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Saccharine vampiric tale - 60%

Lane, June 8th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Noise Records

Heavenly's 'Dust to Dust' was quite cheap and it has a vampire theme, so I gave it a try. This is the French symphonic power metal band's third album and as you might have guessed, first I hear from them.

"Symphonic" is a big obstacle for me. It's usually those same kind of compositional solutions from classical music. And it seems to be same with this one. Well, what a surprise! Same goes with Heavenly's music; it's all so familiar and usual. If you want name dropping, I think Helloween, Gamma Ray and Rhapsody are enough said. I like basic heavy metal parts much more than this symphonic thing, but there's nothing new introduced. The main theme is a battle between good and evil. Therefore there's darker, heavier and more melacholic songs, but also joyous ones. Sometimes the band manages to be really grand, but a lot of time simply pompous. Overlong songs are simply too much and what about the album's length then? Long story plus instrumental parts make a hell of a lot of music! This is a real tough task on one listening. I wonder why they included 'Miracle's new version, because it's the biggest bag of clichés I've heard for some time. Playing is very good, but that's not a surprise.

Vocals are in vein of ex-Helloween singer Michael Kiske, Edguy's Tobias Sammett and at some point I had to check out the booklet, if Gamma Ray man Kai Hansen was guesting on the album, but no he was not! So, it's high-pitched and vibration is used. Mr. Sotto can sing for sure, but his voice is too thin for my liking. A lot of choirs are used throughout the album, backing up his voice. And it works to some point, but I soon got an overdose of these choirs. The band's name, the theme and lyrics made me think Heavenly are a Christian band, but I'm not sure about it. The lyrics are partly good, but some just as clichéd as the music. While the sound is clear, it misses something from the lower end, leaving a feeling that it could have been more powerful.

I'm sure Heavenly worked hard for this album. No matter how hard they worked, they did not manage to do something unique. And the length is really a problem here! Both the songs and the album itself. Some of 'Dust to Dust' is simply too saccharine for my liking.

(Originally written for in 2005)

The Best Heavenly has to Offer - 100%

Gantris, January 16th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Noise Records

I've been an avid fan of Heavenly for around 5 years now and I've noticed that the band's music is very melodic and has a distinct sound away from most power metal bands. It's known that they've taken huge inspiration from Gamma Ray and Helloween. While this is true, Heavenly managed to take all of the essential elements of power metal and blend it into this masterpiece of a conceptual album.

Ben Sotto has always been Heavenly's vocalist and prime keyboardist and a damn great one at that. I find it really interesting that Ben purposefully crafted his vocals to be raspy and match the voice of a believable vampire, the main protagonist of this concept album. Sotto's vocals seemed to be at their peak in this album before he strained them while recording the band's fourth album Virus. A noticeable feat is in the second to last song "Kingdom Come" during the bridge after the insane guitar duel (which I'll get to in a second), where Sotto hits the extremely high notes that still to this day bring chills to my spine, and then reverts it to the last chorus before the ballad an title track "Dust To Dust". However there's one pet peeve about him that I can't get over, the broken English in the lyrics. It's present in most Heavenly albums, and it just makes the idea of the song confusing sometimes. Nonetheless the broken English is drained out and isn't a problem in the long run, as the gang vocals implemented in (all) the tracks make it sound more badass and catchy. As far as the keyboards go, there's not much to say but the fact that the keys match very well with the guitars and it does a great job creating an ambient atmosphere, especially in the intro to "Victory (Creature of the Night)", and the 57 second interlude "The Ritual".

