Heathen Foray - Into Battle - (7/10)
Published on May 11, 2015
Power metal meets viking metal is what Austrian Heathen Foray stand for, a maybe odd mix of styles, but there are odder combinations these days. Hailing from Styrian capital Graz (also see Illuminata, Cadaverous Condition or Sanguis). Ploughing the fields since 2004 already, Into Battle is their fourth album to date and the first one under the umbrella of German Massacre Records, after their previous efforts had been met with somewhat mixed reception. Obviously naming a band after an iconic song of an iconic band (in this case viking metal masters Falkenbach) will create expectations both of the musical direction and quality, which in some cases can be difficult to live up to.
“Fight” sets out with a great power metal riff and double bass, before Robert Schroll’s growls break through the harmonies, but by throwing in some accentuating clear vocals, he manages to steer the track exactly between these two styles, before going into a very catchy chorus. Some will probably condemn this as potential sell out (but then again, what is not considered that to some of the elitists these days?), but it is undeniable that the amalgamation of power metal with viking spirit and growls works, especially if both riffing and vocals are as well done.
So does Into Battle bring anything to the already very full banquet table that we have not been sampling in the past? No, but Heathen Foray are under no pretense to try to do just that either. Instead they rather concentrate on creating good songs that will not make a travesty out of the direction they have chosen, all too often bands layer keyboard after keyboard over their compositions for either a folk or an orchestral component, but while it works for some bands, thankfully this quintet mostly stays away from that instrument completely. Dragonforce have been named as a benchmark name in the past, especially when it comes down to the arpeggiated guitars the Austrians like to use, and there are some elements that could be seen as parallels, and while it is true, at no time could they be viewed as plagiarizing the international merchants of speed.
But coming back to the album at hand, the mid-paced atmospheric “Unthinking”, heavy hitting “Wofür ich streit’”, variable “Tír na nOg” or the slow and more intense “Freundschaft” all are quality material that should appeal to a quite wide variety of fans without openly trying to catch one fan camp or the other. The only track that does not quite connect in both style and quality is “Knüppeltroll”, which takes some inspiration from German industrialists Rammstein in both riffing, mechanical rhythm and partially also the vocals (albeit a bit more on the growly side). Not all of the songs manage to venture into the upper echelons of metal, but with that one exception there is no one song that pulls the album down dramatically either.
Some genre-die hards will surely find lots of things to complain about with Into Battle, be it power metal influence, the catchiness, the at times fairly straightforward and simple approach or if coming from the other side, the gruff vocals. That being said, though, one should not underestimate the skilful and dynamic structures Heathen Foray are putting together here, where their experience over the past few years is definitely noticeable.
Into Battle will both unite fans from power, viking and melodic death metal, as much as they will alienate them in each of these particular fan camps. One thing, though, Heathen Foray can definitely write on their banner – they are going their way and have presented metalheads with a cohesive album that is variable, entertaining and over good parts is a nice step forward compared to their previous effort Inner Force.