Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Heavatar - Opus I - All My Kingdoms (2013)

Side projects have always been a hit or miss when it comes to metal. There have been exceptional ones (Avantasia) and there have been not-so good ones (Solution .45). A lot of the other side projects just fall somewhere in between. Heavatar happens to be one of the bands that fall in between. Led by Van Canto singer Stefan Schmidt, Heavatar does many things right and some things that should have been left on the studio floor.

I for one am a big Van Canto fan. There is nothing more incredible than a power metal band that consists of all acapella singers and a drummer. They’re cover of Nightwish’s “Wishmaster” has to be heard to believed. Naturally when I found out that he put a band together with ex-Stratovarius drummer Jörg Michael, I was excited. When the first song “Replica” kicks on, it’s evident that Heavatar is going for a neo-classical sound. Directly inspired by Beethoven and Bach, it works. Stefan’s voice sounds like a much better James Hetfield and it fits perfectly with the epic music. The classical sounding piano in the bridge of “Replica” is outstanding and it creates a vibe that stretches for the majority of the album. The next track “Abracadabra” has a very old school metal sound to it and it keeps the neo classical flow going. The solo in this song is very reminiscent of old Stratovarius and one of my favorites on the album. The title track “All My Kingdoms” is a treat for the ears and the very best on the album. From the intro to the soaring chorus, this song rips it up.

The two tracks after “All My Kingdoms” keep the flow of the album, but when it hits the sixth track and on, it slowly falls apart. “Born to Fly” is too cheesy for its own good. “Luna! Luna” sounds like a filler song that doesn’t do anything to help the album. “The Look Above” is supposed to be an epic 11 minute song, but it fails to deliver and it ends up sounding very boring and very pretentious. It goes absolutely nowhere and it has no payoff. The last track “To the Metal” is a complete dud. It ruins everything that the album stood for on the first five tracks. It has nothing to make it a closing song on an album. What were they thinking? The guitar work is lazy and the lyrics are atrocious. Was it supposed to be some kind of joke?

As a debut album from a band with so much talent, it’s hard to recommend this wholeheartedly, because of its short comings. The first half of the album is incredible. The last half is a throwaway. The album wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t bookended by “To the Metal”. It should be a rule and album can’t be ended with the worst track. If anyone is curious about how Stefan sounds with an actual band behind him, it may be worth a listen. As for other casual power metal fans, look elsewhere.


- Brian DuBois

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