Album Review: HOLY GRAIL Times of Pride and Peril
My experience with Holy Grail comes from playing a show with them a few years back in one of my first bands; their crowd was great, and their music was even better. At the time, I was a death metal guitarist who was really into thrash, black, and death metal: Holy Grail offers none of that, but does manage to add a tasteful spin to a more power metal/arena rock type sound that could easily be typical or heard before.
The second half of this release takes off much harder than the first half; as I was taking notes on each song, I found my enjoyment really kicking in between track 6 and 10 more than 1 and 5. The band really excels with their notable sound, fast guitar leads and catchy vocal harmonies on top of pounding drums and a bass that beautifully fills in the low end of the sound spectrum, on the latter end of the record than the first half. I feel that the first 5 songs on the record serve as more of an attempt to open up to a wider audience, which is very possible based on their catchiness; however, I much prefer the flashy “No More Heroes”, a track that would be sure to make anyone say “holy shit” live – to the safer, arena rock styled “Sudden Death.”
There are moments on the album that seem like wasted potential; for example, the introduction to “Crystal King,” the album’s first song, is a melodic clean riff that never reenters; one would expect a track more like “Archeus” off of 2013’s Ride The Void, but that idea is choked out almost as soon as it starts because the part is too short to serve as a proper introduction, and since it is never reintroduced, it comes off as forced. There are other songs, like “Those Who Will Remain,” that enter more predictable sections instead of taking the risk of crossing genres; for this song, the introduction had the potential to create a punk-based beat, but instead, the slower percussion and down-picked verses make the track more cliché (though, notably catchy, and still very heavy). Compared to past works, this album is more linear and less risk-taking. “Descent Into The Maelstrom,” one of the strongest tracks off the record, best reflects some of the band’s older material, and is easily one of my favorite songs off the release, “Psychomachia” also follows this style, but manages to combine it with some of the more linear bits heard in earlier songs.
This album’s production has big guitars that push their mids, and the mixing focuses on vocals cutting above all. Compared to past works, the double bass of the drums isn’t as present, though is still noticeable. There are moments where panning is used to create tension and release, such as in one of the heaviest tracks on the record, “Apotheosis,” that stand out to me; the track also has a breakdown-esque section that kicks in after an overly-distorted guitar pans from the left speaker to the right post-band cut out, and the effect for the listener is headbang-worthy. However, there don’t seem to be enough of these moments on the record to truly stand out, or to make the production a major factor of the release, though it does make the whole band sound great.
Overall, as a more power metal based group releasing a more linear based power metal album, Holy Grail’s Times of Pride and Peril will not only deliver musicians some challenging musical parts to try and learn, but will also give fans of the band/the more casual listener some heavy anthems they can sing along to. While I wish they took more risks and retained more elements of their older sound, the album does offer a progression that can bring new fans to the band; therefore, a dedicated fan of the band may be hit or miss with some of the material, whereas new listeners will most likely enjoy the variety of sounds. For me, I could take it or leave it… but I’d still want to perform with them.