without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Heretic are a groovy power/thrash band perhaps best known for being fronted by Mike Howe shortly before he joined Metal Church. The band met an untimely end after his departure following their only full-length in 1988, but over 20 years later they have returned with Julian Mendez, the vocalist on their debut EP, along with founding guitarist Brian Korban and a powerful support crew with a few more veterans. Still loyal to the 80s heavy metal style, they released this sophomore effort in 2012.
The band finds their groove, quite literally, somewhere between faster heavy metal riffs and mid-paced, groovier riffs. They don't get to a full-on thrash speed, rather finding their power in the hefty tone of the vocals. Mendez has tons of grit and power and a respectable melodic range, but he mostly focuses on the force of his mid range - a strong complement to the riffing. Nearly all of the energy from the songs is derived from the driving force of the riffs and vocals, which have quite a bit of power in them, though they could use a stronger complement. The drumming is fairly constant in following the direction of the guitars and vocals, staying on pace with the song, but it could drive the music a bit more in emphasizing the faster parts and providing a bit of rhythmic variation in the slower parts. The snare seems to be a bit low in the mix, buried beneath the vocals somewhat, especially for this style of music. A higher pitched vocalist leaves more room in the mix at the frequencies that the snare cuts through, just a small detraction from a band that otherwise fits together well.
It seems as if the high points on the album come when the band provides a bit of variety, be it the up-tempo parts of "Tomorrow's Plague" or "Heretic", the rock and roll of "Child of War", or the melody of "Let Me Begin Again". These differences help emphasize the force of their near-constant propulsion of the mid-paced thrashing, which is certainly the band's forte, but not their only strength. In a way, they're on one track and they stick to it while swaying to either side at times.
One of the nice highlights of the album is when they break down their approach into even groovier territory on "Betrayed" and "Police State", where the music feels trampling and anthemic, still the same headbanging riffs that they consistently deliver, but the force and grit of them comes across quite forcefully and very nicely in the slower parts of these tunes. Similarly, the faster tracks and sections are still quite similar to the others, except for the tempo, but it provides a pleasant and powerful variation of the band doing what they do well - power thrashing. It's quite an appropriate genre label as they manage to blend the power of their vocalist with thrash riffs that are quite groovy - that's just what their music feels like, and they're the same type of style as Metal Church and Sacred Reich. They stick to what they do quite adamantly, and it's good heavy metal, but it wouldn't be hurt by a bit more variety in speed and melody.
A Time of Crisis is sure to please if you like well-produced, mid-paced heavy metal with a strong foundation of old school metal mixed with a more modern, groove/thrashy approach and a powerful vocalist who contributes percussively while still keeping some melody. If this doesn't seem like quite your style, perhaps this is one to pass over - this isn't one of the strongest of this style, rather a nice example worth a listen if you enjoy it. It is consistent, but not standout, good if you like the style, but a bit repetitive if you're not really into it. If you like California thrash metal, Manowar style heavy metal, or you're from Germany, you'll likely enjoy this album.
Heretic were another one of the many bands that existed in the eighties that were criminally overlooked for one of many reasons. Their debut (and until now only) album for me was always one I considered ‘up there’ with the classics of US heavy metal. Indeed for any self respecting fan of ripping, snarling eighties metal “Breaking Point” is a must have; find me a metal fan who can resist the manic assault of that opener and you’re a better man than I. It was only after a brief obsession with Metal Church did I ever find out of their existence, namely due to the fact Heretic was the stage in which vocalist Mike Howe launched his career, later going on to replace the illustrious David Wayne in the aforementioned Metal Church.
Reunions of classic bands after a long period of time are always a sticking point with me, more often than not it’s either a blatant cash cow or simply a bunch of crusty old has beens pining for their youth, something which I believe has only been exacerbated by the internet era with a lot of more overlooked/underground bands gaining exposure who would not have otherwise done so. Sometimes it’s just best to let these things die, though thankfully from what I’ve heard from “A Time of Crisis” it certainly comes across as something a bit more genuine than an assemblage of nostalgia and fervent desperation.