Second off, the guitars on this album compared to the rest of Heavenly's work is straight up brilliant. Each solo is extremely unique and the riffs flow with the vocals next to perfectly. Charley Corbiaux and Frédéric Leclercq prove again to be phenomenal with their work and stand out in this album more than they would in the previous two albums. Although the guitars blend in nicely here with the keyboards, it's kind of drowned out by the ambience of keys and the boatload of sound effects which is fairly disappointing in retrospect, but doesn't take away from the overall finished product. One of the best guitar feats in this album was the duel between Corbiaux and Leclercq in "Kingdom Come", which makes the story of the song more badass and adds fuel to the fire for the listener imaginatively. The track "Hands of Darkness" is easily the most intricate song in terms of guitar off the whole album and is wonderfully mixed with the keyboards and matches the drumbeat next to perfectly, as well as most other tracks of this album, proving how great of a guitarist Corbiaux is. Sadly, Leclercq on the other hand left not to long after the recording of Dust to Dust was finished to move to DragonForce as their current bassist.

Max Pilo's drumming is quite a feat for this album, and unfortunately it's the last we would see of him with Heavenly as he departed which threw Sotto for a loop in trying to find a new drummer and saying goodby to a founding member. The track where the drumming is most notable would be "Evil", as the double-bass kick drums explode the track into some tight speed metal. Pilo's drumming also stands out on the track "Victory (Creature of the Night)", where the drums flow perfectly with the guitar and vocals. Another thing that's also nice is the ever changing tempo and speed of the drumming through each track, further adding as to why Dust To Dust is a power metal masterpiece. I don't know very much else to say about the drums, as well as I'm personally not very knowledgeable about them, but I can say the production is perfect and is neither too quiet nor too intense.

On a songwriting note, I must say Heavenly went all out with this album. The idea of vampires can be pretty cheesy especially in this day and age where vampires are supposed to be seen as edgy and shit, but that modern requisite assumption is not at all present in this album's overall story. The story is well thought about about a man in the middle ages who gets ultimately killed by a vampire known as Master / Master of Doom, and returns to life as a vampire living for centuries in human history ultimately watching humanity close around it's impending doom. Later the character learns the only way to become human again is to kill the vampire that bit him, and in the end comes to a final battle with Master, where they both die in the process. Have to admit it's quite intriguing huh? The album artwork also captures very well the character of this album and the idea of what it's about; a tale of vampire badassery.

One thing about this album that sort of confuses me is the amount of how many extra sound effects there are (e.g. a heart beating in "Kingdom Come", a choir in "The Ritual", constant bell noises heard throughout the album, etc.). While admitted it does further add to the ambience and story telling, it seems like it would be a conflict to include those on live performances, as well as how much gang vocals are present in the album altogether. Again, it still doesn't take away from the finished product.

Essentially the idea of how well thought out this conceptual album was makes it essential to have as a fan of power metal as it is definitely up there in the ranks. Heavenly was at their peak during this album in it's production, and it never gets old. I highly recommend this album as it is a power metal masterpiece despite some minor flaws here and there.

One of the Best - 97%

s1al, March 31st, 2009

In some ways, I'm finding it difficult to write a review for this album. It is my favorite album, produced by my favorite band. With Heavenly's latest album set to release later this year, I figured that I would take the time to sit down and right a review for this absolutely striking piece of art.

Heavenly's first album, "Coming from the Sky," was a very solid, very catchy, very derivative release. With vocals that sounded like a cross between Kiske, Halford, and Hansen and typical PM song structure, it was an enjoyable release. "Sign of the Winner" took things a bit further, with frontman/songwriter Ben Sotto employing a greater variety of vocal styles and more progressive song structure. While not the most talented group of individuals in the power metal arena, the rest of the band members were still quite good.

That brings us to "Dust to Dust." This album takes all of the elements that made CftS and SotW so enjoyable, improves them, adds a more progressive element, throws in a true concept/story, and mixes it all up into one of the best power metal albums ever released.

The story, told in three chapters, is a bit odd for power metal; it's about a vampire. Normally one would think that is the sort of thing that is best left for angsty gothic metal bands to write about, but Sotto has repeatedly proven that he will do whatever he damn well pleases with his writing. The story follows the protagonist from the moment of his conversion, down through the centuries to the modern age, and finally to the battle where he confronts and defeats his "master," the demonic being that originally converted him. Cheesy: Yes; Awesome: Yes.

