Heretic
A Time of Crisis

Having some Hirax and Metal Church blood in their ranks at one point or another, and hailing from L.A. in quite the audible fashion, I gotta say Heretic gets quite the hype sauce a’boilin’ as they’re rushing back into the scene after almost a quarter of a century with this record. Still, I find it interesting that they present themselves as a thrash metal band; most of the music we have here reminds me a lot more candidly of both the old and new waves of British heavy metal. This feels like what Hirax would sound like if they’d get into the jam room to work on their second most apeshit love, being this genre in particular. It ain’t to say that there’s no such thing as speed riffery and blinding fucking licks all across the board; actually, there’s plenty of that excellence throughout the album, only it ain’t the focal point. Catchiness and genre-meshing is the primary focus, along with this understandable need to simply have a fucking blast playing anthemic music. For most of this ordeal, I was nodding along in absolute approval. Those guys know their shit; they haven’t hauled ass through the door yesterday or nothin’. I was stunned to notice that they even infuse some doom into their more stomping and down tempo tunes, and the airy, Maiden‘y feel they convey in other cuts sometimes literally corresponds to the Fear of the Dark era with some sort of a gloomy theatrical spin. Obviously, this liter aspect of the British sound ain’t the only component at play; the razor sharp guitars are more reminiscent of mid-era Priest, and it’s easy to pinpoint the California heat within these road rockin’ grooves, as much as the organic and purely uncompromising grit of the old school rhythmic chugging that wouldn’t break out of its intent to pulverize if the planet was falling apart.

This beautiful and absolutely attractive concept can already be heard in the intro. The guitars already sound like they’re hellbent on squashing you to bits, and the leads characteristically sound very olde English, and remain catchy as fuck as ”Tomorrow’s Plague” kick starts. The drumming is nicely frenetic, and the truly dirty main riff crawls in ’bout 25 seconds in, showcasing what’s obviously gonna be one kickass compactness for the whole span of the tune. The vocal, nevertheless, sounds a tad off. It does what it has to do, but doesn’t sound nearly as good as I’d expected. Still, the chorus is absolutely old school, and showcases how much of a ‘banger this track is, the more it develops. The soaring lickery at 1.40 is too damned short-lived though, but my money’s worth for a lead guitar fix wasn’t gonna stay outta the radar screen much longer; the rest of this record is chock-full of satisfaction on that front. The acceleration of the chugging at 3.07 is classic stuff, underneath leads that are no less than blinding and even mildly dizzying, in the exact way you absolutely long for when basking in your thrash worship. The groove is almighty stellar. ”Betrayed” doesn’t chop wood bare-handed though. The main riff is, yet again, nicely filthy. It’s simplistic, but effective. The leadwork atop is flawless. Still, I can’t get into this singer; he sounds better when going into higher register, but his performance has a way of falling flat and leaving me careless. The pseudo melody in the chorus follows that motion; it leaves me cold, wondering what happened to the sensuality of the first tune as it finished. It feels the track is moving far too fucking slow, when it should’ve plowed on like one mean asshat. Still, the main riffery works well enough to make this reasonably catchy. At 2.44, the rhythm guitars sound huge, although they don’t break out of their linear chugging much, but the groove/melodic leads combined have a way of making this dish a lot more savory, and I went straight back to feeling very amped about these guys right ’round that time. That lead guitarist is simply untouchable. The singer still has plenty of work to do before he manages to keep on pushing the high range consistently though, but he gets much better at his craft within the next few tracks.

”Remains” has the filthiest introductory bass line that I adored from the get go. It got me a bit puzzled and surprised, but I loved it to bits. The doomy riff tagging along is a thing of hot beauty. This type of vibe seems to fit this vocalist better, and his gloomy vocal and mid-range sounds stellar here; in the second verse, as he pushes into high range again, he almost has a way of reminding me of Danzig. The rhythmic guitar chugging still has the thrash tagging all over it, but the macabre ambiance is, without a doubt, borrowed from the epic doom books. ”Do what you will with my remains” also happens to be a fucking fantastic lyric. The on-cue (but still fun) build-up at 2.54 has the rhythm guitar getting the ball rollin’ effortlessly and without any problems; that section’s always catchy as fuck, no matter what kind of riffs happen to pop up; I haven’t heard one bad idea in there at all for this whole span. The accelerating drum roll, at that moment, seems to be of a purely NWOBHM nature. The melodic guitar work also happens to correspond to this genre; it’s stupidly groovy and kickass. The leads are, yet again, top-shelf stuff; they’re centered on speed in the case of this part, but never lose their sense of direction. The end round-about is a fist-wavin’ type of deal. The title-track happens to be a bit of a letdown in comparison, which got me scratching my head. Still, this fucked up introductory main groove is rocking its balls out. Front man Julian Mendez does the fairly ordinary type of delivery though. The riffs in the verses sound a little scattered, but the main groove is bound to remind all that these guys’ inspiration reserve is BOSS. The vocal line in the chorus is a tad odd, nevertheless, and the swaying riffs in the background could’ve sounded more elaborate, and literally better. So far, the main groove is this tune’s strongest bet. Still, as a whole, it’s inexplicably catchy. There’s a really cool lead coming in on cue, but it still feels like the song is a tad flat in comparison with the others. Plus, at that moment, I didn’t get what the singer was vouching for, and he’s pretty much the one element steering the wheel of this track in particular.

