Heaven Shall Burn - WandererI love seeing bands progress beyond their infant stages, taking their influences and branching out into worlds unknown. Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn are not one of those bands you think of when you picture the word “progress.” They’ve taken their signature sound from 2004’s landmark Antigone, refined their attack, and proceeded to beat us over the head with variations of their trademark brand of metalcore/death metal/whatever it is the cool kids are calling them these days. Still, I love their formula of tight riffing, heavy-artillery double-bass-littered drums, and multi-layered vocals from the bowels of Hell. That said, this formula tends to get old after a while. So what are Heaven Shall Burn to do on their eighth album, Wanderer, their first without founding drummer Matthias Voigt?

The answer’s simple: up the intensity level, make the melodic moments shine brighter than the sun, and sacrifice none of the things that made Heaven Shall Burn the ferocious beast it is. The band channeled their inner Bolt Thrower because, with some exceptions, I haven’t heard the band sound this vicious since 2002’s brutal Whatever It May Take. Once second track “Bring The War Home” goes past the electronic-sounding drums about a few seconds in, new drummer Christian Bass wastes no time in proving he’s a worthy successor to Voigt’s throne. His blistering double-bass work and clever cymbal play blend well with the riffing of guitarists Maik Weichert and Alexander Dietz. And the vocals? Kudos to Markus Bischoff for still sounding like he possesses a raging flamethrower of a throat. This is classic Heaven Shall Burn, only meaner and more ferocious. A necessary progression and regression, all in one. Also, “Prey To God” pummels savagely, aided by George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher’s (Cannibal Corpse) vocals.

Despite the intensity increasing, there are also nods to the classic sound on the more melodic sections of Wanderer. “Passage Of The Crane” opens with a melody that brings back pleasant memories of Colony-era In Flames. Breakout track “Corium” also possesses that Gothenburg feel mid-way in, bookended by some rather savage riffing, and an opening melody that is just anthemic. Speaking of anthems, Heaven Shall Burn continue their trend of paying tribute to classic bands by covering classic songs and making them their own. Sodom‘s “Agent Orange” sounds venomous with Bischoff’s ear-piercing screams, topped off with a guitar solo by former Sodom guitarist Frank Blackfire. Closing out the album is a tasteful rendition of My Dying Bride‘s classic, “The Cry of Mankind,” featuring clean vocals by Sólstafir‘s Aðalbjörn Tryggvason.

Heaven Shall Burn Band 2016
There are a few issues with Wanderer, however. The back-end of Wanderer feels like the band was running out of steam. “Save Me” would be otherwise middling had it not been for Nick Hipa’s (Wovenwar, ex-As I Lay Dying) guitar solo. Plus, “The Loss of Fury” isn’t a good song to open up the album with, as it sounds docile compared to its immediate follow-up, “Bring The War Home.” Production-wise, the Tue Madsen mix is standard Heaven Shall Burn. Guitars are up-front and heavy, the drums are heavy and a bit distorted (especially the cymbals at times), but thankfully Eric Bischoff’s bass makes a few more appearances than it did on 2013’s Veto. Otherwise, dynamics don’t exist in this dojo, sensei. Also, they cut back on layering Markus’ vocals for the most part, as we don’t need gentle reminders how savage his voice is.

Heaven Shall Burn haven’t reinvented the wheel with Wanderer, nor are they going to change the minds of their detractors with this release. That said, they have brought back the much-missed intensity of their older days, and for that I am thankful. They accomplished this while sacrificing none of the anthemic melodies that make Heaven Shall Burn such a memorable, aggressive beast. Welcome back, gents, and may the rage continue.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: heavenshallburn.com | facebook.com/officialheavenshallburn
Releases Worldwide: September 16th, 2016

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    The embedded track sounds like that other song from that other melodic death metal band. I can’t remember which one, but you know, the one that is all melodic and deathy.

    • AndySynn

      Huh, not an accusation I’ve ever really understood to be honest. Out of all the “Melodic Death Metal” bands out there HSB have always been one of the ones who’ve very much had their own sound… in fact, that’s my main issue with the embedded track, it’s just very generic “them”.

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        Maybe. But to me, this sounds like a generalisation. I’ve hardly listened to the band, yet I feel as if I’ve heard this all before.

        That being said, it is pretty catchy stuff.

        • AndySynn

          I definitely should have added a “to me” to that comment, to be fair, to make it seem less like I was haranguing you.

          So, to me HSB have always been one of the ones who’ve very much had their own sound.

          Also, I don’t know why AMG went with “Downshifter” for this review. “Bring the War Home” is also out there and is much better (in my opinion).

          • Grymm

            That was because the review was submitted when “Downshifter” was the only track available.

            I wish “Corium” was available.

          • AndySynn

            Ah, interesting. The turn-around at NCS tends to be I submit stuff the day before, or more often on the day, and it goes up lickety-split.

          • We have a 10 ten day editing process where 12 experts dissect each piece then each other.

          • AndySynn

            We operate by the South Park method… quick turn-around, topical content, low standards.

          • A civilized conversation with a plethora of self-irony, rather than picking on each-other and arguing over camels… Are you guys feeling alright?

