Review: “Of Truth And Sacrifice” by Heaven Shall Burn

After taking a break, German Melodic Death Metallers Heaven Shall Burn decided to take a different creative route with their ninth studio album, the follow up to 2016’s critically acclaimed “Wanderer“. Bringing in composer Sven Helbig (Rammstein, Pet Shop Boys) and renowned conductor Wilhelm Keitel, they sought to add a string section to their sound while working without any time constraints or managers to give them a greater sense of artistic freedom. They enlisted artist Eliran Kantor (Testament, Iced Earth, Sodom) to create the cover art, described by guitarist Maik Weichert as “…one of the most demanding and sophisticated pieces he’s ever done. We put a lot of cultural-historic allusions and citations into the artwork—there is so much stuff to discover—I will not betray anything here. Eliran can be proud of it. At least, I am proud that he did this cover for us”. The band – Marcus Bischoff (vocals), Eric Bischoff (bass), Christian Bass (drums) and the aforementioned Weichert recorded the album with second guitarist Alexander Dietz at his Chemical Burn Studios in Germany. They hired Tue Madsen (Meshuggah, The Haunted) to mix at his recently renovated Antfarm Studio in Denmark while Eike Freese (Deep Purple, Apocalyptica) mastered the 19 track opus. For the first time since their 1996 formation, Heaven Shall Burn have not played live in two years to make this album happen…

…in taking on such a magnum opus of an album conceptually, lesser bands have faltered. Two albums of worth of material is all well and good, providing that you have the quality across the whole of the release. Often the two albums will get split up and released 6 or 12 months apart while the band goes off around the Globe on a gargantuan tour of epic proportions. But with Heaven Shall Burn and “Of Truth And Sacrifice” neither of these two things have come into play. They have entrusted Century Media to put out the entire 97 minutes and 19 tracks as once piece of work, plus the 80 minute DVD documentary film that comes alongside it as a single piece of work. Their trademark Death influenced Metalcore sound is fully intact, still as instantly recognizable as it was before and they have built on the foundations of 2013’s “Veto” and 2016’s “Wanderer” to make it happen. The challenges here are obvious ones – how to keep the listener engaged for the duration of the album, how to avoid getting repetitive and how to keep the quality of the output high. But they’ve taken their time and had gaps in the recording sessions where the studio was used by other artists to refocus, so what we’re left with is something pretty special. That’s not to say there aren’t a few issues – the first album is more consistent that the second and has greater flow, which is down to the way the track ordering and placement and probably why the trio of pre-release singles have all come from that portion of the pie…

…The haunting Melodic Death Metal of instrumental introduction “March Of Retribution” sets the tone in the same way as “Capsizing the Sea” by Trivium did for their album “In Waves” before the huge “Thoughts and Prayers” hits, with a distinctly Gothenburg sound to it and some hints at In Flames influences in the icy synths during the chorus. Heaven Shall Burn said they wanted to make a statement and with the opening pair of tracks, they do that instantly. “Eradicate” keeps the Gothenburg vibe while adding in more Thrash influenced riffs and giving us something that you might expect from an As I Lay Dying track while “Protector” consolidates that sound. “Übermacht” or “Superior” then changes direction by introducing some Rammstein influences with programming and synths giving it lift off while still having space for blasting cannon like kit work and vocals in German. Single “My Heart And The Ocean” showcases the work of Sea Shepard in the video, while the band return to the earlier sounds with a fine piece of Melodic Death Metal that is second to none with some serious double kick momentum. Turning sharp left with “Expatriate” which is a slow burner that combines the orchestral work with electronics to give us a nearly 9 minute Progressive Metal track of epic proportions that could be another band entirely. What it gives us is that point of difference that makes all the difference in an album of this length because “What War Means” jumps back to the earlier material without pushing the envelope any further. Relentless jackhammer footwork from Christian Bass on “Terminate The Unconcern” makes it a stand out hard hitting riff affair before the achingly beautiful orchestral instrumental becomes the “The Ashes Of My Enemies” delivers a touch of melancholic sadness that halves the album perfectly…

…the second half gets under way with “Children Of A Lesser God” which emerged from the writing sessions as the first complete song and has a distinct In Flames style introduction before ploughing a furrow of it’s own in the 2003 era Metalcore style that All That Remains might call a return to their height if it wasn’t for Marcus Bischoff’s vicious vocals. The melodic section that is the final third of the track has a mournful, reflective quality before bringing back the flesh tearing vocals for a final verse. As with the first half of the album, Heaven Shall Burn dive into an Electro-Metal anthem in “La Résistance” which is a fine track on it’s own but doesn’t sit comfortably in it’s surroundings, especially when it’s sandwiched between a quintessential Metalcore track and a Melodic Death Metal one. The latter would be “The Sorrows Of Victory” which sees a guest vocal appearance from Andreas Dörner of Caliban fame who provides two minutes of powerful clean vocals before Heaven Shall Burn pile into some heavier material that ends up the standout track on the second half of the album as Weichert and Dietz trade off lead moments in some style. The high energy whirlwind of drums that is “Stateless” is the shorter, razor sharp cut to follow the longer moment and will be a blistering live favorite and would make for the ideal set opener. “Tirpitz” has Arch Enemy leanings while “Truther” is loaded with blast beats that set it off before a painting by numbers version of “Critical Mass” by Nuclear Assault which while is a solid Crossover Thrash cut, is a little bit too faithful for its own good. “Weakness Leaving My Heart” closes the album on a melancholic note and by the end you wouldn’t want to cut a single track from the albums playing time. “Of Truth And Sacrifice” is a War that Heaven Shall Burn win as the only real complaint can be the order the tracks are in [8.5/10]

Track listing

1.    March Of Retribution
2.    Thoughts And Prayers
3.    Eradicate
4.    Protector
5.    Übermacht
6.    My Heart And The Ocean
7.    Expatriate
8.    What War Means
9.    Terminate The Unconcern
10.    The Ashes Of My Enemies

1.    Children Of A Lesser God
2.    La Résistance
3.    The Sorrows Of Victory (ft. Andreas Dörner of Caliban)
4.    Stateless
5.    Tirpitz
6.    Truther
7.    Critical Mass (Nuclear Assault cover)
8.    Eagles Among Vultures
9.    Weakness Leaving My Heart

Of Truth And Sacrifice” by Heaven Shall Burn is out now via Century Media

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