Friday, November 30, 2012

Heavenward- Within These Dreams


 All the way from Duisburg/Krefeld, Germany comes Heavenward, another "forgotten" heavy metal act, courtesy of our friends at Pure Underground Records. Formed in 1986, Heavenward would release a pair of demos, "Into The Night" and "At First Nature" (1988 and 1989 respectfully), before issuing this album, their 1991 full-length debut, on Rough Trade. The band would issue one more release in 1992's "A Future Worth Talking About?" (Inline Music) before seemingly opting to call it a day. Apparently the group is once more active given the fact that this re-release, which incidentally has been completely remastered, features one brand-new track called "System is Going Down". As an special bonus Pure Underground Records has added on the band's 1989 4-track demo, "At First Nature", to give this new CD a solid run-time of  67:47. Interesting enough this re-release opens with the new song and closes with the 4-track demo. As for the new that new track, "System is Going Down", it is supposed to show a heavier side of the band (or as the promo puts it "the thrashy side of Heavenward"), but in reality it is only slightly more intense then what the band put out on "Within These Dreams". Speaking of Heavenward's debut album (which was new to me) the name of the game is power metal. Not modern "power metal" mind you. No, this is 90's power metal we are talking about and, frankly speaking, a genre that is sorely missed. A good starting point for Heavenward would be Metal Church. What is all the more interesting is how Pure Underground Records labels this release as one that "Fans of old HELLOWEEN, CHROMING ROSE, early BLIND GUARDIAN and HEAVENS GATE will certainly like this band, which plays melodic power-metal combined with razor-sharp speed." One would wager that those looking for another Helloween would be sorely disappointed. Early Blind Guardian is a fair enough comparison, but Heavenward, more then anything, offer a lighter alternative to early Metal Church. Mind you they are still power metal, and good power metal at that, but there is not as much "speed" as "crunch". The Metal Church vibe is all the more noticeable thanks to singer Stefan Kesse. If that sounds as if it is knock on the band nothing could be further from the truth! Heavenward are a treat to rediscover if early power metal, of the American kind, is something you just can't get enough of. The work of guitarist Achim Schneider is spot on, which makes one wonder why he never appeared in another band after this, and the rhythm section of bassist Oliver Müller and drummer Thomas Kelleners (of Blind Guardian fame) holds everything in place. If there is any fault to be found it lays within the fact that a few of the tracks do tend to blur together. While they may have sounded similar to Metal Church they were not quite on the same level as Metal Church. As previously stated, the re-release version of this album ends with the inclusion of the bands second demo. It is interesting to note that the band's biography section of the promo mentions how the media at the time compared the demo material to acts like Fates Warning, Liege Lord, Jag Panzer, Crimson Glory, Helloween and Blind Guardian. Listening to the demo certainly makes that picture a little more clear, especially on the 1989 version of "Remember / At First Nature", as the band comes off as being a bit more aggressive. "Hell on Earth" is most certainly raw, but it has a certain charm all it's own as does the demo version of "Holding The Key". Overall this is a gem of a power metal release and most certainly fitting of this re-release.

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