Heaven Shall Burn

Deaf to Our Prayers

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Of all the bands credited with helping to formulate the merger of death metal and hardcore so popular in the mid-2000s (including Caliban, Unearth, and Killswitch Engage, to name the better known), Munich, Germany's Heaven Shall Burn have always been among the heaviest and most uncompromising. And, as illustrated by their fourth full album, 2006's Deaf to Our Prayers, Heaven Shall Burn appear more committed than ever to turning their backs on the accessible songwriting elements (things like clean vocals and forced melodies) adopted by most of their peers, and even themselves as recently as their preceding effort, Antigone, in 2004. That's not to say that memorable melodies are entirely absent from monstrous new songs like "Counterweight," "The Final March," and "mybestfriends.com" -- just that Heaven Shall Burn take great care to weave them into their inexorable rhythmic thrust, rather than use them for impact-softening counterpoint. Additional strong tracks like "Profane Believers" and "Of No Avail" see the band treading latter-day Gothenburg death metal terrain à la In Flames, and even the album's less striking, workmanlike offerings "Stay the Course" and "Biogenesis (Undo Creation)" don't do without Heaven Shall Burn's typically thought-provoking lyrics. At the end of the day, with the exception of "Armia"'s solitary piano coda and hardly noticeable, almost subversive little synth effects introducing "Dying in Silence" and snuck midway through "Trespassing the Shores of Your World," Deaf to Our Prayers is about as brutal an album as the German quintet has ever procured. In other words, if you are a metalcore fan looking for catchy hooks and choruses, deeply personal instead of daringly political lyrics, and those lovable mosh pit breakdowns in every song -- well, you better look elsewhere. Heaven Shall Burn's is a far less forgiving extreme metal template, once again.

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