"Ride The Void"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Expectations were high for this sophomore album from Holy Grail. They made a big impact with debut album "Crisis In Utopia" and its full-blooded traditional metal attack. Well, I expect responses to be pretty mixed to "Ride The Void". If you were anticipating a repeat of the bare-knuckled trad metal of "Crisis In Utopia", you are definitely out of luck. "Ride the Void" is altogether cleaner sounding, more melodic and more progressive. The European power and prog metal influences are much more pronounced this time along and I suspect a certain contingent of Holy Grail's fanbase isn't going to be happy about that.

It leaves me with mixed feelings. The music is definitely more complex and not as purely catchy (although there are a lot of good hooks),,,the shredding axe skills of new guitarist Alex Lee (formerly of Bonded By Blood) are full of neo-classical arpeggios in the Yngwie style. As for the vocals, a lot of grit has been sanded off of James Paul Luna's pipes. He's a lot smoother and even "sweeter" here. Technically, there's nothing to complain about, but there are times when I wish he would "hold the sugar". On the other hand, there are a few cases where some deathcore sounding grunts show up, making the music sound a little like the dual vocal approach of early 3 Inches of Blood.

It's a diverse attack. Don't get me wrong, speed and power play a very large part of "Ride the Void", especially on "Crosswinds" and "Too Decayed To Wait", which have a lot of pure speed metal in them. But there's also a long ballad "Rains of Sorrow" which struck me as drawn out and sappy, as well as a more commercial approach on "Take It To the Grave" and "Sleep of Virtue". The Euro power metal aspect is pretty much everywhere. If you're a fan of that kind of style, "Ride The Void" is a must-have.

Nobody can claim Holy Grail played it safe with "Ride the Void" or just imitated what they did before. Whether this will equal more success, time will tell.