German metalcore attraction Heaven Shall Burn are back with their ninth studio album (and arguably their most ambitious effort to date).
Double LP ”Of Truth and Sacrifice” consists of two parts, ”Of Truth” and ”And Sacrifice”. As expected of this socially and politically conscious outfit, lyrics are ridden with eloquent and uncompromising critique of imperialism, nationalism, war-mongering and environment pollution. Subtle and- here and there – not so subtle melodic parts occasionally underline the usual musical harshness and convincing, menacing growl of the lead singer, Marcus Bischoff.
”Thoughts and Prayers”, number that seems to embody all the main characteristics of this release, is really just a preparation for songs like melodic, but aggressive and roaming ”Protector”, very hard and heavy hit single (but more industrial sounding) ”Übermacht” and ”Expatriate”, lyrically maybe the most compelling piece of song writing on the first part of the album. Direct attack aimed at the hypocrisy of modern liberal nation-states, officially promoting peace and harmony, but in reality drowning in decadence and suppression of real freedom, is eloquently put in both English (‘Now fools will be your leaders and these jesters are your only hope?/Drowning in decadence and degeneration/As inbred modes of thought will degrade all of your cultures/ This elitism has lead you down the darkest path/Take up the baton, this is not the time for declining battles/Never stop disputing, never stop the struggle”) and German (”Eure Führer, Eure Farben, all Eure geliebten Staaten/Und alles, was Euch heilig ist/Sind nichts als Treibgut/In den ewigen Gezeiten von Aufstieg, Herrschaft, Niedergang”).
Other songs on the first half of the album that are worth special mentioning are ”What War Means” and the brutal highlight ”Terminate the Unconcern”, the usual examples of heavy riffs plus subtle hints of melodies that are always lurking under Marcus’s growl, combined with socially engaged lyrics.
”Ashes of my Enemies” is an easy, short, neoclassical interlude and it’s a final piece of the first LP, but also a good introduction to ”And Sacrifice”, the second part of this release. ”Children of a Lesser God” is a rather conventional metalcore song, heavy enough and catchy enough, but definitely not musically innovative or especially interesting. Again, lyrics are the pinnacle: ”This is a life led in the shadows of your greed/As all your rotten leaders keep on corrupting our peace/So profit-craving and addicted to increase/There is no limit/No giving over/But I swear that this cold man-eating machine will be destroyed/And shall rust away/This is a land crushed by the pressure of your lies/Since mindless wastage and consumption/Growing stronger day by day.” Another call for overthrow of powerful and greedy elites, typical for Heaven Shall Burn’s worldview, but very well put.
”La Resistance” is an intriguing experiment with synth/electronic elements and the final number, ”Weakness Leaving My Heart”, is a wonderful example of very effective song development, from tender, even sweet beginning to a musical eruption, some of most fascinating moments that metalcore has to offer at this tumultuous turn of the decade. The mood is darker here than on any other song on the album, and it has to be said that some other songs (on this second half) can’t match that haunting feeling, although the fans probably won’t be displeased with numbers like stomping and storming ”Tirpitz” (with a very interesting subject – sinking of (in)famous Nazi battleship in the waters of Norway in 1944) and more than correct cover of Nuclear Assault’s environmentalist classic ”Critical Mass”.
All in all, ”Of Truth and Sacrifice” is a very pleasing album (especially for a worldwide metalcore fan base) of this reliable and always socially critical outfit, but it has to be said that it isn’t a revolutionary masterpiece. Furthermore, even though the band is probably on their lyrical pinnacle here at this moment, there isn’t very much musical progress, except if we take into consideration several more experiment-oriented songs, mentioned above. The material here is, in a way, ‘overcrowded’ and fresh ideas sometimes seem to drown in a long, very ambitious concept, which simply can’t maintain the same high level of quality for the whole 97 minutes.
01. March of Retribution
02. Thoughts and Prayers
06. My Heart and the Ocean
08. What War Means
09. Terminate the Unconcern
10. The Ashes of My Enemies
11. Children of a Lesser God
12. La Résistance
13. The Sorrows of Victory
17. Critical Mass
18. Eagles Among Vultures
Text by: Zvonimir Lucić