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Enjoyable retro metal experience - 86%

slayrrr666, March 6th, 2013

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.