I consider myself a big fan of death growls, blast beats, and all the lovable aspects that extreme metal has to offer. That being said, it’s easy to get engulfed in the heavier subgenres and forget the magic of traditional heavy metal. The powerful clean vocals, the reasonably paced drumming, the stories of kings, warriors, and monsters of every breed – it’s classic for a reason. If you need a longsword hilt to the face to remember what this subgenre has to offer, then look no further than the first album released by the heavy metal trio Heavens Decay: The Great Void of Mystery.
The drumming on this debut full length is really something else. It’s not due to technical ability, though the drums are definitely played well here. It’s simply the sound: The production across all of The Great Void of Mystery is noticeable from the start and obviously professional, but it hits the hardest with the drumming. The percussion makes each song feel warm, pleasant, and somehow, comfortable. This is a fairly common feeling among traditional and power metal releases, but Oscar Clorio’s work on the kit still shines through as one of the strong points of Heavens Decay. Credit to Matt Russell and Dan Swanö as well, of course, for ensuring that the mix came out in such a way.
People compare metal to classical music much more often than they really should, but much of the guitar work on this release is clearly built on a classical foundation. Needless to say, it sounds damn nice. As with everything else, the tone of the guitar is easy on the ears and the way it fits into the mix is fantastic and natural as can be. The solos fit right in as well; in fact, they fit the pacing almost too well. I might not have noticed that there were solos at all if it weren’t for the clear absence of the bellowing voice of Nick Hernandez. Even still, Julio Viterbo keeps the riffs coming on both bass and guitar, and the majority of those riffs are catchy and memorable.
But while vocals are being mentioned, I have to say – goddamn, what a voice. The singing is powerful and absolutely meets the standard for traditional heavy metal. There’s a hint of darkness in Hernandez’ voice, which is subtle, but does a lot to build the atmosphere of this world of fantasy that he’s singing about. Everything good about the vocals with Heavens Decay also comes with consistency – there’s no track where you hear awkward mumbling about goblins spewed into the microphone. Everything about it is powerful from start to finish.
One of the glaring complaints that I have to make (aside from the misspelled album name on their bandcamp page) is that the vocal intro for “Where the Ravens Fly Free” is mixed very low; I actually turned my volume up considerably just to hear it, and was soon after assaulted by a surprise blast of sound as the song kicked in. Luckily, it turned out to be a fantastic song, and I can’t criticize the whole track for one questionable intro. The album is solid from there on out. By the time I reached the closing track “Endless Fire” and saw that it ran over eight minutes long, I figured that Heavens Decay was going for the run of the mill ballad ending. I’ve certainly encountered a good number of album finishers that were long simply for the sake of being long. Luckily, that is not the case here. The album closes with a slower look at what made the previous tracks so great. Every aspect of the band is in tip top shape.
This release definitely caught me off guard. I was not expecting to fling a nearby notebook around while pretending it was a shield, but this debut was good enough to drive me to do just that. This kind of output is what I would expect from a band’s second or third release, but Heavens Decay wasted no time in getting some quality music out there. The Great Void of Mystery is going to be a tough act to follow for their sophomore album.