The masses of patch covered heavy metal traditionalists, though often less than visible in your local scene, have been covertly driving the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal for almost half a decade now. On the heels of Cauldron‘s recent record, in the coming weeks we’ll be treated to new releases from Enforcer, Alpha Tiger and, of course, Holy Grail. Though not quite the blur of goofiness and breathtaking musicianship that make Skull Fist so much fun, Holy Grail‘s debut Crisis in Utopia made some waves with just about every demographic. On Ride The Void they continue trying to fuse NOWBHM nostalgia with the contemporary dynamics of thrash.
The good on this album is great. On highway songs like “Ride the Void”, “Silence the Scream” and “Sleep of Virtue” the bands commands that particular brand of driving melancholy which makes many Judas Priest songs so timeless. They end up being among Ride The Void‘s most memorable moments, ones you’ll find yourself humming throughout the day. You will find some screaming and the occasional breakdown, like on “Crosswinds” or “The Great Artifice”, but these are thrown in pretty seamlessly in terms of musicianship. Blake Mount and Tyler Meahl, toiling down in the trenches of the rhythm section, are a subtle presence but the tightness of this album should probably be credited to them. Alex Lee and Eli Santana, though not as solo indulgent as some of their contemporary heavy metal peers, are every bit as capable in their fills and harmonic sequences. Most notably, their thrash metal pedigree lends this album a tougher exoskeleton than the band’s debut. Their axework even redeems the otherwise underwhelming single “Dark Passanger”.
The only real complaint is a slight dip in riffing and song writing. Vocalist James-Paul Luna is undoubtedly one of the most expressive, recognizable voices in just about any contemporary subgenre. His screams could use some tweaking to really fit with the music but this is a minor detail amidst such sound compositions. When let loose on the brooding closer “Rains of Sorrow”, he shines brilliantly. The problem is that he sometimes has to pull hooks out of less than ideal chord changes. Only in this respect is Ride the Void the little brother of Crisis in Utopia.
It’s undeniable that Holy Grail‘s sophomore effort undoubtedly bears a thrashier, more contemporary edge but its still rooted in classic metal influences. Ride the Void gallops and thunders under the brilliant mid-ranges of James-Paul Luna (can I call him JP? I’ll call hm JP). Though the band only seems to be exploiting a fraction of his vocal talent in their songwriting, there is never a dull moment. If we’re serious about it, the point of traditional heavy metal is to be timeless, fluid and contemporary all at once. Like with any artistic revival, it’s not supposed to just spawn a new wave of carbon copies but to reinstall heavy metal in its rightful place as the flagship of hypercharged, fun-loving musicianship, the ethos of people that take pride in substance and don’t fear excess. In this, Ride the Void is a soaring success.
Available January 22nd via Prosthetic Records in North America.
Available now via Nuclear Blast in Europe.