Holy Grail

Ride the Void

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Almost three years after Crisis in Utopia, old-school metal revivalists Holy Grail throw a couple of nice curve balls on Ride the Void. While everything you'd expect is here -- solid songwriting that stays close to the early-'80s school of pre-thrash HM (though they do speed things up a bit on occasion), maximum riffage, anthemic choruses, and plenty of (copious, really) blistering guitar solos -- the new thing is a touch of prog rearing its head...and no, this isn't a bad thing. Check opener "Archeus," with its slow keyboard and guitar funereal dirge-prog rhythmic pace that gives way to octave twinned lead guitars majestically carrying it out. Where "Bestia Triumphans" splays the speeding guitars and cracking double tom drums from the gate with some nice counterpoint guitar work, "Bleeding Stone" begins with a slight bit of dissonant detuned crunch but makes up for it with a galloping Iron Maiden-esque riff and nearly melodic vocals filled out by spiky leads between sung lines. For the first 40 minutes or so, Ride the Void is pretty much flawless. That said, the disc is over 55 minutes long, and the riveting attention it demands from the jump begins to wane because of too-oft repeated songwriting ideas. That's a small complaint, however, because for the most part, Ride the Void escapes the sophomore slump and rewards fans of old-school metal abundantly.

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