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Back in 2010, we saw the emergence of a new and powerful band Holy Grail. Their EP Improper Burial clearly showed this guys were an up and coming and promising speed metal group that I knew would have some amazing potential. Fight To Kill and My Last Attack were two of the first songs I had heard from them. I was utterly blown the fuck away to saw the least. James Paul Luna was slowly becoming one of my favorite vocalists in the "new era" thrash worship that had been on the rise lately. Acts like his previous band White Wizzard, which I am now disappointed by with his departure from the band. The High Speed GTO EP was flawless and showed he could have carried that band with ease for albums to come. Other acts like Lich King do an awful job at trying to bring back the spirit and intensity of the 80's. I think Holy Grail have found a great balance. Their previous release Crisis In Utopia was sub-par, it had several good songs and everything I had hoped for in a truly epic metal song. Maybe it just took a little while for them to find their sound.
The songwriting is a major improvement over the last release. I wouldn't dare call this album a "comeback" seeing as they have only had one previous album release. But this is an incredibly immense step up in both effort and in sound. There are no weak tracks, except those pointless instrumental introductions, but I don't really mind them. It always puzzled me why bands decided to include those. It serves no purpose in tying the album together, perhaps it just serves as filler for a certain amount of track lengths. All the choruses are catchy as fuck. James voice is so powering and soars sky high on every single track. My only complaint is he randomly does this goddamn metalcore voice for no reason at all. He doesn't do it very often, but it can still serve as pointless and a major annoyance. His voice is incredible as it is, there's no need to do that. He did it on the previous release and I will always be confused by that. Still, it's far and few between and doesn't at all deter from the enjoyment of this flawless album. Definitely in my top releases for this year.
The solos and guitarwork in general is also a major improvement. Solos are as kickass as they can get and are fast and jam packed in all the songs. Riffs are also generously scattered about. They have really stepped their game up and Holy Grail show no signs of backing down from the throne of new era thrash bands. They come as fast and deadly as they can get. I find nothing but enjoyment and this damn well deserves 5 stars.
The second full-length from Los Angeles’ retro-metallers Holy Grail, Ride the Void, is a perfect continuation of their so-far solid attack of mixing no-frills old-school heavy metal worship with a more modern-based sound that’s infectious and quite melodic as well as rip-roaring and full-throttle when the band gets down to it.
After atmospheric opener ‘Archeus’ gives way, it’s opener ‘Bestia Triumphans’ that makes an immediate mark, it’s start-stop pace, charging mid-section and soaring vocals over the band’s mid-tempo charge lets on that this one is not content to rest of the laurels of its past successor but gives way to furthering what came before, as this one carries on with a fully fleshed-out solo and melodically-infectious riffing and vocals to make for a fine stand-out track. First single ‘Dark Passenger’ continues onward and makes for a worthy effort with its smooth melodies, soulful vocals and intense performances from the band as a whole, including one of the better up-tempo guitar solo-sections on the album, to leave this one feeling quite exciting at times, while follow-up ‘Bleeding Stone’ carries on with a pounding double-bass section that segues into a groovy mid-tempo section that remains highly melodic and memorable before it picks up the pace in the second half with a rousing solo trade-off that the band does incredibly well. The title track, with its introspective acoustic guitar intro before giving way to its traditional metal firestorm complete with melodically-soaring vocals during the chorus, wailing along with the charging music underneath it as it hurtles along, with the up-tempo ‘Too Decayed to Wait’ playing the same field almost as good as it’s preceding track but with the added benefit of an extra dose of intensity throughout that allows it to come off as a faster overall version.
The second half of the album isn’t bad with ‘Crosswinds’ that brings out the speed attack with a pounding drum attack bolstered by a frenetic guitar-riff that seems to veer just short of chaotic as it races for the finish line and peppered with appropriate use of death-metal growls to create one of its highlights. Next song ‘Take It to the Grave’ seems to be the first out-and-out clunker on the album, mostly because it doesn’t tend to do anything new that the other tracks featured and seems to be going through-the-motions with its lackluster riffs, and the lethargic pace seems to carry over to ‘Sleep of Virtue’ which features a lot of the same problems only punctuated with a middling acoustic section midway through. Thankfully, it picks back up in time for the solo-work which saves it considerably, and the enthusiasm and energy is carried over to the final good tracks ‘Silence the Scream’ and ‘The Great Artiface,’ the former featuring some groovy chorus riffing that stays in the mid-tempo but cries out for some live-rounds, the latter carrying off some exceptional speed-metal passages and an energy that’s totally infectious and memorable amongst the chaos.
