Thursday, December 30

Heroik - Heart of Battle

Heart of Battle


The year 2010 has been something of a metal epiphany for myself in that I've discovered that Quebec is an absolutely incredible place for metal talent. Granted, I'm specifically targeting the power metal scene with that statement, but from what I've heard it extends into the folk, black, heavy, and death genres as well. Heroik is another of several Quebecois debut artists releasing their first album this year (along with newcomers Viathyn and Instanzia), and are the most symphonic of the trio, relying heavily upon choirs and synths to deliver their epic sounding power metal.

Upon receiving their album, the first thing that caught my attention was t
he album artwork. Looking like something out of a twisted and sinister whimsical dream, it depicts a lone warrior surrounded by bizarre-looking horrors. The band describes their album as a call-to-arms to persevere over the challenges of depression and suffering, and so the strange but well-drawn art is perhaps applicable. The lyrical themes seem to be spot-on, and the music does indeed have a very melodic and heroic quality to it. It reminds me a bit of some Italian symphonic power metal (Domine, Rhapsody of Fire, etc.) but without the higher vocals and occasional difficulty in understanding the sung words. Also, I can't help but find some spiritual similarity to Manowar upon occasion (mostly in the battle-and-brotherhood lyricism).

Musically, Heroik's debut offering is an admirable example of what a fledgling band should sound like. There's room to grow, as the vocals occasionally begin to sound a little bit over-dramatic. The production job isn't perfect either (the guitars and drums could be afforded some more room in the mix; they're a little bit flat and light). Despite these flaws, “Heart of Battle” is an exciting and uplifting album that clearly has aspirations of grandeur. The songs are fast and pounding, with a vivid atmosphere of valiance and self-assuredness that defies hindrance or defeat. My favorite tracks include “Lost World”, “Stormseeker”, and the titular “Heart of Battle”. All three are faster tracks that showcase the band's ability to combine said speed with orchestral elements and choral sections to create a strong and enjoyable experience of true metal.

One unique feature of Heroik's work lies in the previously mentioned vocals of Jordan Delage. I've said that he sometimes comes off as a little bit over-dramatic, but I want to mention his use of low-register vocals. It is quite rare for a metal singer to slide down the bass clef and hit a bona-fide low note, especially if it's held for any real length of time. Delage does this on a number of tracks. At some points, it sounds a little weak, but when he's on, it's phenomenally powerful! His vocals are very unique (considering the style in which they are being used), and a treat for those of us who enjoy a good bass/baritone vocalist with our metal fix.
Being that “Heart of Battle” was self-released by a bunch of guys with an ambitious vision, I think that it accomplishes precisely what it means to. This album is not a joke, it's a competent and bombastic opus that will be a stepping stone on the band's path to future success. Labels should take note of this album as well, since it's better than a lot of the mediocre power metal coming from Europe (especially that which comes from nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea). Heroik's triumphant anthems seek to vanquish suffering and doubt, replacing these feelings with glory and a sense of accomplishment. This is a quality record, both musically and in intent.

- - -

The Protagonist's Rating: 7.5 out of 10

No comments: