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Not quite a crisis - 69%

Memnarch, October 19th, 2012

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.