Metal, at its best, can be a gloriously entertaining, over-the-top experience that leaves fans feeling exhilarated. Some of the bands that have lasted the longest have focused on the fantastic aspects of the genre, allowing fans an escape from the mundane and the tawdry into a world populated with larger-then-life characters, colourful artwork and huge riffs. Bands like Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, and Kiss (all stylistically different, but all huge exponents of heavy rock / metal) all have the coomon thread that they offer an experience and it is into this vein of theatricality that Lithuanian metal band SBS have tapped on their album ‘heaven can wait’.
With the name proving to be an acronym for Spicy Bits of Scandal, SBS have been active on the metal scene since 1979, releasing five full length albums and a demo within that period. ‘Heaven can wait’ is the band’s fifth album and it is a brilliant example of metal at its most effervescent, featuring a ludicrous ‘plot’ and at least one genuinely brilliant heavy metal anthem within its fifteen, exceptionally well-produced tracks. Fun is the name of the game here, and while it is quite obvious that SBS are more than committed to producing world class heavy metal, it’s clear from the outset that the band are not afraid to have fun with the genre, their enthusiasm proving infectious as the album winds through the gloriously grandiose realms of power metal.
‘The journey begins’ with a car crash and a demand for blood, the unfortunate victim’s pleas for peace (rather than the more earthen pleasures offered by the confused demon) going unheeded as the creature demands an eternity of servitude and a plethora of blood. With that opening gambit out of the way, SBS come roaring out of the darkness with ‘bloody wedding’, a huge, day-glo track with soaring vocals, super-fast percussion and rampant solos. It sets the pace for the album and over the course of the next thirteen tracks the band rarely deviate from the blueprint, delivering blast after blast of keyboard-driven power metal with unfettered enthusiasm.
Of the fifteen tracks on offer, the highlight is surely the mighty ‘religion of rock’ (unconsciously aping ‘Michael Schenker’s similarly themed ‘temple of rock’), a lung-bursting anthem that should be required listening for all metal fans. Like 3 inches of blood, SBS have a simple love of the music which they play and ‘religion of rock’ is their ode to a genre that inspires a deep and unswerving loyalty amongst its adherents which perplexes those on the outside as much as it binds together those who answer the call. A call to arms against the ghastly encroachment of tedious pop music, ‘religion of rock’ is a brilliant blast of pure heavy metal hedonism and if I were to rule the world it would be at least one of the national anthems my citizens would be urged to sing daily.
Other highlights of the album (and there are many) include the wild soloing of ‘against the whole world’; the dark, hulking beast that is ‘you are the witch’, with its heavy riffing and brilliant vocals of Vitalis “Don Vito” Kairiukstis who delivers a stunning performance throughout, but who excels himself here; and the throbbing, almost funky bass work (Martynas Garbacas) that introduces the epic, symphonic ‘the abyss’; but overall, the band maintain a relentless quality control that refuses to dip over the course of the record, the songs being consistently engaging and interesting.
If you like theatrical, symphonic power metal then SBS could well be your poisoned chalice of choice. A fantastic piece of work in both senses of the word, it’s the sort of record that instantly brightens your day and leaves you feeling wildly exhilarated – a trait metal fans will recognise form the works of metal masters like Black Sabbath, Dio, Whitesnake and Maiden – and there is no question of the talent of the band, with all four turning tight, exceptionally able performances. Brilliantly over the top, this metal with a smile on its face and a knife in its hand, and there is no question that fans of metal at its most joyously excessive should flock to SBS’s siren call.