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The Burning of Heaven has begun - 75%

EyesOfGlass, June 23rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, Lifeforce Records

Heaven Shall Burn’s first full-length record, “Asunder”, shows the rawer side of the now established band, and curiously, it might be the one where their hardcore and death metal influences best flow together, even though the album itself is pretty straight-forward, as the band doesn’t change much their formula throughout the album as we listen to it. The melodic death metal influence has a very strong presence in the music, but not the Gothenburg-styled melody, but the melody built of tremolo-picked riffs like those that you can find in Dismember’s songs like “Override of the Overture” or “On Frozen Fields” mixed with hardcore-rooted riffs and some breakdowns.

As I said before, the songs on the album doesn’t differ much one from the other. The opener “To Inherit the Guilt” pretty much sums up all of the elements that we will find on the album in only one song, but still, we can find some interesting and particular elements as we listen to it. Several songs, contrary to most metalcore acts of the moment, such as Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying or Unearth, show a strong classic death metal influence, like the riffs in “Cold” or the dissonant melodies of “Betrayed Again”, as well as the drumming parts of “Pass Away” and “The Drowned and the Saved”. Yet, the most solid songs within this album are those where they succeed in recreating sad and desolate atmospheres with accurate guitar melodies and Marcus Bischoff’s (whom I will talk about in the next paragraph) heartrending screams, with songs like “Deification” and “Asunder” being clear examples of it. The former also shows a solid songwriting approach, while the latter is probably the song that best stands out when talking about melancholic atmospheres. However, while the guitar-duo manages to deliver some very good death metal riffs, the lack of guitar leads or solos is something that holds back this album. Anyone that is into Heaven Shall Burn knows that guitar solos/leads aren’t a common resource in the band’s music, as we can find maybe one or two per album. But this record in particular would’ve been great with some well-thought-out leads or solos to compliment those melancholic riffs and passages or to back up the aggressiveness of other tracks. We do get some of them in songs like “Pass Away” or “Asunder”, but they aren’t anything other-worldly and don’t add much to the overall atmosphere of the music, as nothing would change if we removed them from the album.

Now, let’s go with the vocals, as I said in the previous paragraph. If there is something I always liked about Heaven Shall Burn is that they never included clean vocals on their choruses, or anywhere on the song, something that under my point of view is quite good, as it breaks with the common stereotype of your screamed verse-clean chorus song format and the cheesyness of many of the songs with this structure. However, I have an issue with Marcus Bischoff’s vocal delivery. All over their 7 full-length records Marcus’s voice has remained intact and strong, which is important for a vocalist, but on the other side, he never varied much the vocal techniques he employed, his screams always have the same tone and feature little to almost none variations, something that becomes somewhat tiresome as one starts to listen to more and more songs by them. Despite this, on “Asunder” Marcus showcases a quite varied vocal repertoire, going from low growls to heartbreaking screams. “To Inherit the Guilt” takes us for a ride through most of the vocal resources that he will use on these songs, with some lines sung in a way reminiscent of Jeff Walker. “Deification” features some really sorrowful screams. “Pass Away” starts with a John Tardy-like grunt; while in “Where Is the Light?” he sounds like a German Karl Willets. I personally would’ve like that his performance on later albums would’ve been as varied as it is on this one. That is why I consider “Asunder” as Heaven Shall Burn’s most diverse album vocal wise.

All in all, even though it’s a somewhat repetitive and flawed album, “Asunder” is a very solid debut for a band. It that manages to make a fair mix of metal and hardcore with strong death metal influences, something that Heaven Shall Burn would improve throughout the years adding some elements and removing some others.

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