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Heavenly - Carpe Diem (8/10) - France - 2009

Genre: Power Metal
Label: AFM Records
Playing time: 45:15
Band homepage: Heavenly

Tracklist:

  1. Carpe Diem
  2. Lost In Your Eyes
  3. Farewell
  4. Fullmoon
  5. A Better Me
  6. Ashen Paradise
  7. The Face Of The Truth
  8. Ode To Joy
  9. Save Our Souls

The natural reaction to a change in direction by a band, be it merely lyrical or in terms of their entire sound and style, is usually greeted as a disaster in a nuclear power plant by their audience. Sometimes this sort of reaction is understandable, and at others it gets blown entirely out of proportion, which is where “Carpe Diem” falls. It isn’t really so much a large departure for HEAVENLY in terms of sound or style, as was the case with EDGUY’S last few offerings, but more of a reboot of the band’s lyrical pursuits. If the Luis Royo inspired album cover isn’t an obvious indicator, let us just say that the band has taken the route of the Heavy Metal hedonist, rather than that of the heathen or the political commentator.

 

Musically speaking, the only place where “Carpe Diem” really differs from the past couple of albums is in a reshuffling of priorities amongst their existing formula. The heavier and somewhat groovier approach to riffing that appeared on “Virus” with the addition of Oliver Lapauze is maintained, as is the general formula of large sounding choruses and catchy lead work, but the emphasis of this album is much more geared towards keyboard and vocal work, to the point of sounding like AVANTASIA’S second installment of “The Metal Opera” mixed with the continuing presence of GAMMA RAY, which has influenced their sound since the band’s inception.

 

The question that naturally follows all of this is, how do these changes come out in practice? The answer is, mostly good, but this falls a little bit short of past efforts. Although there is a lot of experimentation in style and more emphasis placed on elements that were more secondary to the band’s sound, this album is pretty safe and takes very few risks in the overall songwriting department. The towering epics of “Dust To Dust” are nowhere to be found here, though the MEATLOAF meets AVANTASIA power ballad “A Better Me” does evolve nicely and mixes that classic blend of power piano and chorus majesty with a solid mid-tempo Speed Metal riff. It mostly follows the more cut back approach of “Virus”, but with an even greater emphasis on symmetry and fewer surprising changeups.

 

This is really one of those albums that you can pull out and enjoy, but don’t quite obsess over the way you would a definitive classic. Be it the latest homage to “Out In The Fields” with keyboards at full swing in “Lost In Your Eyes”, the catchy and moderately progressive grower in “Fullmoon”, or the Neo-classical HELLOWEEN styled anthem “Ode To Joy”, it is all enjoyable and loaded with the same winning stylistic trappings that have made this band an intricate alternative to straightforward mainstays such as FREEDOM CALL and HAMMERFALL. But the real glory of this band tends to get reserved for their full blown speed fests, and “Ashen Paradise” succeeds in a rather unique fashion by merging the “Painkiller” elements of “Virus” with the pomp and circumstance of their most memorable speed anthems of “Fight For Deliverance” and “Liberty”.

 

HEAVENLY hasn’t stepped in it yet as a band, in spite of some drastic lineup shifts, but ultimately they do seem to be tapering off a bit, as can be seen on some of the weaker moments on this album such as the dry sounding album closer “Save Our Souls” and the way too mushy balladry of “Farewell” which makes ANGRA’S reinterpretation of “Wuthering Heights” sound manly. This often tends to be the consequence of attention seeking, and that’s the only way to really explain the album cover and the lyrical shift towards the more mainstream happy subject matter of lusty aesthetics. It is something of a mixed bag, but it is pulled off pretty well due to the continuing competency of the band in the music department. It’s not a classic, but “Carpe Diem” is nonetheless a good pickup if you like your Power Metal cuisine with extra keyboards.

(Online March 13, 2010)

Jonathan Smith



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