  • basenjibrian

    Eric Bischoff? Is he moonlighting from his job with the WWE? (LOL. I am so juvenile)

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Standard sounding metal undermines awesome cover art. That’s the artwork Haken should have used earlier this year.

    • Reese Burns

      I like the music, but totally agree on the album art, it’s gorgeous.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        There’s been some great, minimalist artwork this year. Darkher, Vukari, Harakiri for the Sky.

        • Reese Burns

          A lot of bands don’t realize how important album covers are, they’re supposed to be a visual reflection of your music, what the listener is supposed to visualize when they hear it, so it’s good to see bands like this that actually give a shit.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Good call. Truly beautiful cover art, but music isn’t my thing.

  • Mark Z

    Good album and great review, definitely their strongest since Iconoclast. I definitely agree they seemed to be running out of steam at the end though. Going back to an album like Whatever It May Take after this is pretty revelatory, on that record it just felt like they had great ideas dribbling out of every orifice. This, not so much.

    • Reese Burns

      My problem with this is that a lot of the songs on here sound like they could be B-sides on any other HSB album. Nothing bad, but nothing outstanding.

    • ASTHX

      I’ll have to listen to the full album to judge it as a whole but neither of the 2 released tracks have stood out to me as anything special. I thought Veto was a terrific album with standout tracks like Hunters Will Be Hunted and Land of the Upright Ones, to me neither of the 2 new songs reach the level of those tracks.

  • Diego Molero

    Meh, sounds kinda average to me, average-good, but still average.

    This is unrelated, but is there a review coming for the new Hannes Grossmann’s album? That really is all kinds of awesome.

  • The Unicorn

    Yucky. I saw these guys in their infancy at NEM&HCF and I just don’t get the draw. Even then, they were 2nd rate to other bands like KsE, LoG and the like. But, I digress- I am also a grumpy old mare and metalcore in general makes me want to impale some floor-punching veegan-powered windmill kicker right in the throat. Good review as always, you are alright by me chum.

    • Josh Necromaniac

      In reality these guys are more melodic-death metal with some core elements… so imo they cannot be compared directly to KsE and the like.

  • It’s interesting that Nick Hipa has a guest solo on this album, considering that multiple riffs in both of the advance tracks I’ve heard sound like they were ripped directly from Shadows are Security.

  • Treble Yell

    Colony-era In Flames AND a MDB cover? Maybe I should check this album out…

    • Ferrous Beuller

      MDB cover featuring Solstafir vocalist, no less! What is this world we live in…

      • DrChocolate

        Word, Tryggvason’a appearance sealed the deal for me. Looking forward to hearing that.

  • JiffBruhYanno

    Have you guys heard the Dark Purity mix of these tracks? The mix on this album is appalling and was hoping to know if the alternative mix they’ve released is any better?
    Can hardly hear the guitars on this and the vocals are way too up front.

    • Grymm

      I wish we got that mix.

      I also wish the Dark Purity mix was available to us US/Canada fans without paying an arm, leg, and kidney for it.

    • Bryan94

      Got my Hands on the Dark Purity mix, in mp3 v0 Format. I live in Germany.

      The DR-Meter clocks in at “4-5″…but it really sounds better, the top end from the guitars and double bass really sound more “natural”.

      The dont sound so harsh too..roll of way nicer.
      And you can hear a bass wahey! :D

      Overall it sounds way more dynamic to me.
      I cant listen to the original mix too, it hurts my ears…:P

  • “Dynamics don’t exist in this dojo, sensei.” Love that line. Cobra Kai, never die!

  • Austin Lovell

    Never been the biggest fan of these guys. I put a couple song on here or there but for the most part, as unique as their sound is to them, their style gets old real quick. I can never make it through an album without getting bored.

  • Dead1

    I’m impressed the DR is 6. Invictus was so clipped it gave me headaches and I gave the CD away. But then you say it’s still brickwalled so I’ll give this one a miss.

  • DrChocolate

    I was way high on Antigone back in the day, and, as is the way of life, I have completely missed the train on HSB since. I loved that suffocating, blast furnace, wall of fire sound they have – guess I should rectify the last decade or so and jump back into this band.

  • sir_c

    Not bad per se, but a little generic melodeath indeed. Especially cos I just finished listening to EoS’ Crimson album. Christ, is it 20 years already? I’m feeling old now.

  • herrschobel

    i have to admit this site has become the first to open in the morning when i enter my Studio and start my daily grind …. love y´all :-P

  • The thing that didn’t hook me with this band is that it all sounds “plain” to me. And the embedded track is not helping me to catch this record.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Certainly can pound it, but they’re just a bit too heavy for me.

  • Tofu muncher

    Tee hee. Talking about “progress”, I HAVEN’T found your review on Opeth’s Sorceress. Link me up?

  • I havent read through all the comments here, but in my opinion, the two disc version of this album is worth it more for the covers. Theres quite a few gems, Cry of Mankind has already been mentioned, but theres an excellent cover of Blind Guardian’s “Valhalla” featuring Hansi Kursch himself, and a very decent cover of Tiamat’s “Whatever That Hurts”.