When you think of the bands that pioneered the early era of Metalcore, Heaven Shall Burn is typically not a band that springs to the forefront of your mind. However, the German quintet have been an absolute powerhouse over the past two decades and have toiled away relentlessly to create some absolutely iconic songs. This is a band that has always strived to achieve their fullest potential and 2020 sees the band releasing their 9th studio album “Of Truth and Sacrifice”. Of course, it’s an out of the left-field approach to release a 19 track, 100-minute long split LP in 2020, but Heaven Shall Burn have never been a band that has conformed by the rules, and the uniqueness of this album is bound to leave a lasting impression on the band’s legacy.
From the outset of ‘Of Truth and Sacrifice’ it’s easy to see that the band hasn’t been resting over the four years following the release of their last album Wanderer. Opening track “March of Retribution” builds a good foundation before the album crashes into the aptly titled “Thoughts and Prayers”. It’s a refreshingly fast-paced and catchy number with lyrical content that’s apt for the current global political environment, and as the opening taste of what is to come to from the album, this number really sets a good framework moving forward.
With 19 tracks to pick from, there is a stack of brilliance throughout this double split. Standout anthems like “Eradicate”, “Protector” and “My Heart and the Ocean´ all litter the opening half and create swelling of emotion when listened to. These songs obviously have strong lyrical themes (more on that later), but the way in which each is structured is absolutely fantastic, and a good indication of the growth that the band has undergone over the past few years.
The second half, however, seems more like a collection of songs that the band has wanted to make for some time. Tracks like “Children of a Lesser God” are a real throwback to the early 2000’s era of the genre, while the subsequent track “La Resistance” is any electronic fans’ absolute dream, and feels like it has been heavily influenced by the work of Rob Zombie, or any of Peter Tagtgren’s projects. The variety that courses through the latter half of this split LP showcases the songwriting depth the band and keeps the listener guessing as to what is coming next. Other examples such as the melodically balanced “Tirpitz”, the hardcore adjacent “Critical Mass”, or the crushingly savage Truther again really highlight such a broad spectrum of sounds that the band has used, while album closer, the slower and more nuanced ‘Weakness Leaving my Heart’ comes as another surprise entirely and acts as the perfect capstone from such a monumental album.
Vocally, Marcus Bischoff’s performance is solid, and there has been little variation in his vocals over the past two decades, but I guess the old mantra “if it isn’t broken then you shouldn’t try to fix it” really applies to his performance. There is some obvious personal growth— a deeper sibilance on some of his vocal lines, more guttural harsh vocals that feel less forced, greater alliteration on some of his phrases, and just an all-around improvement across the board which makes his performance stand out. Particular emphasis should be placed on his performances in tracks “Protector”, “La Resistance”, or the heart wrenching “Weakness Leaving my Heart” which reverberate with the listener long after the final notes are sung.
Where the album really shines is through its prominent usage of lead guitar harmonies. Heaven Shall Burn have been slowly increasing this element over their last few albums, but Of Truth and Sacrifice really sees this shine at the brightest level. While typically, Heaven Shall Burn have been about the chugging bottom end, with their thunderous bass and drum barrage providing the depth of heavy that fans have always resonated with, Of Truth and Sacrifice however dilutes that element and raises the lead guitar harmonies to the forefront. So prominent are some of these harmonies that it often feels that this is a completely different band performing these songs, and it really caps off the growth in the band’s sound over the past decade. Maik Weichert and Alexander Dietz have really taken their performance to the next level on this offering, with standout sections appearing on “Protector”, “Critical Mass” and “Terminate the Unconcern” just to name a few. These two have definitely have ushered in a new age for Heaven Shall Burn with their performances on this album.
Lyrically, Heaven Shall Burn has stuck to their convictions by again focusing on the fragility of the world, and the requirement for mankind to make a stand to preserve the earth and all of its inhabitants. For any long time listeners, this will surely come as no surprise as the core lyrical themes are again performed with an importance that feels very familiar, while never come across as preachy. The whole album does a wonderful job to reinforce this narrative, and the lyrical delivery combined with the musical aspect brings a very emotional and introspective aspect to these songs. This is something that the band has conveyed in various ways throughout their career, but have really hit it home on this album, which is something the band should be commended on.
Make no mistakes, Heaven Shall Burn have hit the new decade running with Of Truth and Sacrifice. Armed with their strongest tracks to date, this album is guaranteed to appease many long-time fans, and will also appeal greatly to newcomers to the band. While its 100-minute long duration might initially seem daunting, the band’s meticulous attention to songwriting has ensured that even when consumed piecemeal that the album will still satiate even the most ravenous listener. Of Truth and Sacrifice is 100 minutes of hard-hitting and honest music that is a great representation of where Heaven Shall Burn is at this point in their career, and a good indicator of where they want to grow as their career progresses. Don’t sleep on this one, it’s an album you need to hear!