REVIEW: HEAVEN SHALL BURN – “Wanderer”
‘Wanderer’ marks the 20th anniversary of German melodic death metal purveyors Heaven Shall Burn. Despite being part of the metal scene for two decades, eight studio albums and countless gigs, Heaven Shall Burn sound, if anything, more relentlessly brutal than ever on this new crushing release. Certainly time has not caused the band to take stock of their surroundings and as the album opener “The Loss of Fury” demonstrates so ably, Heaven Shall Burn are pushing themselves harder and further than ever. A dynamic, monstrous slab of sound, ‘Wanderer’ is Heaven Shall Burn playing at the peak of their game.
Having set the scene with such vitality, Heaven Shall Burn launch into “Bring The War Home” with no less commitment, building to a deft groove that is as crushing as it is irresistible. Singer Marcus Bischoff still sounds mean, and the guitars of Maik Weichert and Alexander Dietz growl with a down-tuned fury. Opening with a down tempo rhythm, “Passage of the Crane” builds slowly with guitarists neatly interlocking riffs and solos to create a sound that is both brutal yet atmospheric at the same time. “They Shall Not Pass” sees Heaven Shall Burn expanding their sonic pallet considerably. Its deftly done and the juxtaposition between the beautiful melodic verses and the scarifying chorus gives the band a whole new bag of dynamic tricks to play with. Somewhat dark, “Downshiffter” taps into long-repressed emotions and its more restrained approach does much to make ‘Wanderer’ sound even more brutal with its juddering riffs. “Pray to God” is a fast-paced heavy hitter developed around the series of devastating riffs and variety in vocals that rapidly move from growls to screams. The first half of the album concludes with a cover of Sodom’s classic “Agent Orange”, which is a very nice way to pay tribute to the thrash metal veterans.
The second half of the album opens with a short instrumental titled “My Heart is My Compass,” a dark, mesmerizing track that serves as a great, unsettling connection between two halves. With some deeply impressive guitar work, “Save Me” demonstrates the band’s instrumental prowess. A more groove orientated track, “Corium” is a straight-ahead blast that gets the head banging before the band round things off with “Extermination Order,” “A River of Crimson” and “The Cry of Mankind.”
Heaven Shall Burn have long been a byword for extremity and, whilst there are those who will undoubtedly resent their foray into the melodic, the transition feels natural here with Marcus Bischoff demonstrating a fine voice and the band a natural skill at incorporating memorable swathes of melody into their otherwise brutal music.
Like most bands on their eighth album, Heaven Shall Burn were faced with the difficult choice of whether to progress or remain still and, to their credit, the band have progressed and done so in a manner that feels evolutionary rather than retrograde. ‘Wanderer’ is easily Heaven Shall Burn’s most dynamic entry and whilst I can see some fans taking issue with the more diverse approach taken by the band, there is much to enjoy here from a band who continue to surprise and innovate.