Heaven Shall Burn – ‘Veto’ Album Review

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Heaven Shall burn are a moody, brutal band who are as liable to send you spiralling into some blackened K-hole of churning misanthropy as they are to tear at your face, screaming and spitting in rage and anguish. Active for the last fifteen years, the band show no signs of slowing down, with the album offering a brilliantly dynamic range of metal anthems, constructed for maximum impact and produced with an unyielding clarity that will leave you breathless. Variety is the key, however, and what makes ‘Veto’ so special are the small flourishes which render each track subtly different, whilst never once detracting from the overall oppressive heaviness which characterizes the band’s wonderfully relentless attack.

Opening with the briefly restrained ‘Godiva’, the listener is given time to settle in before the band’s blazing guitars are unleashed for a harmony-laden track that contrasts Marcus Bischoff’s bile-fuelled vocals with duelling guitars and Matthias Voigt’s full-on percussive assault. It hits similar ground to Arch Enemy and Dark Tranquillity, and the Lady Godiva themed lyrics are an interesting touch that encourages deeper listening. An early highlight to the album, ‘land of the upright ones’ is a brutally compelling blast that grabs you and shakes you with its high-octane riffs and stunning opening scream. Again taking Arch Enemy as the cue, ‘land of…’ detonates like ‘Nemesis’ on steroids, before adding in subtle electronic flourishes making sure you know that you’re in no other territory than Heaven Shall Burn’s own impressively bleak landscape. ‘Dis Sturme Rufen Dich’ opens with a rippling piece of moody electronica before crushing riffs scar the ambient landscape and the song takes a brutally industrial turn  before kicking into the band’s more usual crushing groove. It’s these touches that keeps the album fresh and interesting, and the listener coming back for more no matter how violent the experience. ‘Fallen’, in contrast, is a seething, politically motivated diatribe that does much to reflect the uncertainty of the times whilst packing in a crushing chorus that is as memorable as it is devastatingly heavy.

Having firmly grabbed your attention, the band are in no mood to let you go and ‘hunters will be hunted’ transpires to be an epic and complex moral piece that speaks of the band’s disgust at the needless destruction of natural creatures by so called hobby hunters. A piece that is clearly motivated by the band’s own powerful convictions it is delivered with a savage fury that is unnerving. ‘You will be Godless’ is the album’s heaviest, most searing track. As with ‘hunters…’ it deals with the band’s own world view, this time the fury centred on the money-grabbing, iconoclastic hypocrisy of the Catholic church, the band’s palpable rage veering on a Napalm Death-esque grind that does much to underscore their potent sense of grievance. ‘Valhalla’, astonishingly, is equally heavy and you can only hold on for the ride as the band tear into the Blind Guardian track with malicious glee, Hansi Kursch even turning up for the ride, in an unexpected and utterly brilliant turn. ‘Antagnoized’, in contrast to ‘you will be godless’, shows that the band’s antipathy to organized religion is not indiscriminate and is dedicated to Walter Schilling who did much good work with adolescents in his church. Still brutally heavy (and, indeed, with some of the album’s best riffs on proud display), it is an intelligent flip-side to ‘you will be Godless’ and highlights the band’s oft-underpraised lyrical intelligence. ‘Like Gods among mortals’ has a more epic feel to it, its slow, harmonized introduction producing a doomy, introspective feel that adds yet greater depth to the album. ’53 nations’, a song that touches upon the rarely discussed subject of the international brigades who went to fight fascism during the Spanish Civil War, is unleashed with the band’s trademark belligerence and lyrical depth and then the album draws to a close with ‘beyond redemption’, a track that the band describe as an “instrumental broken up with some lyrics”, an apt description for a lengthy and rather beautiful coda to the punishing sonic maelstrom that abounds on the rest of the album.

Heaven Shall Burn, some fifteen years and eight albums into their career, have unleashed their finest work to date. What makes them special is not just the crushing production, memorable hooks or searing grooves, but the lyrical bite that so often encourages deeper thought around the subjects touched upon, and the sonic flourishes (aching solos, electronic elements) that few other bands would have the confidence or ability to include in an album so overwhelmingly geared towards decimating the opposition. Fans of heavy metal need look no further for a well-rounded, brutally-honed album that takes a number of chances but never once lets up on the adrenalin charged metal that is the band’s stock in trade. ‘Veto’ comes highly recommended.

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