Overall, there’s not too much to dislike with this album if you can get past the second half’s round of songs that seem like filler since the first half here would’ve made for a truly serviceable album, with this ending up feeling like there’s too many songs crammed onto it mostly because of the instrumentals which should’ve been integrated into the songs as a whole effort. While it’s not as spectacular or stand-out as their debut this tends to feel more of the same once it gets to the later half as it generally plays out one note and repeats it ad nausea. Granted, that’s a fun note that really gets played out here with its’ soulful, melodically leaning old-school metal vibe played to perfection and enthusiasm, but it’s a little too bloated overall to be anything more than a solid, serviceable album.
Holy Grail are a somewhat interesting band in that they almost seamlessly blend the old and new traits of metal to create something that is rather quite fun to listen to. Their debut album was entitled Crisis In Utopia and was released in 2010 to mild acclaim and was met with praise for its balls-out style of riffing, clever use of bass to make more of a solid foundation for the music than many modern bands attempt, and fantastic vocal performance. The follow-up to this release is 2013's Ride The Void and if this is a sign of things to come from this year then 2013 looks to be rather spectacular indeed.
The second song is the best idea of how this album sounds. It is called Bestia Triumphans and it opens with some stop-start bursts of drumming and fast, technically proficient guitar work and vocals scattered in between these flurries of fast instrumental work. The guitar work is the highlight of this album with some really fast lead fills scattered throughout and the riffing is actually fairly awesome despite not being quite as technically adept as the lead work. Unlike many modern bands such as Black Veil Brides, Holy Grail really know how to make a dual guitar attack with a chugging rhythm guitarist and freakishly talented lead player actually work. Whereas in that particular band's latest effort the lead fills sound as forced and half-arsed as can be, on Ride The Void they sound completely necessary and really well integrated into the fast-paced bezerk style of music the band plays. Something that stands out about this release is that the breakdowns are actually nowhere near as annoying nor as noticeable as many modern metal bands such as Bullet For My Valentine and are really used to great effect, such as being located whilst a solo is playing so as to enable the listener to focus solely on the soloing instead of on everything else that is going on. The soloing itself is really rather fantastic to listen to with a no punches pulled styling to it whereby Eli Santana just goes insane on his fret board using all manner of guitar techniques such as fast four string sweeps and some crazily fast shredding on the bottom two strings. These are not the toneless solos that infest so many modern releases either but actually have a good sense of melody and timing to them that sets the guitar work of this release apart from so many bands.
The drumming on here is rather great as well with Bleeding Stone's fast, groovy riff being accompanied by a fantastic beat that makes great use of some quick flurries of double bass work and uses the hi-hat to good effect. The drums on this release have a really cool sound to them and are mixed absolutely perfectly so that they do not completely rape the mix but instead are constantly there thudding away and creating a beautiful rhythm for the guitars to play off and are still really enjoyable. The bass work is audible throughout such as the little fill right near the beginning of instrumental opener Archeus but is not quite as well mixed as it was on their debut. Bleeding Stone's pre-solo section shows off the skills of Blake Mount on his four string really well and this song perhaps stands as the best example of the sound of this release as well with its great riff set. The vocal performance throughout this consistently keeps to a high standard and really does add yet another dynamic to the band's sound that they use perfectly. He mainly sticks to a middle-high range that sounds faintly reminiscent of the glory days of metal when Accept, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were king, although he seldom strives to attempt to hit the notes that such vocalists as Dickinson hits. This is a band that honestly sounds straight out of the seventies with a few more modern tweaks to their sound such as the occasional use of screamed vocals, although these are extremely far and few in between, and the high level of technical proficiency that almost feels as though the band are showing off at times.
The title track is a song that one should consider listening to as an introduction to this band as well as Bleeding Stone as it really is a fantastic piece of work with a lot of fast guitar work throughout and the dual guitar assault is perhaps best utilized here with both guitars consistently being audible whilst never once clashing with each other. The drumming on this song is fast and well written and the high notes hit at around 2:50 by vocalist James Paul Luna are something to be marveled at. There are numerous solos on this song that show off the sense of clever timing and melody the two guitarists have and the breakdown section at 3.30 is a lot more tolerable and enjoyable than most bands of today. This release is one that has a sense of fun and enjoyment that so many are missing today and just makes you want to sing along, strum an air guitar along to and wail your lungs out as tonelessly as you want whilst never once forgetting how incredible this truly is. If you have an ounce of self respect then I consider this an essential purchase for you. Just listen to moments such as the ridiculously fast opening guitar work to Too Decayed To Wait and the riff-fest that is Bleeding Stone and the amazing vocals on the title track and allow those to convince you that this is a must-buy.