Both ”For Your Faith” and ”Raise Your Fist” also had a way of giving me the itch to yawn. The former starts out with quite the thunderous gigawave of chugging rhythms and pounding drumming. Said pattern then makes way for a very simplistic and lazy main riff that had me already wary. It goes into a descending fashion in the first verse, and I guess it sounds okay, rather than explosive, or fired up. This main half-riff is disappointing. The drumming goes into this nice gallop at 1.38, and that could’ve lasted longer; it breathed some energy into an otherwise lifeless tune. It’s very surprisingly flat. 2.55 offers a slight variation in the vocal line at last, with the singer going higher in register, and a nice melodic solo, along with the rhythmic chugging going into a different direction, finally show a glimmer of hope. It’s like the song finally woke from that huge doze following the moment you pass out from the drinking session of the century. This part sounds cool as fuck and is FULL of hooks. To the brim, baby. ”Raise Your Fist” starts off on this steady drum gallop I think works so much in this drummer’s favor. There’s a nice rhythmic pattern going atop in the guitar department, but it has a way of fading to the background, and the drumming’s all that’s truly audible. Then, the singer comes in and pumps some serious power into the whole. It seems groove catches on more around 1.17, and the chorus is acceptable, I guess. It seems to drag its claws just a tad, along with the rest of the track, but it’s not completely devoid of appeal. Obviously, the on-cue solo sounds good… all this being said, this tune feels like the déjà-vu, and strongly unexciting type of deal. By 2.54, that ”acceptable” chorus is really, really tame. Even as the Mendez goes into epic near-wails, I’m too bored to take notice.

”Heretic” had me going ”finally, here’s another one of those fast and urgent tunes this band knows to cook up so perfectly”. The chugging is super frenetic atop of gallopy drumming. It has this NWOBHM tint again, without mistake. The frontman pushes on a lot and sounds good as all hell. The riffage is very simplistic, but it JUST works. Everything is catchy and breezy, with a clear direction. The basswork ’round 1.21 definitely hails from the Steve Harris school of thought; props. The soloing going atop of this particular section is freakin’ ace, but short-lived. Still, this type of mini song duration fits this band well; they cram plenty of kickassery within even that tiny sort of length. ”Child of War” has the meanest introductory riffage, which instantly reminded me, this time, of the older wave of BHM, thanks to the Motörhead oomph it’s all happily soaking in. The midtempo drum gallop and the riffs def correspond to the works of Lem’s fam, although the guitar sound sure as shit has more bite. The chorus is catchy as all get-out, and the vocal is just awesome. The melodic soloing accompanying the main riffage around the end is especially bombastic. ”Police State” is the californian roadrock’ish, shiny and slick dime thrown in the basket. The melodic main riff at the beginning has this classic sound. The downtempo drumming and the chugging also do their job right. This has plenty of bite, and the vocal is flawless by now; actually, the chorus is driven by the force of the vocal line. The structure is simple, and hits the nail on its goddamned head. The wailin’ solo is wondrous. ”The End of the World” is a lot goofier, which doesn’t take anything away from its hurricane Katrina force. There’s sort of a doomy feel to its type of kickstart; it truly fits this band well, this vibe. The mid-tempo gallop of the drumming atop ape bass drum goodness erupts into this cool section of familiar-sounding, but still absolutely fun riffage cobwebs. The verses are energized and frenetic, and the leadwork and thick chugging work along with this killer approach to drumming to make this a heavy face melter, regardless of how comical the direction of the riffs happens to be.

”Let Me Begin Again” could be called an instrumental outro of sorts. It’s definitely gloomy. The melody at the beginning is very ”Phantom of the Opera”-esque. The string work is sort of calculating, with plenty of feel to it, and the electric guitar in the back is warm, fuzzy, and soothing. At 1.30, there’s some particularly epic lead work going on, with effective, and memorable riffs in the background. This has a lovely knack for good melodies, and truly ”bleeds”.

This type of disc reveals one blatant fact: those dudes have SUBSTANCE to bring back to the camp, man. They’re rolling in again for multiple reasons that I just discovered with delight. Whether or not you’re a thrash fan is completely irrelevant here; if you’re an old schooler, regardless of which freakin’ genre you happen to obsessively stick with; you need to love and comprehend this to know where you’re going with your likes and dislikes. This is a prime school lesson taken straight from the dusty books of the masters; open the fucking things and get readin’!

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Noch
November 19th, 2012

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