You have to wonder sometimes. For instance, I find myself wondering why LA rockers Heaven Below (or, more probably, those who handle their affairs) think it a good idea to feature the words of ‘Press Outlet’ Hard Rock Haven, who have declared the band to be ‘the next Guns n’Roses’, in their press release; I read this whilst in the background guest vocalist Udo Dirkschneider is singing over a riff that sounds like it was left over from Slayer’s Reign in Blood (on Black Sunrise/War of the Gods). Even blind Freddie can see that there is no link here to William Bailey and Saul Hudson, even in the most fevered imagination, so why bother writing it?
I say this because it saddles the band with an unfavourable comparison from the get-go, and fosters ridiculous expectation that the band really has no hope of meeting; GMA is actually a rollicking good listen in places, but it has precious little in similarity to the late eighties Hollywood scene, being actually a fine confluence of trad metal (W.A.S.P. in their post-Headless Children guise, Savatage at their cod-operatic height) and more modern flavours (Sixx: A.M. keep popping into my mind, as, less pleasingly, do Five Finger Death Punch), the result in places being a gloriously overblown, grandiose collision of influence and execution that really hits the target.
Standout track Among the Wolves/Worldwide Suite is an absolute stormer, Patrick Kennison’s gritty vocal adding weight to the already pompous bombast exploding all around him. This really is classic metal rewritten for the digital age, and every last overwrought note brings a smile to the lips and an air chord to the fingers. Similarly closing track, I Would do it all Again/Burials at Sunset, with it’s fabulous guitar solo and portentous, crawling verse riffage, speaks of a different time in metal yet somehow retains a relevance that’s as surprising as it is welcome.
Strangely enough, most of the really good material is loaded into the back end of the album, with only the title track holding the front end together, but maybe that’s got something to do with the themes being explored in the lyrics – like W.A.S.P., like Savatage, there’s a tale being told here that I neither care about nor am able to fathom. But it doesn’t matter when the music is good enough to keep you interested irrespective of the story, right?
Three albums into their career now, it looks like Heaven Below might be quite ready to make the step up in class the ambitious nature of their material so obviously needs and deserves – I’m looking forward to see where they take this next.
Good Morning Apocalypse is released on October 14 through EMP Label Group