Consistent quality just like German beer
In what seems to have been an inspiring and productive last twelve months, long running German based melodic death/metalcore outfit Heaven Shall Burn have returned with their fifth full length effort Iconoclast (A name given to an individual who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions which they think is wrong or foolish). Iconoclast comes barely seventeen months after the release of the well received Deaf To Our Prayers. Although convincingly marrying both aggression and melodic sensibilities on their last album, Heaven Shall Burn (Who retain the line up of vocalist Marcus Bischoff, guitarists Maik Weichert and Alexander Dietz, bassist Eric Bischoff and drummer Matthias Voigt) have decided to turn in the opposite direction this time around. Iconoclast boasts a return of the pure aggression and venom of their former releases, but with the an added rawness in the production (Handled by the guitarists alongside Patrick W. Engel and Ralf Müller) that gives the album something more akin to the band's live sound.
There's a sense of déjà vu with the short classical piece Awoken that opens up Heaven Shall Burn's latest album (The same effect was used on 2004's Antigone), but the way the song integrates seamlessly into Endzeit is something else entirely different. The brief clash of classical and metal elements only heightens the differences between the two, and while the connection between the two is brief (Apart from the brief reprise toward the end), Endzeit is a particularly powerful force of display from the band, and one that definitely sets the bar for the remaining dozen tracks. The tracks that immediately follow, namely Like A Thousand Suns, A Quest For Resistance, Murderers Of All Murderers, the mid-paced pairing of Forlorn Skies and A Dying Ember and the slow and hammering Joel, are all hard hitting efforts that reinforce the band's newfound sense of metalcore power and aggression, with subtle shades of melodic death metal thrown into the mix.
The band's cover of Edge Of Sanity's Black Tears (From 1994's Purgatory Afterglow) gives the album a slight reprieve from the continuing onslaught by providing a melodic and accessible intermission of sorts around the halfway mark.
But while a little of the melodic appeal of the former track is carried through in The Bombs Of My Saviours, it's all guns blazing for Against All Lies, The Disease and the thrash based closing instrumental Atonement. In fact, the only real flaw on the entire album is the placement of the classical piece Equinox as the second last track. Although this song is an effective build to Atonement, the album does end in a somewhat backward manner in terms of atmospherics.
Minor criticisms aside, Iconoclast is another triumphant release from Heaven Shall Burn, and one of the finest examples that the hybrid melodic death/metalcore genre has produced in a very long time.
(Century Media Records/Stomp Records Distribution)