Release DetailsLABEL Nuclear Blast
RELEASED ON 1/22/2013
Holy Grail feels like a more confident, unified band whose talents trend upward and genuinely seeks to improve.
Ride the Void
Much as I appreciate Jon Leon and whichever company he keeps, amidst all the acrimonious axings and rousing reformations within White Wizzard, I couldn’t help but question the integrity of his band. The Wizzard package too often seems stilted, and though Leon is a hell of a composer/bassist with massive potential, he may stagnate without the proper band setting. Over the past five years, my attention instead shifted toward the once-rough-hewn Holy Grail.
Becoming a better band is Holy Grail’s goal. True, they lost guitarist James J. LaRue, who was one of the three former White Wizzard members that broke away to form Holy Grail back in 2008; replacing him is ex-Bonded by Blood co-founder Alex Lee, who I figured would bring enhanced thrashiness to the proceedings. He first surfaced on the Seasons Bleedings EP from late 2011 — a double-shot of covers of Rainbow’s “Kill the King” and King Diamond’s “No Presents for Christmas” — both of which likewise promised a broadening scope for the young band.
An Into Eternity level of extremity follows the two-minute instrumental intro of “Archeus” with “Bestia Triumphans” — one of the most multi-faceted Holy Grail songs to date, as well as their longest track and most ferocious in their short career. The lead war from 3:23 - 4:36 is pretty dang scintillating, with a nicely cobbled call-and-response breakdown. Though the growled vocals are rather nondescript next to Luna’s confident soars, they are nonetheless well-placed; arriving earlier than on Crisis in Utopia, but still relatively sparing compared to, say, 3 Inches of Blood, who more fully hybridize the brutals.
Holy Grail has filled their proverbial cup with the lifesblood from recent tourmates, from the majesty of Amon Amarth to the acrobatics of Dragonforce, and the band has ambitious goals for their lead riffage. Honestly, what results is remarkable for the guitar-vocal interplay alone, and — when firing on all cylinders — edges in front of the Neo Trad Metal pack.
Ride the Void starts to bleed together during the second half, though. The enhanced technicality is absolutely welcome, and they DO seem to be pushing themselves (dig Eli Santana’s blazing lead-in and outro bookending "Too Decayed to Wait"). However, I often have a hard time caring about much of the lyrics themselves, even though the harmonies work.
By the time we get down to “The Great Artifice”, Holy Grail [in my mind] goes a bit too far by (inadvertently?) plumbing the depths of the ‘90s for a Bud ad and Bond flick, and even though it’s probably just my overactive imagination, I thought this was crossing a cliché line that’s beyond your “seeings of lights” or “carrying the on” and such. Still, at least it’s not as… ahem… over the top as including the ol’ “fire / desire” rhyme in the album’s first three songs.
Seriously, though — in another, higher respect, Holy Grail feels like a more confident, unified band whose talents trend upward and genuinely seek to improve. They get downright thrashy on “Crosswinds”, force feed infectious choruses in “Take It to the Grave”, and even in spots that strike as filler, manage something cool enough to raise an eyebrow. There is a growing maturity and might behind the bulk of Ride the Void that will probably push these SoCal cats into an even more progressive direction in the future… maybe even concept album territory.