Fair enough the only consistent member present is Brian as Julian gave way to Mike for the debut, but Angelo and Glenn certainly slot in well enough alongside these two. With opener ‘Tomorrow’s Plague’ and its socio-political driven verve with its hefty guitar tone and simplistic structure you can pretty much set the scene here for the rest of the album. It’s all much the same, with some peaks and troughs along the way; ‘Betrayed’ is another great track in a somewhat similar vein, chunky and riff driven and although the guitar tone does appear ‘modernized’ to some extent it never steers close to groove territory thankfully. By the fourth track though it all begins to blur together and exposes their rather simple blueprint. Not that it’s bad, it’s just well... a bit exhausting.
‘For Your Fate’ is a pretty fucking poor song, there’s no two ways about it, a cringe inducing horrorfest of clichéd, anti-religious spiel with a dreadfully basic structure; but the biggest faux pas with “A Time of Crisis” lies with the re-recording of ‘Heretic’. Just fucking no. There are some songs which should just be left alone, and this is a prime example. Julian’s vocals just don’t compare to Mike and they don’t suit the song at all, resulting in a pale imitation of what is arguably the best track the band have ever written. Still though, “Child of War” ups the ante considerably in what is probably the best track on the album, an energetic and crushing Motorhead-esque piledriver that shows when the band really let loose, they can actually sound pretty fucking killer and get the necks moving. ‘Police State’ hammers on with the same tenacity and tasteful soloing and that ever present thick, choppy riffing and ‘The End of the World’ closes the album on a positive note, another impressive number with thunderous drumming and guitar set to overdrive.
It’s clear Brian has shifted the emphasis in Heretic to heaviness rather than the classic Power/Thrash sound they used to deliver, and while there are plenty of great moments to be heard on “A Time of Crisis”, it does come across at times as a touch sterile, by no means helped by the fact that Julian just isn’t the vocalist he was back on “Torture Knows No Boundary”. I suppose it’s to be expected somewhat but at time’s he sounds really badly out of tune and strained. It doesn’t compare at all to “Breaking Point” but is certainly an acceptable comeback. I’ve heard much much worse and with songs like ‘Child of War’ that will keep you hitting the repeat button, there’s definitely some replay value to be had, and that’s the important thing.
Heretic is yet another band that has not released an album in years but reunited recently and put out some new material on Metal on Metal Records, which is quickly becoming a specialty of theirs. In this case, Heretic released a reasonably well-regarded, if unfairly forgotten album in 1988 called Breaking Point. The band broke up thereafter with the singer leaving to join Metal Church and the other band members forming a new group with the former singer of Metal Church.
I was never really familiar with Heretic so this is new to me. As I understand, this is not really a complete reunion. The only old members of the band to return for this release is guitarist Brian Korban and vocalist Julian Mendez who was out of the band by the time they released their only album, though he was present for the band's EP. The other three members are all new to the band though they have done time with a number of other groups.
Heretic is a power/thrash metal band along the lines of groups like Helstar and the aforementioned Metal Church. The music is melodic, yet aggressive and rooted in the music of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. It features powerful, crunchy riffs and fast-paced energetic songs. Heretic does not waste a whole lot of time setting mood or building up to anything, they are just here to rock. All of the songs are very straightforward with a fairly simple structure.
This is not a perfect album by any stretch, but it is certainly entertaining. The vocals can be a little grating at times, but do sound better with repeated listenings. The other issue is the lack of a real standout track. All of the songs kind of run together after awhile, not that there are any that are bad, there just is not one track that really grabs the listener's attention.
Heretic is a band that had some promise when they were around the first time. Hopefully the band is rejuvenated enough to meet some of that promise.
