Holy Grail
Crisis in Utopia

With White Wizzard’s Over the Top being one of my favorite records of the year, I couldn’t help but look forward to the debut release from Holy Grail, Crisis in Utopia. What you have here is a band made up partially of former members of White Wizzard who moved on with a new name after an ugly split. While it likely wasn’t pleasant for those involved, the good news for music fans is that we got two damned solid traditional metal outfits out of it.

The basic genre is the same, but Holy Grail takes a slightly different approach. While White Wizzard revels in the camp of a pure throwback sound, Holy Grail puts a more modern spin on it, bringing elements of power metal and even thrash to bear in the tracks on this record.

It’s taken me a while to get around to reviewing this because I had to listen to a song other than “Call of Valhalla,” my personal favorite of the songs on Crisis in Utopia. It opens with a massive throwback traditional metal riff with just a hint of doomer or stoner rock in the melody and a huge chorus that gets stuck in your head.

That’s far from the only highlight on an album loaded with great, memorable metal. The lead guitar licks that open the record on “My Last Attack” will catch the attention of trad fans instantly. “Immortal Man” offers up a chunk of great galloping traditional metal straight out of the early 1980s. “The Blackest Night,” another favorite, has a great groove and brings some more modern influences in on the screaming, chugging chorus. There’s a bit of an Iced Earth feel to the song overall. “Chase the Wind” showcases more top-notch guitar work from Eli Santana and James J. LaRue, and another one of those huge, catchy choruses. “Requiem” delivers a sludgy, satisfying Sabbath-influenced opening riff before settling into more familiar territory, and “Cherish Disdain” opens with a charging thrash riff.

In terms of pure musicianship, Holy Grail probably holds the edge on White Wizzard by virtue of the dual guitar attack of Santana and LaRue, who wail impressively all over this record. The sound all around on Crisis in Utopia is locked in, focused and tight. I recall not caring much for James Paul Luna’s vocals on White Wizzard’s High Speed GTO, but I really like them on this record. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re a little more fitting for this style than the pure Iron Maiden throwback of that EP. They’re solid and, at times, quite impressive.

I really like the nostalgia factor of White Wizzard, and I’ve had considerably more time with that record, so it still has the edge in my mind. But for those who didn’t care for the camp of Over the Top, Crisis in Utopia might be more to your taste. Regardless, if you like well-played, memorable traditional metal, you should check it out. My year-end list has been done for a week or so, but I believe I need to edit it.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
December 24th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: krustster

    Good review; I don’t think this is top 10 material for me but I really liked it. I have kind of the same problem that you did with listening to “Call of Valhalla” except for me it’s “My Last Attack”. The whole album rocks wildly but that song just blows me away, especially the chorus. Great guitars and singing all around and I wish that we’d get more tapes like this, what with all the millions of throwback bands out there.


  2. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    “My Last Attack” is easily my second favorite track on the record. I love that guitar run at the beginning. I always hate albums that make an impact on me late in the year because it’s often a knee-jerk reaction whether they get in my top 10 or not. For now, this one’s in. Six months from now, it may or may not hold up. I agree, though, that it’s a far cry better than the majority of the throwbacks.


  3. […] HOLY GRAIL – CRISIS IN UTOPIA (2010): The past decade brought a resurgence in traditional heavy metal sounds that was a very welcome throwback for me. Two of the best albums in that vein hit in 2010, and they were related. Holy Grail arose out of a split in the band White Wizzard (more on them later in the list), and their debut album was fantastic. Vocalist James Paul Luna, who I had not been a huge fan of on WW’s debut, killed on these songs that were in a similar, but slightly more modern style. The sound was old-school and traditional, but not dated or derivative. Guitarists James J. LaRue and Eli Santana laid down absolutely blistering leads from the very first strains of “My Last Attack,” and the songs were chock full of addictive hooks. At a time when every band seemed to want to be heavier and growlier, it was just what I needed. […]


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