Heaven Doesn’t Burn Bright Enough to Prevent This Album From Getting Vetoed
European metalcore is a bit of a sad scene. Though artists like Heaven Shall Burn, Caliban, and Architects have done fairly well for themselves, they still can’t hold a candle to the popularity, quality, & consistency of American titans like As I Lay Dying and Killswich Engage. Heaven Shall Burn’s sixth full-length, Veto, does nothing to reverse the status quo. It’s a collection of homogenous, uninventive tracks that mirror the band’s earlier albums without giving thought to their own identity.
Veto may not be outright offensive in its mediocrity, but it’s the kind of release that quickly becomes a chore to listen to. Songs blend right into each other with minimal variation; nearly every track is composed with the traditional metalcore formula of “string skipping + chugging + half-committed melodies = a song!” Vocalist Marcus Bischoff’s generic mid-range delivery starts to grate by the second track. The production, too, is unpleasant – Veto is annoyingly compressed, especially the drums, making the album significantly less heavy than it might have sounded otherwise. The washed-out crash is tinny as a garbage can lid, and the snare cracks with the luster of a two-by-four.
Some tracks make a deeper impression. “Valhalla,” probably the worst track on the album, aims for Amon Amarth-esque grandiosity that spills right over into melodrama. [Okay, so it’s a Blind Guardian cover. It still sucks. -Ed.] The operatic voices and melodies almost approach Phil LaBonte in terms of quality, and the instrumentation unabashedly screams August Burns Red. The ironically titled closer “Beyond Redemption” is one of the few redeeming moments of the album: Bischoff’s vocals on this track are more powerful here than anywhere else, and the melodies are given time to flesh themselves out before locking in with the driving drum beat.
I’ve long been a fan of electronic music andits integration into metal, but Heaven Shall Burn’s approach to such integration is a phenomenal example of why many metalheads can stomach neither beats nor synths. The sounds are horribly processed, and the simplicity of the patterns prevents them from having any staying power, like in “Die Sturme Rufen Dich” and “Hunters Will Be Hunted.” Plus, the electronics aren’t thorough. There may be beats here and there, but it never feels like an orchestrated effort; the timbres are almost GarageBand generic, failing to lend the electronics any sort of an identity or palpable association with Heaven Shall Burn.
The overarching problem with Veto is that it its impact is utterly unremarkable. The album sounds painfully similar to the band’s previous releases, and some parts are even stripped down, like the numerous simplistic melodies. And though there are some sections that begin to stand out on this album, closer inspection reveals that all of those sections have been written better by another artist sometime in the mid-2000s. Even if the world were crying out for another string-skipping chug-a-thon, Heaven Shall Burn wouldn’t be the band to make that album. Songwriting means more than matching half-baked metalcore riffs with half-hearted electronic tinkering and a splash of breakdowns.