HEIR APPARENT - The View From Below
Sometimes life doesnít seem very fair. American metal band Heir Apparent who were founded in the early Eighties helped define the genre of progressive US power metal, along with Queensrˇche and Fates Warning. While the latter two garnered a lot of success over the years, Heir Apparentís path was stonier. Their debut album Graceful Inheritance came out in 1986 to huge acclaim but didnít get the commercial reaction it deserved. Three years later the guys switched their style to more technical progressive metal the way it was popular back then with acts like Watchtower, Realm and Toxik, and despite some great moments, One Small Voice contained maybe a little too many cheesy tracks to convince the metal community. The band consequently split up and only got back together for real in the year 2000, and it took them until now to finally release their third longplayer, coming nearly thirty years after its predecessor.
The core members Terry Gorle (guitars), Derek Peace (bass) and Ray Schwartz (drums) who played already on the first two albums are still there. New to the band are keyboard player Op Sakiya and vocalist Will Shaw, and it needs to be said that this is already the third vocalist on just as many longplayers.
From a musical perspective, The View From Below feels closer to the powerful Graceful Inheritance than to the more progressive One Small Voice, although in the end it is different to both of these albums. The youthful rage from the debut has gone, as well as the technical showing off. Instead we get a mature late work that relies mostly on solid mid-tempo movements. The opener Man In The Sky starts with a spoken word part that laments how modern world is questioning science nowadays, and then switches into a grave melodic power metal track with some progressive elements, because we are still to Heir Apparent, and thatís what they do. The new vocalist does a really tremendous job and sounds definitely more confident than the one on the predecessor. The following The Door is another well done progressive power metal song that shows that the masters still know their skills. Here We Arenít harkens back to the balladry that Heir Apparent sometimes overdid in the past, but this track knows how to add enough drama and occasional heaviness to make it all work, especially since itís the only truly quiet song on the album. Synthetic Lies sounds a little more modern, maybe a little like the later Fates Warning, and thatís it for the first half of the album.
The second half begins with the not even three-minute-long Savior, the only up-tempo track on the album. And while I really enjoy this piece, it does feel a little off among the more staid overall mood. The final three tracks Ė Further And Farther, The Road To Palestine and Insomnia Ė all range between six and a little over seven minutes and allow the quintet to show their more elaborate side. Even though these songs lack the technical insanity of some of their earlier stuff, they still prove that despite their elevated age, these musicians still know how to craft ambitious progressive power metal anthems.
The View From Below is a reminder about who helped shape the genre that Heir Apparent are still playing. It may lack the energy of the debut, or the crazy progginess of its successor, but repeated listening will convince you that Heir Apparent are still an essential metal band that can show many younger acts how to do it right.