If there’s a reason why Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn aren’t typically mentioned by smart metalheads in the same enthusiastic breath as fellow modern day thrashers like Goatwhore or The Black Dahlia Murder, it’s probably because in some circles they’ve been cursed with that most dreaded of labels: metalcore. Though there’s plenty of great metalcore still out there, and some more obviously esoteric and well respected acts like Every Time I Die and yes, even the mighty Converge have been “gifted” with the moniker over the years, the genre demarcation nowadays calls to mind goofball clowns like Chelsea Grin and Bring Me The Horizon being as transparently mainstream baiting as possible in an effort to part 12 year old fools and their Hot Topic gift cards.
Is Heaven Shall Burn deserving of such derision? Absolutely not. Taking the “Slaughter of the Soul” inspiration that the entire melodeath genre was built upon and adding a fat, Pantera style groove element and pit ready hardcore breakdowns does not a mall metal band make, and the latest and greatest argument for HSB deserving respect and relevancy is their brand new LP, their eighth, Wanderer.
Forgoing the full blown, Dimmu Borgir-esque orchestral elements employed on previous discs, Wanderer has a somewhat synthetic heart beating just under its surface, calling to mind Combichrist’s more metal leaning material, even as far as practically going full Fear Factory staccato stop/start techno thrash on standout track “Prey To God”. “Bring The War Home” home adopts a similarly light industrial thump before dueling guitar gods Maik Weichert and Alexander Dietz soar right back into Gothenburg territory, their dynamic ability to harmonize but also complement one another when on divergent paths at its strongest yet here, all while multi limbed chameleon (and fairly recent addition) Christian Bass lays waste behind the kit to all the style hopping that the axe men throw at him.
Adding black metal to HSB’s considerable bag of genre shifting tricks, “Wanderer” is anchored by an explosive cover of their countrymen Sodom’s “Agent Orange”, and vocalist Marcus Bischoff is more than up to the task. His attack this time out is far from solely comprised of Venom aping crust though, his low end seems far more punishing and resonant in a Nergal kind of way, the perfect complement to his brother Eric’s deft bass noodling, which is refreshingly high enough in the mix to appreciate, a’la the glorious 80’s Megadeth/Anthrax worship of American contemporaries Black Fast and Battlecross. Even more reverent of the past, the second disc of “Wanderer” is a covers record representing bands as diverse as Blind Guardian and Life of Agony, HSB wearing their influences on their sleeve, showing exactly where “metal “ and “core” came from and what they should be.
In the end, you can’t judge a band by the genre they’re lumped into. Though most bands are probably branded “metalcore” because of their lack of ability, Heaven Shall Burn exceed the confines of any genre identification by pretty much doing it all, and doing it extremely well. Though only a casual fan in the past, I was pleasantly surprised by every twist and turn of “Wanderer”, and I’m sure I’ll find even more to discover on repeat listens. Don’t let the fact that Heaven Shall Burn aren’t a straight up “death”, “thrash” or “black” metal band keep you away.
“Wanderer” is available now.