Tuesday, October 26

Heavenly: A Collection of Thoughts.

Better than you.

In response to a reader's request, I'm now going to rant about the premier French power metal band Heavenly.

First off, if you haven't heard this band, you should go and take care of that right now, because they've got some stellar work. From their first album, up to and including their admittedly watered-down recent release "Carpe Diem".

No, my beef here lately is with some idiot's review of what I and several others I know think of as the band's magnum opus, "Virus". This review (and a couple of others like it) is on the Metal Archives. Now I appreciate having no comments allowed, and no response-reviews allowed as well. The Metal Archives will take anyone's opinion on an album so long as it is reasonably-intelligently written (in terms of grammar, spelling, and coherent thoughts, at least), so there's some garbage there, and some people that clearly can't tell power metal from an Enya album.

...at least that's what some of these reviews have led me to think. I have several concerns about these "critics", and want to make a good name for Heavenly's "Virus" here and incite some conversation before I head over there and post my own review. Allow me to itemize the complaints made about the album and address them:

  • Heavenly sounds too much like Gamma Ray and Helloween.
Really? Just how much of these two bands have you listened to? I'm not intimately acquainted with the entire catalog of either band, but I've got a few albums and enjoy them quite a bit. Let me tell you straight up, Heavenly sounds like Gamma-ween in that it's relatively high tempo, uses the same instrumentation, have similar song structures, and relatively high-register singers. Heavenly has different production, different timbres, entirely different vocals, and definitely a proggier neo-classical tinge to them.
  • The choruses aren't catchy at all, and the album is poorer in this regard than Heavenly's previous releases.
Did you listen to the album, or just fast-forward it the whole time? Without even performing a formal analysis of the songs (I will do it, don't tempt me), I can tell you that the melody lines are more consistently structured on this album in a fashion that is pleasing to ears trained to western music (this album was, after all, a bit of a move towards the mainstream for the band), and the choruses are more frequently repeated. This is of course, rather subjective, but most people that I've had a conversation with about this album that are reasonably familiar with the band's other material and metal in general would agree pretty readily on this point.
  • Lyrics are unintelligible.
Agreed, I don't know who does does their English lyrics, but they need help. There's also no excuse for Ben Sotto to still have such a shaky grasp on the English language. If you can't do it decently, sing it in your native language. I'm an ignorant American who wasn't required to learn a foreign language. I could sing more intelligently in your language than you can in mine, and English is the standard in metal.
  • The album isn't original
I don't know, I could go either way on this one. Is there really much original power metal? Not so much. That being said, does this sound a lot like other power metal? Not really. Find me a band that has a vocalist that sounds like Ben Sotto and pulls off a super-fast, heavily percussive, neo-classical heavy album with dual guitars, and I might grant that to you. Right now, another band that meets all of those criteria doesn't come to mind. If they do, you'd probably still be able to tell the difference like night and day.
  • The solos sound very juvenile
Oh I SEE! You go play them! There are some damn good solos on Virus. The title track probably being my favorite off the top of my head.
  • The vocalist has no sense of dynamics
Do you know what that word means? This is METAL, it's LOUD.
  • This album is just garbage
And your favorite power metal band is Skylark. Go listen to Power Symphony and let the adults listen to their music.

Ok, I think enough is enough. Please go listen to a couple of songs off of "Virus". Please comment and let me know if you agree on either end, because this album is getting a bad rap. Seriously, you'd think this was like "Eternal Empire" or something. Here's a few examples:


Becky said...

Ok. I agree with most of your comments. However, even having taken French, I sincerely doubt that you could sing it as well in French as he can in English, especially from a French person's perspective (if that makes sense). Obviously, they would notice more of an accent difference in your French than you would.

I often have a hard time understanding lyrics in metal (as you know), and maybe it's just because I've heard this song several times, but especially in the lighter instrumental parts, I don't have much of a problem. Part of what makes it less understandable, I feel, is his style of singing. Try singing in his range and be intelligible (as a soprano, I can say that sometimes all that's required (in choral pieces at least) is the correct vowel sound in that register, since the rest of it ends up unintelligible anyway. :P ) Also, I would say early-Nightwish-Tarja was harder to understand than he is. :P

Ooh, Virus is SUCH a catchy song. :)

P.S. I'd rather they sang with a bad accent in English than in French; how else would I sing along?

Oakenson said...

I am glad to see your rebuttal here Daniel, and I would more or less agree with all of your points, especially regarding the Helloween/Gamma Ray comparisons; what power metal band, afterall, doesn't owe something to Kai Hansen?

As with anything, there is more subjective analysis that goes into these things than objective, just naturally, but it seems some folks probably just hate the band for the sake of hating them, and will use anything/everything against them in the process of scribing their thoughts, sadly.

Despite this, I was extremely, extremely disappointed with Carpe Diem and have thus lost a bit of faith in Heavenly, though not completely; we'll see what the next album brings, eh?

Oh, and lastly, it's nice to hear your opinion Becky! - I must agree with your thoughtful analysis!

The Protagonist said...


Call me overconfident, but I'm relatively secure in that statement, or I wouldn't have made it :P I've always done well with pronunciation, be it German, French, or English. As you know, some people just can't do it too well. Ben Sotto isn't awful, though, granted.

Also, as you might not have realized, I was talking more about the written lyrics. If you read them, they're kind of nonsense at times. I think something was lost in translation.

Andrew- Carpe Diem made me sad inside as well, but there are some saving moments.

The Protagonist said...

Oh also, Becky calling Virus catchy? I think it's pretty clear why she's super-cool. :D