the winner’. If you're unfamiliar with those CDs, Heavenly play epic sounding speed power metal, with lots of guitar shredding, lots of choir chorus’, lots of double-bass pummeling and solos that can compete with those fellows from DragonForce. The main differences with ‘Virus’ from their early CDs is that they sound more tough, there’s more attitude in their sound. The first 2 CDs could have gone under the ‘happy metal’ banner, but not anymore, especially since ‘Dust to dust’. Overall, the band has matured and it’s possibly due to the line-up changes that occurred in 2004.

Production wise, the CD is done very well, as with most of the Heavenly CDs. I think on ‘Virus’, they have gone less technical than they did on ‘Dust to dust’ (let's face it, the production on ‘Dust to dust' was absolutely flawless). This one is more laid back, but still with an edgy and crisp feel to it. I felt that it is a lot more balanced than on previous CDs.

The only weak link on this CD and with the band in general, is with the vocalist, Ben Soto. Although his voice has improved since the days of ‘Coming from the sky’, there is still some inconsistency there. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a bad vocalist, I mean, the guy could shatter glass from 20 paces. But it is his high-pitched screaming which has lost a bit of control. When he reaches those high notes on ‘Virus’, at times they sound strained and on the edge on cracking. But on the flip side, his lower to mid-range vocals are a lot better. The other thing about Mr. Soto is that he has a really strong French accent that comes through in his singing. Now I’ve had 4 CDs by Heavenly to get used to it, but it will most certainly stick out to new listeners of the band.

As with the tracks on the CD, all of them are very solid and on par with what to expect from Heavenly. I can’t say that there are any bad tracks on here as the CD is very consistent. Again, we have the epic sounding tracks, filled with great guitar riffs and excellent speed drumming. There’s a lot of choirs used throughout the tracks, especially during choruses, which makes the tracks stand out. The keyboards are used quite well in the CD. They aren’t over-used, which may have been the case in early CDs, but infused very nicely with the flow of each track. There is a massive Gamma Ray influence here, as well as an Edguy influence. That being said, Heavenly are in no way a Gamma Ray clone. Ben Soto does try to imitate Kai Hansen’s vocal style in some parts, but let’s face it, he is no Kai Hansen.

Some of the better tracks from ‘Virus’ include “Spill blood on fire”, which sounds very Edguy like, especially with the chorus. It is one of the better vocal tracks from Soto, as he sings the whole the song in mid-range, easily his best vocal range. The title track is another epic sounding track, where they mix up the sound quite a lot and it works very well. Not to mention a long and awesome solo.

“Wasting time” has a Gamma Ray feel all over it, in terms of the sound, the epic choirs, the chorus and even the vocal delivery. Soto’s vocals soar during the track, but it is one of the tracks where he delivers very nicely. Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica appears on this track as a guest vocalist. “Liberty” is arguably the best track on the CD. It’s a fast and melodic ripper, with again a Gamma Ray feel to it. Soto’s vocals are done very well here. Lots of choirs throughout the song, with yet another killer solo.

“When the rain begins to fall” is another top song, which is actually a cover, originally done by Jermaine Jackson and Pia Zadora. Heavenly has put their own stamp on it and made it their own. Lots of keyboards on this one, which make the track stand out. The female guest vocalist on this track is Lullacry’s Tanja, who does a good job. Overall, the track is a nice change up from what we normally hear from Heavenly.

Finally, the last of the better tracks is one of the Japanese bonus tracks, “The joker”. Like the cover song, “The joker” is different compared to the traditional Heavenly tracks, which is why is stand out to me. It’s a quick track (for Heavenly), just under 4 minutes, but it’s a simple melodic rocker, where the highlight is Soto’s vocals.

Overall, ‘Virus’ is another strong release for Heavenly, who have yet to make a bad CD. They have made some big strides with each release, and this latest one should be no exception. If you enjoyed ‘Sign of the winner’ and ‘Dust to dust’, then ‘Virus’ will be right up your alley. The vocals seem to be the only slight drawback on this CD, but opinions will vary from person to person and it won’t stop you from enjoying the CD.



SEAN




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