Wednesday, 16 January 2013

#243 Holy Grail - Ride the Void

For a long time I wondered when Holy Grail, the band still composed, to my knowledge, of most of White Wizzard's early line-up, was going to release a new album. I heard tell of "Ride the Void" late last year, and from there, knew I would be checking it out when I got hold of a copy. Fortunately, the generous gentlemen have the whole album streaming, pre-release, on the Metal Hammer website. It just goes to show, sometimes that magazine is vaguely useful.

It feels very, very long ago that I reviewed the band's début, Crisis in Utopia, and a lot has changed in my knowledge of metal, and I look for in bands since that time. As far as I can hear, Holy Grail have remained a very consistent outfit in that time. Über melodic and unapologetically modern sounding traditional metal is abound as much in this, Ride the Void, as in Crisis in Utopia before it. Crisp production and thundering, clean and sharp double-kick drumming punctuates the groove-laden, swinging riffs - the sort of riffs which sound like Judas Priest mated with Lamb of God. The latter band in this comparison brings me on to the first thing which imbues me with unease when it comes to the band - there is a degree of metalcore floating around on top of the mixture, like an overt and slightly unwelcome foam. This certainly has implications both positive and negative. The metal-purist in me isn't necessarily very pleased - I had, in fact, rather hoped that the band would drop the metalcore elements and focus on the traditional-metal side of the business, however, I don't know if that's what the band ever set out to do, and while the metalcore sections add a certain cast-in-a-mould angst and whine to the proceedings, and it's safe to say that Holy Grail are one of the few purported traditional metal revival bands to have quite so many breakdowns and harmonies. On the other hand, the band do it well, and I'm sure there are people unlike me - in other words, who aren't metal-conservative bastards, will lap this stuff up, and so they should - the band do it well. Groovy, catchy and with a thorough feeling of rock n' roll, there's nothing in the mixture of influences in the album which could even begin to write-it-off.

On the whole, the album is an infectiously catchy journey, and there are certainly songs which have the potential to stay stuck in your head for hours on end. There's more than just being memorable in the album though - the musicianship is pleasantly impressive. Flowing guitar work, which is crunchy when and where it should be, and very fluid-sounding when the melodic elements are conjured really makes the album positively juicy in terms of it's guitar sound. Coupled with this the ever-impressive slightly sneering vocals of James-Paul Luna, who, aside from having a good vocalist name, is also a good vocalist, and certainly delivers memorable vocal-hooks and trademark idiosyncrasies with a great deal of competence. A solid rhythm section then puts the icing on what is a very well produced and well rehearsed cake. Granted, sometimes there is a bit much widdly guitar wankery going on to get a good bite out of the riffs, but this seems a little less severe than it was on the previous record, and I can safely say that Ride the Void does sound like a more mature and cohesive release. With thirteen tracks, the album is a bit of a mouthful to absorb in one sitting, and there are plenty of tracks on it which will definitely be lost into the miasma of melodics for many listens to come, but I will conclude that listening to the album has been a chiefly positive experience.

Sure, as a band Holy Grail aren't really my cup of tea any more, but that doesn't stop me seeing that the album is a solid follow up. There is no hint of sophomore syndrome here. There are legions of fans to whom this release will be greatly pleasing, and I must confess, I'll probably listen to it a few times.

If it's not for you, there's always Cauldron. 7/10.

Holy Grail Official Site
Holy Grail on Facebook
Holy Grail on Metal Archives