Crisis In Utopia
posted on 12/2010 By:
California’s Holy Grail is comprised of the majority of a previous White Wizzard line-up—vocalist James Paul Luna, guitarist James J. Larue and drummer Tyler Meahl all abandoned that project in 2008 after the release of High Speed GTO. I admit that I’ve never really got into White Wizzard all that much, in any of its line-ups, but Holy Grail garnered some positive praise for their debut EP, so I was intrigued enough to sign up for this, their first full-length.
And, after all that, I’m sad to say that, for the most part, I’m still unimpressed.
On paper, the band’s blend of trad and speed metal is a mix I should readily enjoy, but between a general blandness of songcraft and the occasional loathsome nod to modern radio-readiness, Crisis In Utopia falls short of the “classic” half of the classic-metal tag Holy Grail so eagerly chases. Crisis opens strong with one of its best tunes in "My Last Attack," which displays many of the band's calling cards—the guitars are well-played, shred-tastic and speedy, and Luna’s voice is powerful, equally so in midrange and falsetto scream. From that initial fist-in-the-air tune, Crisis speeds through two more tracks of decent retro metal, each lesser than the previous one, before it stalls out entirely with the title track, which sends its trad-metal flash headlong into a breakdown rife with metalcore-ish screams and some distinct nods towards the chunky riffs and vocal screams in which Prosthetic has traditionally traded. From that point forward, the taint of metalcore is never washed clean, and the album never recovers.
Even in its worst moments, the performances on Crisis are stout, particularly the guitar-work. But fleet-fingered fretboard frippery can’t save the disc, and as the songs deteriorate into mediocrity, the solo-heavy approach beneath the melodic multi-tracked vocal and occasional chugga-chugga turn is decidedly reminiscent of current radio-metal outfit Avenged Sevenfold. Overall, the Grail stumbles in attempting to balance its classic-metal mission statement and its blatant aspirations toward the modern hit parade. Moments of Crisis coalesce into something better than the average melodic metal mess—the lumbering stagger of “The Blackest Night” or the aforementioned “My Last Attack”—but overall, these tunes whip by without leaving much in the memory.
All in, Crisis In Utopia sports about four quality songs, which is hardly enough to warrant a hearty recommendation by a long shot. Two of its finest tracks are those that appear on the initial EP, and I can see why that release was (is) held in higher esteem: had the Grail pursued that direction steadfastly, without deviation into near-metalcore crapola, this album would’ve fared far, far better. As it stands, Crisis’ decided stabs at commerciality undermine what initial credibility it had, and it falls somewhere between a scorching and fun throwback and a shameful shiny pop-metal dud.
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