Heaven Shall Burn – Wanderer

0

Passion is a driving element of metal, regardless of subgenre, and Heaven Shall Burn are brimming with it. The Germans have a glut of excellent albums to their name, expertly toeing the line between melodic death metal and oldschool metalcore. Wanderer comes at a crucial point in the band’s career – it is both self-reflective and pushes forward to new boundaries. One can hardly call this the same band who brought out Asunder more than fifteen years prior, but at the same time there is a continuous thread between each of their eight albums.

This thread shows strongly in the first half of the album – ‘Bring The War Home’ strongly resembles Invictus’ ‘Combat’ as it barrels through with groove and vitriol towards the song’s lyrical topic of a soldier returning, “broken, traumatized and disabled, feeling betrayed by warmongers like politicians and the defense industry. Finally they realize that the ones they wanted to protect would have needed them most at home.” [1] ‘They Shall Not Pass’ and ‘Extermination Order’ also fall into this familiar formula, and are unlikely to stick in memory aside from the odd chorus line: “There is no war to end all wars” in the former track as one example. Later on in the album, ‘Corium’ succeeds in balancing early Killswitch Engage/Earth Crisis muscle with Swedish melodeath in the guitar hooks and – intriguingly – an almost Amorphis vibe in the synthesizer parts- they would slot easily in Eclipse– or even Elegy-era tracks.

Wanderer Heaven Shall Burn artwork

Where the record gets interesting is when the band push the boat out – the band excel in dynamics, for instance, and the few seconds where ‘Save Me’ slows down before bludgeoning blasts erupt is key to making the latter so effective. New drummer Christian Bass has stepped comfortably into the shoes of his predecessor, and while much of the time he plays it safe, there is a suitable weight to his playing that will no doubt show in the band’s incendiary live shows. ‘Passage of the Crane’ also plays on dynamics between mellow guitar melodies and weighty rhythms, while the lyrics tell the sad story of Sadako Sasaki. [2]

One slow evolution over the band’s catalog has been Marcus Bischoff’s vein-popping vocal style. His higher-pitched snarl has taken a black metal tone of late – noticeable in Invictus’ ‘The Lie You Bleed For’ [3] while a guttural low-pitched growl has crept up for some marvelous juxtaposition. He is equally capable of dominating songs by himself, or taking more of a backseat in duets, such as with Cannibal Corpse’s Corpsegrinder on ‘Prey To God’ – a blistering track as expected, and the closest the band have come to pure death metal in their career. The other duet, a curveball cover [4] of My Dying Bride’s ‘The Cry of Mankind’, is a majestic rendition of the original doom metal masterpiece, and guest vocalist Aðalbjörn Tryggvason of Sólstafir gives a stunning interpretation of Aaron Stainthorpe’s lyrics, in quite possibly the best cover Heaven Shall Burn have done thus far.

With lust, you’re kicking mankind to death
We live and die without hope

My Dying Bride – The Cry of Mankind (as covered by Heaven Shall Burn feat. Aðalbjörn Tryggvason)

Some of the band’s experiments, however, are a little too jarring. The noise experimentation that kicks off the otherwise excellent ‘Downshifter’ lacks purpose, as does the guitar interlude ‘My Heart Is My Compass’, complete with wind noises to represent the atmosphere of the album cover. ‘A River Of Crimson’ is also an usual track to consider; written for a fan with leukemia, the song’s uptempo lyrics pull the song into far more upbeat territory – faintly echoing Insomnium’s ‘Ephemeral’. A fitting tribute to the fan’s wishes, if at odds with the rest of such a dark album. [5]

Wanderer summarizes many of Heaven Shall Burn’s strengths from over the years, and though some of the weaknesses have not been shed, there is still plenty to write home about. Eight albums in, the band are still creating career-defining songs such as ‘Corium’, and tracks like ‘Bring The War Home’ will play well into their energetic live shows. This record goes to show that not all who wander are lost.

Footnotes:
1. A quote from guitarist Maik Weichert, as part of the press material supplied, accessible here.
2. From Wikipedia: “Sadako Sasaki was a Japanese girl who was two years old when an American atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, near her home next to the Misasa Bridge. Sadako became one of the most widely known hibakusha — a Japanese term meaning “bomb-affected person”. She is remembered through the story of the one thousand origami cranes she folded before her death, and is to this day a symbol of the innocent victims of nuclear warfare.”
3. See this section where the lyrics switch to a rare moment of German: “Und damit du es verstehst/Du folgst den falschen Führen/Der Kampf ist nie vorbei/Du bist nicht frei.
4. Heaven Shall Burn are no strangers to covers – they have at least fifteen to date, dotted over various albums, including Blind Guardian, Paradise Lost and Edge of Sanity to name a few. Wanderer itself (the limited edition) also contains an excellent cover of Sodom’s ‘Agent Orange’.
5. See same link as 1.

Share.

About Author

Founder, editor-in-chief and general busybody of Broken Amp. Listens to almost every genre under the sun, but tends to enjoy most forms of metal, various sections of rock and punk, and a smattering of ambient and rap.

Comments are closed.