A decent effort, but an opportunity not taken
One of France’s power metal exports, Heavenly have returned to deliver their 5th full-length CD, entitled ‘Carpe Diem’ (meaning “seize the day”). The boys from Paris have come along well since their beginnings and with the help of their previous two releases, have become fairly popular.
Heavenly are one of those metal bands that you can easily recognise, mostly due to the almost falsetto style vocals of Ben Sotto. The band’s debut ‘Coming from the Sky’ was quite well done, getting help along the way with Iron Savior’s Piet Sielck and Gamma Ray’s Kai Hansen performing guest vocals; while other members of Iron Savior also pitched in. 2001’s ‘Sign of the Winner’ was an improvement over the debut with the band becoming heavier and much faster. One deterrent, however, has been the extremely high-pitched vocals of Sotto, which at times can be bearable but others can be too high-pitched and over the top.
2004’s ‘Dust to Dust’ and the most recent ‘Virus’ (2007) were both excellent CDs and received high acclaim. The band “toughened up” so to speak, adding some much needed aggression, while the tracks became more polished and well constructed; and the falsetto vocals of Sotto were restricted, but not gone. Building up a large fan base, anticipation was high for the band’s next release. Well that time is now, as Heavenly’s new CD is here, ‘Carpe Diem’, through AFM Records after the band recorded one CD with XIII BIS Records / Sony-BMG and the previous three with Noise Records.
Expecting ‘Carpe Diem’ to be something similar to ‘Virus’, I was surprised that upon my initial spins of the CD; that this was not exactly the case. The aggression that was present on the previous two releases had notably dropped away, while the speed of some of the tracks had become slower. Heavenly has always had that “flowery” tag over their head because of the vocal style of Ben Sotto, but they had worked hard recently to try and dissolve that. Unfortunately ‘Carpe Diem’ sees a return of that cheesy, flowery high-pitched style which (in my opinion) has been the only thing stopping this band from being one of the best in their genre. Not only that, but now certain tracks contain choirs of high-pitched singing, used predominantly in the chorus’. I must say that some of the time, these choirs work well with the songs but in other times they are just really annoying.
The use of the keyboards in Heavenly’s sound, which is one of their strengths, is still a highlight on ‘Carpe Diem’, while the amazing and soaring solos which Heavenly are renown for; churned out by Charley Corbiaux and Olivier Lapauze, remain in place and is another highlight on the CD. Aggression on the release however has been toned down, while the tracks are now much more melodic, like a cross between mid-paced Stratovarius, Power Quest and Rhapsody of Fire. ‘Carpe Diem’ is a frustrating CD to listen to, because on one side you have the great riffs, sweet melodies, creative song-writing and ripping solos, yet on the other you have the way over the top singing, the experimental sound and structures in a few tracks where the band tries to sound like Queen (check out the tracks “Farewell” and “A Better Me”) and overall a lack of grunt, aggression and especially direction. I say this because when you listen to the whole CD, it is so difficult to work out ultimately what they are trying to do as the tracks (despite most of them being quite good) are very sporadic and just all over the place.
‘Carpe Diem’, despite the frenzied and uncontained feel, still has some very good tracks, the best two being “Ashen Paradise” and “The Face of Truth” as “Ashen Paradise” contains furious speed, tons of energy and melody and a ball-busting solo; while Sotto sings at decent level that isn’t somewhere up in the high stratosphere. “The Face of Truth” is a slower, mid-paced track, but with a harder and rough feel particularly with the main riff, while the keys are outstanding; adding to the emotion of the track. These two great songs are what the fans of Heavenly have come to expect of the band in recent times. It’s what we’ve known to hear and love, but unfortunately the remainder of the CD does not reach the same brilliant levels as these two songs. And that is where this release unfortunately falters. Other songs on the CD which are also quite good and thankfully saves this release from being a total disappointment include the powerful yet melodic title track “Carpe Diem”, the bombastic “Full Moon” and the very cheesy and corny, but also catchy “Lost In Your Eyes”.
Overall I feel that ‘Carpe Diem’ is a small step backwards in terms of quality, especially when compared to the previous two Heavenly releases. I feel that Heavenly have gradually evolved themselves into what they wanted to become with their sound and I believe they had the right balance of consistency on the “Virus” CD. The band had the chance to make that big step into the power metal echelons with ‘Carpe Diem’, but have not done so with that they have produced here. Although it is a decent release, ‘Carpe Diem’ is a tale of two halves; one half contains some very good tracks while the other half is quite average. Heavenly and power/melodic metal fans should still enjoy this, however be prepared to be slightly let down. This band may not have taken the bull by the horns with this CD, but in the process they have created a new metal genre – Bohemian Rhapsody Metal.