The Frenchmen of HEAVENLY have surely come quite a way since their debut “Coming From The Sky”. Had they still followed very much in the footsteps of earlier HELLOWEEN, including the vocals and all, they have matured a lot over the course of the following two albums to now reach the bombastic and symphonic Power Metal of “Virus”, which every now and then still reminds me of some bands such as HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY or EDGUY, but thankfully stays away from the role models enough not to be stamped a copycat.
Since then they also went through several line-up changes, if that might have contributed to the evolution in style I don’t know, but even Ben Sotto’s voice has more distinction these days, lending its power and expression to the songs without distracting by reminding too much of a certain other vocalist out there. This time around they also enlisted the help of three guest singers, LULLACRY’s Tanja, Kevin Codfert of ADAGIO and SONATA ARCTICA’s Tony Kakko all lending their talents to the songs.
Opener “The Dark Memories” is a pretty good example of what to expect from “Virus”, driving mid-tempo, heavy riffing, lots of bombast, epic choruses, which more than once remind me of GAMMA RAY in their structure, but everything on a very high level of musicianship, so that any comparisons like this one or the fact that “Spill Blood On Fire” bears some of the grandeur of EDGUY, take a step back, being washed away by the competency in both songwriting and delivery. “Wasted Time”, with Tony Kakko, is an energetic mid-paced track with choir that deserves mentioning, just like the cool cover version of the old Jermaine Jackson/Pia Zadora cult classic “When The Rain Begins To Fall” (that one has Tanja supporting Ben on the mic), and the rest of the songs might not immediately stick to your mind, but still maintain the same quality level, which is more than can be said about many other bands out there these days.
While “Virus” cannot fully compete with the highest tier of Power Metal, the French band definitely has firmly established itself in the upper echelons of this style and if they continue to evolve like they had done over the past seven years, they will continue to grow into a veritable force of the genre, fans of this sound will not make a mistake by picking this up by any means.
(Online July 12, 2007)