As for the individual instruments, the guitars show more variety on this album than on previous releases. Corbiaux and LeClerq have two rather different styles, and both fit the music quite well. The drumming has much more depth than on CftS or SotW, as Pilo has expanded far beyond his original ability to become exactly what this band's drummer needs to be. The bass, while more active than in many melodic power metal bands, is still pushed to the background as (very solid) support. Sotto's synth work is truly excellent on this album, hitting a variety of instruments and either weaving together with the rest of the instruments or sitting in the foreground of the music.

And, of course, there are the vocals. While Sotto has since become my favorite vocalist, I would be lying if I said that was how I felt when I first heard the album. It would be fair to compare him to Kiske, Hansen, or even King Diamond. His range has expanded considerably, and he has played with three or four different styles for his higher parts. Though it may take a while to become accustomed to Sotto's vocals on this album, especially if you are new to metal, it is well worth it when you realize his incredible ability.

I won't give an individual breakdown of the songs, but I will bring up some points that I think are worth mentioning. 'Evil' is a great first song (the intro is spoken) with a bloody brilliant intro, but it is surpassed by 'Lust For Life,' which mixes the great instrumentation of this album with the insanely catchy nature of Heavenly's older songs. 'Call of the Wild' is one of those songs that's really more reminiscent of Dragonforce than anything else, with pounding double-bass and some epic vocal portions. 'Keepers of the Earth,' is another memorable song with some of the social commentary that is so often forgotten in power metal. My favorite song, though, is 'Fight for Deliverance,' which opens with an amazing drum solo and proceeds to hit hard for the entirety of its seven-minute length, save for the absolutely ridiculous synth/tenor-vocals portion that reminds me of the silly things that Kai Hansen has so often done in Gamma Ray. The album closes with the title track, which is, far and away, my favorite ballad of all time.

This album doesn't really have weaknesses, but there is one part that doesn't quite meet the standards of the rest of the album. 'Miracle' is a rather odd song that reminds me somewhat of a higher-pitched 'Rebellion in Dreamland,' but completely unable to measure up to that song; if it had, I would be giving this album a 100%. Still a 9/10 for that track, though. There are some other parts that might have been done better, but none noticeable enough for me to mention them here.

All in all, still my favorite album and one of the best in power metal.

The Worst Album I've Ever Heard - 2%

EternalDreams, November 27th, 2007

I don’t understand at all the amount of praise this album has got. I bought it on a whim when I saw it cheap at a local record store. Hearing a few good things about it and wanting to expand my power metal collection I thought I would give it a go. What did I get?

A total fucking waste of money and quite possibly the worst metal album I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t find a single thing to like about this album. It’s hollow, cheesy, boring, annoying and talentless power metal with a complete lack of balls. Now I’m not one of those people who goes around bashing all bands labeled as “flower metal”. Hell, Sonata Arctica are one of my favourite power metal bands and they are the very definition of flower metal. But this album goes to far.

So what exactly is wrong with it? Well to start off, the guitars sound incredibly weak as the play rehashed powerless riffs with a shitty overproduced tone. Anything resembling solo sounds like something Herman Li would play if they had 90% less technical ability… and that’s a very bad thing. The songs themselves lack anything interesting and merely boring wankfests of various symphonics and annoying as fuck wannabe singalong vocal lines. The lyrics are aweful Z-Grade vampire cliché’s that sound like they are written by a 14 year old Anime nerd whose just discovered Anne Rice. Everything is incredibly corny, not cool fun corny like an Evil Dead movie, but the kinda corny you would find in High School musical. There’s just way too much going on in this horribly over-the-top grandiose exercise in self gratification. And I haven’t even started on the vocals…

Ben Sotto is the most annoying vocalist I’ve ever heard in any metal band. His vocals lack any sort of power or conviction, he tries to show emotion and range but falls flat on his face as he fails time and time again. That’s when he’s singing alone and not with the totally fucking lame back up. He tries to sound so serious about the vomit-inducing subject material and that just makes the whole thing sound like some big joke (Oh how I wish this were a joke band).

