Grim Justice - The Return of the Flame - (6/10)
Published on June 28, 2018
Three years after their debut full length, the Austrian four piece known as Grim Justice return with their sophomore effort, The Return of the Flame, in May of 2018. This is the first album to feature Gernot Schwarz on bass; though he joined in 2014, the previous bassist recorded the lines for their eponymous 2015 debut.
Like the debut, Grim Justice once again focuses on mid-paced heavy metal with a good bit of hard rock sensibility. Though the album’s ten tracks certainly have a lot in common with the band’s previous output, there are some striking changes throughout. The instrumentation feels more laid back and lacks the sinister bite that carried the debut. That’s not to say The Return of the Flame doesn’t have any teeth, as tracks like “Heaven’s Last Hope” and “Lady Death” bring convincing dual guitar harmonies and some rollicking, upbeat pacing, but a majority of the album seems to lifelessly plod along. “Terminus II”, “Still Watching You”, and “Hungry Wolves” all just slowly go through the motions, mixing slow moving hard rock with tinges of blues and doom, never really culminating into anything remotely interesting.
Therein lies my problem with Grim Justice’s sophomore album: it’s inoffensively innocuous. The performances are decent, there are some great solos, the rhythm section is tight, and vocalist Michela sounds a hell of a lot stronger on this album, but the music is meanderingly middle of the road. The band sounds strongest during the upbeat, rollicking moments like the NWOBHM-tinged “Holy Sword” or the title track’s dual guitar harmonies (though it takes forever to get through that intro). That being said, the production is solid and surprisingly warm, but it just can’t make up for a middling effort.
The Return of the Flame has some highlights, but it’s not really enough to push this through. It’s disappointing, as the eponymous debut was one of my favorites releases in 2015. My hopes will remain high for future releases, as the performances are solid, it’s just that the album is questionably slow and rarely picks up the speed. Grim Justice sounds best with blaring hooks and crafty harmonies, but unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of that this time around.