Hevilan – Symphony of Good and Evil Review

If you are one of the poor souls who’s managed to follow my pedestrian music journalism career, you know that I’m a hopeless Nevermore weenie. There’s just something about the way they combined immense, progressive, down-tuned riffing with powerful, operatic vocals that is incredibly pleasing to my ears. I was therefore absolutely defenseless against the promo blurb that touted Hevilan guitarist Johnny Moraes as having appeared in Warrel Dane’s live band, as well as on the late Nevermore singer’s posthumous solo release, Shadow Work.1 I did my obligatory search of the site to make sure that no one else had review dibs on Hevilan, and finding no such dibs, I quickly claimed the promo for the Brazilian band’s sophomore record as my own. In fact, the only other writer ever to have referenced Hevilan on the site is the late Swordborn. I’m sure this fact will only serve to fuel the preposterous rumor that Swordborn and Holdeneye are, in fact, the same person.

Having no prior experience with Hevilan, cursory listens to Symphony of Good and Evil made it abundantly clear that the band seeks to emulate the masters who dwell at the heavy end of the prog/power/symphonic metal pool. The thick seven-string guitar tone and aggressive riffing style screams Nevermore, the choirs and gritty vocals of Alex Pasquale point to Symphony X, and the more tender, melodramatic moments remind of Kamelot. Moraes has some serious chops, as can be heard on single “Devil Within – Part II – Hammer of the Gods.” He lays down some juicy rhythm guitar work and a Loomis/Romeo-approved solo while Pasquale does his best Russell Allen impression on the song’s memorable chorus. It’s a wisely-chosen single, displaying the band at their best, when the pedal is punched squarely onto the floor and the aggression is at maximum levels.

Fortunately, Symphony of Good and Evil spends most of its time in the heavier realms, because its brief forays into mellower styles are not great. “Dark Paradise” starts things off perfectly with a fantastic Nevermore riff, and the rest of the song gives me a Paradise Lost-era Symphony X vibe. After a choral opening on “Rebellion of the Saints,” the track drops into a sick groove with Moraes noodling above, and it reminds me so much of Nevermore that it nearly brings me to tears. The 4-track title series closes the album well. “Symphony of Good and Evil – Part I – Revelation” sounds like it came off of Theocracy’s self-titled debut, “Part II – Dark Ages” is mostly instrumental and lands like a mixture of Symphony X’s The Odyssey and Fleshgod Apocalypse’s King, and “Part III – Song of Rebellion” uses a similar style to that found on unsung progressive metal masterpiece The Fire Within by Eternity’s End. But not all is well in the songwriting department of Hevilan, as evidenced by “Always in My Dreams” and “Waiting for the Right Time.” The latter is an inexplicable Stone Temple Pilots grunge ballad placed smack dab in the middle of the record’s strong second half, and the former brutally displays the album’s primary flaw.

Alex Pasquale is an extremely talented singer. He has a great aggressive timbre that gives you the Allen/Dio/Jørn/Cornell feels, but when he puts himself in situations where he needs to hit and maintain a note, he struggles badly. There’s a part of “Always in My Dreams” where he sings the title and goes for an extended hold on “dreams” and you can literally hear him warbling flat and sharp of the note the entire time. Unfortunately, this flaw, while not often nearly as bad as that example, is found on many of the tracks and somewhat taints their quality. Even the choir vocals sound off-key at times, most notably on the intro to the otherwise good “Rebellion of the Saints.” The record feels overlong at 53 minutes and would be lightyears better (and 10 minutes shorter) if both ballads were cut, but there’s still more good than bad here. Tracks like “Dark Paradise,” “Great Battle,” “Here I Am,” “Hammer of the Gods,” “Dark Ages,” and “Song of Rebellion” should please fans of this style.

I sometimes wonder why more bands don’t go for this highly technical, progressive style of heavy metal, but I think it’s because the bands who succeed here have to approach perfection in both musical talent and songwriting. Sure, Communic and Witherfall keep throwing decent platters into the ring, but the seemingly untouchable gods of the genre remain high above in the clouds. Hevilan will have to tighten up their vocal approach and avoid the kinds of songwriting blunders found on Symphony, but I think they have the chops to surprise us with a very good or even great record at some point.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Brutal Records
Websites: hevilan.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/hevilan
Releases Worldwide: March 19th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. That record, despite being incomplete and Frankensteined together after Dane’s death, is still a solid 3.0 in my book.
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