Thursday, January 24, 2013

Holy Grail-Ride The Void

Nuclear Blast

In days of old I usually left Holy Grail for Metal Mark to cover. Whether it was the band's name (I liked their original name Sorcerer better) or their album's cover art so far (I hated the album art to the EP "Seasons Bleedings" and the single "Dark Passenger") I just wouldn't give this band a chance. What changed then? Well, first of all Metal Mark is covering all things sci-fi, horror and fantasy (at least film and TV wise) these days so he is a little busy. Speaking of which, if you haven't check out his other site then you are missing out! Drop what you are doing and pay him a visit. Of course you should finish reading this review first (LOL), but here's the link:   so go stop by and say hi to Metal Mark. Getting back to this album though and the second reason why I decided that I had to give it a shoot. Reviews. Yes, other reviews of this album. The latest issue of Metal Hammer has a lot of good things to say about this release it seemed and the more I dug about online the more I read some reviews of this album which were overwhelmingly positive. The final thing that did it for me was when I went back and decided to re-read Mark's review of the "Dark Passenger" single. He has this to say about the single "They dip into NWOBHM territory following the likes of Maiden and Diamond Head and combine with some heavier riffage." In a nutshell I trust Metal Mark's words so I decided to tackle this album for myself. If you don't know already this band was formed in 2008 by several former White Wizzard members. The story goes that just as White Wizzard was breaking out ("High Speed GTO" was as much a hit with the metal community as it was loathed by the metal community) they were breaking apart. Bassist Jon Leon dismissed the other 3 members of the band and decided to carry on White Wizzard with new members. The 3 former members meanwhile went on to form Holy Grail. To of those guys still remain in the Holy Grail line-up. Vocalist James-Paul Luna (who also played alongside Jon Leon in the band Jet Fuel) and drummer Tyler Meahl have proved that there is life beyond White Wizzard. Guitarist Alex Lee (formerly of Bonded By Blood), guitarist/vocalist Eli Santana and bass player Blake Mount fill out the line-up. Alex Lee is new to the band and shares lead guitar duties with Eli Santana. Those leads are what make "Ride The Void" such a good album. It's been three years between releases and the reality is "Ride The Void" is only the band's second full-length release. I can't say if 2010's "Crisis In Utopia" was any good or not as I've never heard it, but here at least the band plays to their strengths while backed by a superb production. Speaking of which, this was produced by Matt Hyde (Slayer, Children of Bodom), mixed by Mark Lewis (All That Remains, Trivium) with mastering done by Alan Douches (Baroness, Firewind, Mastodon). The three of them have helped Holy Grail achieve that perfect sound. Back to what makes this album tick (or rather shred!) and it has to be noted just how good the two guitarists are together. Like I said those leads are nothing short of sweet! They are definitely from the Iron Maiden twin-guitar school of thought while this young band also seems to nod their head (or thrash their heads!) in appreciation towards the likes of Dio and Judas Priest. If you think this is just more retro-metal worship though (like their previous band White Wizzard) it's far from it. These guys come to the party ready to thrash!  If anything I find Holy Grail's new album to be better then anything White Wizzard every put out! You could call this thrash inspired by classic metal and N.W.O.B.H.M. if you like. Maybe that description might be meet with some skepticism. I'd understand that. Any band that was formed by ex-White Wizzard members (who are then said to be inspired equally by Iron Maiden and Metallica) that is described as classic heavy metal meets classic thrash would make me pause to question such a claim. While certainly not as classic as either (or at least Iron Maiden and early Metallica) these guys are on their way to be one monster of a band. With two great lead guitarists and a rhythm section that is simply crushing you have a winner right there. But then you go and add this excellent lead vocalist who knows how to hit all the right notes. What does that add up to? Right there is enough for me to say there is no telling how far Holy Grail could go. These guys have broke away from the retro-this or retro-that crowd and instead have forged their own identity from the ground up. "Ride The Void" is the sound of a band that gets it. And this is just the band's  sophomore album! How scary is that?

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