L.A.'s Heretic was a band cut well short of its time when the vocalist on its excellent Breaking Point album (in 1988) decided to take the bigger gig with Metal Church, replacing David Wayne. Funny enough, other Heretic members would later form Reverend with Wayne, exacting a sort of pseudo-revenge by releasing material that, at first, was superior to what the Howe Church managed to manifest. Granted, neither of the groups would ever match Breaking Point, in my opinion, so the few followers like myself were left to mourn another casualty of the 80s, one of the best US power/thrash hybrids to happen along in that mighty decade. Naturally, when I was met by news of a reunion and a new studio album through Metal on Metal Records, I was at once both excited and trepidatious: could they live up to their impressive legacy, or would they prove another victim of time lost?
I should point out that this is NOT a Heretic with Mike Howe singing or the entire Breaking Point lineup of musicians, but instead a reunion of guitarist Brian Korban with the earlier vocalist Julian Mendez who had been present for their Torture Knows No Boundaries EP (1986), which was not nearly so memorable, but decent enough power/trad metal for its time. Mendez had a pretty interesting contrast in his voice, between screeches and a grimier lower range, but the songs supporting him weren't entirely appealing, whereas the ensuing Breaking Point was a veritable riff-fest that played well to the moments of clean/acoustic atmosphere and the grating edge to Mike Howe's voice. The remainder of the lineup for this reunion is new to the band, but both bassist Angelo Espino and guitarist Glenn Rogers have a formidable history of involvements in groups as widespread as Hirax, Bitch, Vengeance Rising/Once Dead, Uncle Slam and even Reverend. So, not their first time at the dance, and their background in speed and thrash metal make them excellent choices to fill the shoes of alumni like Dennis O'Hara and Bobby Marquez.
With all of these changes, I'm satisfied to say that A Time of Crisis maintains a natural continuity with its predecessor Breaking Point, even though there are a few shifts in climate. You're still getting the simpler, well constructed songwriting and powerful riffs, only the emphasis here is a bit more on the crushing weight of the thrash elements, with an increased use of muted potency and even a few breakdown grooves that seem a better fit for how Mendez' vocals have evolved through the years. Here the guy has a much deeper overall inflection, with a lot of hoarse and strain on it, but while he might not pull out a scream as he once did, it works out well when he raises pitch to hit the chorus. Certainly the guy's voice is leaden, and carries well within the span of the riffing architecture, yet it does take a little use to getting used to unless you're a huge fan of the harsher power metal singers like Chris Boltendahl of Grave Digger, in which case you'll feel right at home (Mendez isn't nearly so gravelly, in fact).
Musically, there seems a parallel evolution towards what you might have heard on the latest Helstar album, or the past decade worth of Vicious Rumors releases. Traditional 80s metal influences like Judas Priest have their skeletons festooned with fat and muscle, and the beefy and heavy distorted guitar tone used by Korban and Rogers is applied with effective crunch. The songs possess a fair amount of variation, from the more upbeat power/thrash of "Tomorrow's Plague" or the soaring "Child of War" to the mid paced mosh brutes like "For Your Faith" and "Betrayed". The guitar progressions aren't all that fresh or innovative, but they're cleaved efficiently by the lead sequences and they mix up the central patterns with enough thrust and bombast that I was oft reminded me of Testament's airy underrated record The Ritual, which also strode the threshold between metallic sub-genres. Add to this a snap performance from the new drummer Iggy Coppola and you've got a well rounded comeback record that doesn't really disappoint.
A Time of Crisis is not without its flaws. I, for one, didn't care for the new version of the band's eponymous "Heretic", vastly preferring the Mike Howe version. The riffs are effective, but not the stickiest in terms of wanting to listen through them until your ears fall off. Also, as I mentioned, Mendez has a pretty unique voice that wasn't the easiest to adapt to up front. After a number of spins, though, I was happy that band managed a mild reinvention of their 80s sound without sounding trendy or trite, or resting too much on the laurels of their past. Fans of Vicious Rumors, Reverend, late 80s Metal Church and the newer albums by Meliah Rage will probably dig this, and even if it's not perfect, it's far from a disgrace to the Heretic brand.