What got me interested in this band first hand was their name – Heaven Below. I just loved the name from the first time I read it, which was when the download link showed up in my inbox – because I had never heard about this band before. Heaven Below were formed in Los Angeles back in 2007 by vocalist / guitarist Patrick Kennison, guitarist Marty O’Brien (Disturbed) and session drummer Chad Clark and in 2008, bassist Dave Comer joined them to complete the line-up. But later that year, Comer and O’Brien left the band and were replaced by Jesse Billson (guitar) and John Younger (bass). That was the line-up that recorded their debut album Countdown To Devil in 2009, produced by one Ben Moody of Evanescence fame. After the release of the album, Clark jumped the ship and was replaced by Elias Andra (Dead By Sunrise) and it would take Heaven Below three years to release the follow-up Falling From Zero (2012). I have to admit that I’m clueless of the sales of these albums and how big this band is overseas – or in Europe for that matter – but I guess the band had become big enough to sign up with Megadeth’s David Ellefson’s EMP Label Group for the release of their brand new third album, the first one with new guitarist Lucas Kanopa who replaced Billson who left in 2014. The new record is a somewhat ambitious piece of work as it is a concept album on an idea that the guys started to work on some four years ago. I won’t post the whole story here but I will provide a link to the band’s home page where you can read the full story below the review. Another thing that got me interested in the band was a line in the press release where press outlets such as Hard Rock Haven hailed them as the new Guns N’ Roses – which probably is highly exaggerated. Still, I had to found out if this metal band was even close to anything near Guns N’Roses.
“Nefarious Angels” is the album’s opener and it sets the standard immediately, letting us know just what to expect from this lot. It’s a fast metal tune with one hell of a punch with a furious middle break. It’s really heavy and angry but it never gives in on the melodies. It also features one Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys, Watchtower) as a guest vocalist which reminds me that I haven’t heard McMaster sing in ages. It’s a really good song and McMaster sounds really damn good. First single “Renegade Protest Movement” follows and it is a big, heavy yet melodic metal groover. It’s an uptempo tune and the rhythm is contagious enough to make sure no one can sit still – a total winner. “Follow Me Under” comes with a real catchy chorus over some heavy hard rock with one foot in heavy metal. The refrain really sticks even though it’s not radio friendly at all – another great track. The next track, “Devilina And The Damage Done”, brings us guest number two, Kobra Paige (Kobra & The Lotus). Again, it’s a heavy piece of work, the melody is striking and the stunning chorus kicks like a mule and catchy as Hell. I’m not familiar with Kobra & The Lotus so it was great to make Paige’s acquaintance – she’s a bloody amazing singer and feels like a breath of fresh air – a brilliant tune. “Nightfall Comes To Life” is a pretty direct metal track, but it’s too standard and it has this modern metal vibe that I have some issues with. It’s not bad but it doesn’t exactly rock my world – the weakest track so far. “Killing The Deadman” rages ahead with a cool “Painkiller” (Judas Priest) vibe – fast, heavy and mad as a rabies infected dog. The song really goes for the throat but there’s a soft middle break that brings some breathing room and also brings out a lot of the dynamics – this is awesome!
A familiar voice joins us in the kick-ass hard rocker “Running Under Satan’s Hand”. None other than Lita Ford brings her well-known voice to the table and she sounds really bad-ass. There’s a heavy metal twist that keeps the song heavy, but what makes the song a real killer is the affable melodies and the sticky chorus. “Death Battalion” is an aggressive and ferocious, in-your-face metal bouncer. I find the song ok, but I have a hard time grasping it. “Bonded By Blood” is a mid-tempo hard rock song. It’s a bit on the modern, more radio friendly side but it also takes a faster and harder turn halfway through the song and a subsequent operatic vibe towards the end. The song is memorable and the catchiness of the refrain makes it one of my favorites on the record. On “Black Sunrise / War Of The Gods” an even more familiar voice shows up. Udo Dirkschneider (U.D.O., Accept) lends his voice to the slower paced and heavy rocker. It’s catchy and has a plethora of hooks without being the least radio-friendly or cheesy, it’s just melodic metal with a punch – great! “Among The Wolves / Worldwide Suicide” starts out with a mid-tempo hard rock groove but turns into a fast and edgy metal stomper before it goes back to the mid-tempo pace again. Beside the very strong melody and memorable chorus there’s a big cinematic choir that gives the song a somewhat evil touch – way to go. The closing track “Among The Wolves / Worldwide Suicide” is the album’s big ballad, very atmospheric, smooth and desolate with a treacherous melody and a dark atmosphere.
I’m impressed. This album is like a movie in the shape of a record and the dark and apocalyptic atmosphere is palpable – very cinematic. Heaven Below is a heavy metal band but just as much plain hard rock and to be frank, there are some modern metal vibes and those are obvious but frugal. One thing that I really dig about this album is that it’s not predictable and no matter what kind of style the songs come in, everything is done with power and vigour. If Heaven Below will be the next Guns N’Roses remains to be seen, but – and this is not to take away anything from the band – I seriously doubt that. But what they might do, with the right promotion and some luck, is to make this record a big seller because judging by the quality of the songs, it deserves to be. This is a band definitely worth keeping your eyes (ears) on.
1. Nefarious Angels (feat. Jason McMaster)
2. Renegade Protest Movement
3. Follow Me Under
4. Devilina And The Damage Done (feat. Kobra Paige)
5. Nightfall Comes To Life
6. Killing The Deadman
7. Running Under Satan’s Hand (feat. Lita Ford)
8. Death Battalion
9. Bonded By Blood
10. Black Sunrise / War Of The Gods (feat. Udo Dirkschneider)
11. Among The Wolves / Worldwide Suicide
12. I Would Do It All Again / Burials At Sunset