Heavenly - Dust To Dust
I am blown away by the intensity in Heavenly's third full length album. The bands' own words about the release turned out to be absolutely correct for once: "more heavy metal and more symphonic than the previous efforts". They set the standard high already with the opener Ashes To Ashes... which is a powerful, yet elegant speedball with the typical Heavenly symphonic touch to it. They grab you and drag you along into a whirlwind of battering double kegs and lovely keyboard/guitar licks and harmonies with Queen/Freedom Call/Edguy-esque bridges and refrains.
It follows with Evil that has strong similarities to an Avantasia/Edguy song in the chorus but built in a personal way to fit the Heavenly suit. Overall singer Sotto seem to have taken Sammet/Kiske to himself when it comes to how the higher notes should be sung. I have to say he does it better than both of them, though, and that says a lot since at least Sammet is a very good singer. Another obvious influence on this album is the past years version of Gamma Ray, as we more than once can hear those sharp, heavy brilliant riffs in the classic Hansen-style. Add to that some typical bridges and refrains signed Mr. Hansen, and you get a highly interesting mixture of french/german metal of the absolute best brand.
Heavenly can easiest be described to play a perfect mix of symphonic, technical metal with just the perfect amount of tempo changes, but with full focus on melodies. This is not power metal of the flamboyant, pompous kind that even I have to admit that it's starting to become a bit too much of by now, but instead power metal with just "power" as a trademark, because it goes fast, it has harmonies and it hits you like a smack in the face and that satisfied grin on your face will not disappear that easily. After a few more uptempo rockets we get a more midtempo tune before it takes off again. The majority of the songs, as usual with Heavenly, are uptempo but with plenty of room for interludes of the slower kind with more mood. And that is what makes Heavenly special because the songs are in all honesty following a certain pattern throughout the album, but they manage to personalize them and at least keep my full attention.
It can still be categorized as "happy metal" with light, singalong tunes but they have obviously matured the past years and become better musicians. What also speaks for them is that they have made the perfect choice of keeping the best of their music - the melodies - and added depth, heaviness and better songwriting, simply put. The production is absolutely flawless with a clear and fat sound where every instrument is getting a lot of space to shine. It has all been mixed by Sascha Paeth (Rhapsody, Kamelot, Angra among others).
If something should be mentioned to their disadvantage, it is the fact that sometimes you can hear a tiny bit of recycling of melodies from the previous albums and that sometimes the Gamma Ray(especially)/Helloween/Freedom Call influences shine through just that extra bit too much. But it is all done extremely well and you just can't protest against this marvellous metal pearl that the album is.
This is quality metal if you ask me, and stands out compared to a lot of average bands out there.