Heavatar are metal through and through. From the cover art, to the band's name and logo, to some of the track titles and the music itself, this German collective live, breathe and shit heavy metal.... in an unashamedly retro way. With a genre that has become fragmented and diversified into so many different subgenres (and subgenres of subgenres), it's sometimes refreshing to encounter a record that nostalgically celebrates the essence of metal's core traits.
Sure, much has been made of Heavatar's neo-classical proclivities, following their 2013 debut, 'Opus I - All My Kingdoms', so it would be a natural presumption that the band should be considered within the subgenre of neo-classical metal. Press blurb emphasises the music's classical influences once again for 'Opus II', their follow-up, which has seen them switch labels from Napalm to earMUSIC. However, it's a case of over-egging stylistic sporadicity. Classical elements have been brought into the compositional pot here and there... sometimes emphatically; other times more discretely. Yet, this is just an added dimension of Heavatar's music. Merely sporadic classical embellishments, rather than full-on Yngwie.
The core of the music generally adheres to traditional and power metal motifs with just a splash of the neo-classical now and again. And neo-classical metal is nothing new, of course. Apart from the aforementioned hegemonist and maestro, Mr Malmsteen himself, there's been the onetime Marty Friedman and Jason Becker outfit, Cacophony. Then look back further and you'll find the likes of Uli Jon Roth and Randy Rhoads incorporating classical influences into their playing. My point being, if band, label, or whoever, is touting the selling point of a new record for its neo-classical metal sways, it's going to mislead and disappoint a hell of a lot of people when it doesn't fully deliver on its promises.
So, better considered as a trad/power metal record with some neo-classical bits and bobs attached, 'Opus II' is not too bad at all. And they even deviate from their core sound with 'An Awakening', that offers something a little different; and 'Hijacked by Unicorns', which introduces plenty of groove into their sound. There are some great vocal lines and harmonies throughout, but with a cappella metal troupe Van Canto's Stefan Schmidt taking on lead singing duties (as well as rhythm guitar), this comes as no surprise, considering the vocal prowess of his day-job band. And with Stratovarius's onetime, long-serving sticksman Jörg Michael in their ranks, the drumming has all the power metal might you could hope for in this kind of thing.
A decent cover of Manowar's 'Metal Daze' rounds off the vocal tracks on the album, before an instrumental, "orchestral version" of 'The Look Inside' suite of four songs that precede the aforementioned cover closes proceedings. There's a lot to like here although it does sound like a rehash and regurgitation of any number of bands from the metal genre's trad/power stylings. That said, I reckon some of these songs will flourish and take on a whole different life in beer-soaked summer festival fields. Then the party can commence good and proper. In their recorded form? Maybe good for pre-party warm-up listening.
OPUS II - THE ANNIHILATION
Review by Mark Holmes
16th February 2018
1) None Shall Sleep; 2) Into Doom
3) Purpose of a Virgin Mind
4) Hijacked by Unicorns
5) The Annihilation; 6) Wake Up Now
7) A Broken Taboo
8) An Awakening
9) A Battle Against All Hope
10) A Look Inside
11) Metal Daze
12) The Look Inside (orchestral version)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Classical elements have been brought into the compositional pot here and there... sometimes emphatically; other times more discretely. Yet, this is just an added dimension of Heavatar's music. Merely sporadic classical embellishments, rather than full-on Yngwie."