I’m really amazed and how people can enjoy this, because I really can’t find anything worthwhile at all in this album and it does nothing but annoy the shit outta me. Oh well more power to them. I recommend staying very very far away, unless you are really into the whole over the top grandiose power metal thing, even then I say stick to the Rhapsody. I still can’t believe I spent money on this…

Fuck yes! - 100%

The_Ghoul, October 21st, 2007

This album is in my "flawless" collection, a classic, a god among kings. Everything about it is classic Heavenly: the fast guitars, high (sometimes too high) singing, uplifting chorii, unrelenting drumming from Pilo, and epic. Oh god is this album epic. Every song has enough riffs for 4 more songs, yet they cram all those epic riffs into one song. Picking a favorite song is hard, as all of these songs are FUCKING AWESOME in some way or another.

As for the actual style, this is the culmination of the last couple albums (and demo) for Heavenly; the neoclassical direction hinted at on Sign of the Winner is forefront here; guitars do solos that are clearly Malmsteen influenced, yet they retain that power metal tongue in cheek attitude that prevents it from being overly egotistic.

It's really 2 awesome strengths: it's really fast and has fast, complex solos, with fast, godly drumming, yet it ALSO has great songwriting. The songs are all expertly crafted, conjuring up images of all sorts of figures from Mike Romeo to Jon Oliva to Yngwie. As far as being "progressive", it's only progressive in the sense that the songwriting is indeed much more complex than anything else they've done, and that they have a story. And yes, unlike a lot of concept albums, the story helps. A lot. When I listen to Dust to Dust (the song), goosebumps go down my neck.

I might be spoiled now, because since this album is the quintessential power metal album, a perfect album, really, I will never be able to appreciate other power metal albums. I'm sad. That's the only bad thing about this album: I will never be able to appreciate other power metal efforts, since they can only pale in comparison to this, even Heavenly's new album, Virus.

Recommended to anybody who likes power metal -- you'll not regret it. In fact, I will guarantee that you'll shit bricks when you listen. It's that good.

A true diamond in the rough - 83%

Bloodstone, March 27th, 2005

A bit hard to come up with a really fitting title for a review of this album, actually. I'm also having a hard time to develop a real opinion of it, because of its quite extreme pros and cons, of which the latter actually dominates in sheer amount.

Let's see; the sound and overall execution of the material is enormously derivative of the rest of the Euro-power scene, the production sucks, the band lacks a lot of instrumental talent (a rarity for power metal nowadays, but unfortunately it doesn't make them sound unique or anything), and finally the album is too long for its own good. Damnation, this one doesn't seem to have much going for it at all. Now what could possibly save this album from being lumped among those other lacklusters of power metal that are slowly corroding the whole power scene by giving it a bad name?

Well, it's the actual SONGWRITING, that is really far more impressive than it should be on an album in this vein. Most of the time it moves along in a straightforward and slightly above average power metal fashion; however, every now and then absolute and utter brilliance strikes. At times, this album shows potential of being THE power metal album of the fucking millennium, I shit you not. Ok, it IS pretty derivative even during those moments, but hey, this is power metal we're talking about here, where everyone must subscribe to the fact that "a good song is always a good song", and in light of the current situation of power metal, it could actually have been worse.

This is an AMBITIOUS motherfucker of an album. Just as requiem mentioned, the song are long, feature many different sections and are really complex in structure, as is the case with the vocal lines and also the lyrics. Yup, you guessed it: it's a concept album...about some random guy who gets bitten by a vampire sometime in the middle age, and his struggles between life and death, good and evil, etc...not bad, even though some of the lines come off as a bit forced in places due to where the band comes from (France...frog metal omgwtflolz:S). Anyway, at times it amazes me how the band actually manages to connect all these various parts into such amazing, glorious and insanely EPIC metal tunes that actually sound as though they're making any sense...

...while at other times it's not quite the same pretty sight. Several songs are a bit inconsistent in themselves; for example, in some songs the verses and choruses are little more than your basic, typical speedy double bass flower trip under random mediocre harpsicord/stradivarius/wtf-ever patterns, while in the middle there's maybe four or five extremely distinct, nicely connected, epic and memorable parts that pretty much salvage the whole song and prevents you from losing your attention from the album as whole. But only occasionally do manage to fukin rawk from beginning to end...once again referring to requiem's review, he definitely has a point in saying that the band doesn't *quite* possess the talent to wield an album of this extraordinary magnitude. Still, those moments when the album truly gets going have to be worth SOMETHING...

Getting right to describing the band's sound...holy fuck, I hear so many other bands on here, I don't even know where to begin. Put briefly, I would perhaps say a more flowery version of Gamma Ray, circa 'Somewhere Out in Space'...but that's not quite the case for album as WHOLE, actually. When describing the riffage (yes, actual riffs it does have, making me seriously hesitate in labelling it "flower" metal), The Ray is the closest comparison, but there's also a fair amount of key work on here, and that's where the bands Stratovarius, Rhapsody and Dark Moor come to mind...moreso than the entirely keyboard-dominated Sonata Arctica, probably. When the band is REALLY blazing away at full speed, I think Dragonforce, much because of the "bombastic" double bass work (attained through mixing it ridiculously loud, of course, but that's another discussion) and extremely light and high-pitched, almost castrati vocals (comes through more in this band than in Dragonforce, though).

Yeah, the vocals are kinda weak, unfortunately. I mean, the vocal MELODIES themselves are absolutely great and memorable as fuck, but the way they are sung...he hits high notes rather frequently, but isn't doing so with much power and conviction, sorry to say. Having had a go at high-pitched vocals myself, I think the problem may be that he's not singing from his STOMACH, instead preferring to hit those notes using only his throat and therefore attaining very limited power when doing it. That Elisa-replacement dude in Dark Moor comes to mind - but a lot of the time he also sounds a lot like Kai Hansen, and even Timo Kotipelto (just listen to the pre-chorus of "Keepers of the Earth": "Looking at the sky-eeeyy, I am waiting for moooore!!") at other times, if maybe not quite coming anywhere close to outdoing any of them. Still, this is the dude behind 98% of the songwriting on here, so kudos to him for that. In general, this isn't the first album you put on when craving for instrumental masturbation; the production (heavy and RAW, though not in a good way) doesn't help much either.

Indeed, this album is HARD to get into, especially for a power metal album (there's no prog here, for those you wondering). I ordered this album together with Exodus' comeback album, and thus this disc had to be shelved for quite a while after I spun it the first time. Those things I wrote in the second paragraph were my exact feelings initially; it was after maybe spin five that I TRULY began to pick up on the songs' hidden qualities. Buried under a pile of total flower metal cheese is an extremely strong, albeit flawed, epic POWER metal album. God knows I've given it enough time by now, though, having owned and listened to it on various occasions for over a year. There was a period when I hailed it as pretty much the best power metal album ever, just as it had "fully" grown on me, but today, judging it with more experienced ears and my usual critic's hat on, 83% does feel like a fair rating when everything is considered. After all, my ratings system is less generous than average. Yet be aware; I see endless fields of potential in this band, and I am soooo looking forward to hearing from them again.

Highlights include in particular the first two songs, "Evil" and "Lust for Life" (see: the new Freedom Call album for more of those totally unoriginal song titles;)). "Glory to the miracle! TO THE MIRACLE!! I was damned, now I'm living again!" The epicness prevails. See also the intro section of "Lust for Life", plus the chorus: "I don't belong to the sky, I just follow my way!!" As for pure heaviness, look no further than "Keepers of the Earth" at 4.41, with that rhythm guitar backing the solo - awesome heavy/melodic combo here, especially at 4.54 when everything comes together along with those cymbals tearing up the whole place, and more... The album-closing piano ballad is a personal fave, and here's where the slightly mispronounced vocals actually become really charming. "I am free, flying beyond the stars/Dust to Dust, leaving with human's soul!" Kinda similar to Gamma Ray's "Lake of Tears" in places, except made even cooler. "Look to the'll see me again!!" Again; more of that shit, and you have a true masterpiece on your hands.