Seeing how Heir Apparent last graced us with a full-length album twenty-nine years ago, it was only inevitable for time to alter the Seattle group’s power-prog formula. The band remains defined by clean production complete with flamboyant vocals and intricate rhythms, but this material is not so easily comparable to Queensryche or Helloween as Graceful Inheritance or One Small Voice had been. If anything, The View from Below has more in common with what Fates Warning and Dream Theater were peddling in the early 90s.
While Heir Apparent was never afraid to include slower songs back in the day, this is easily their most introspective album to date. Aside from the two-minute speed metal on “Savior,” the songs are mostly comprised of md-tempo slow burns whose decidedly longer lengths allow for greater buildups. The approach can seem somewhat anticlimactic or same-ish at times, especially for more straightforward listeners, but it rarely feels directionless.
It helps that there are some excellent tracks on here. While “The Man in the Sky” does a good job of starting things off, “The Door” stands out for its more urgent pacing and “Here We Aren’t” makes for a strong ballad with gorgeous piano work and passionate vocals that avoid going too over the top. “The Road to Palestine” also stands out thanks to its Eastern aesthetic and particularly intense guitar work.
And with three members from the band’s classic era on board, the musicianship is unsurprisingly on point. The compositions are based more on building textures than riff churning or technical shredding, but the guitar work is electrifying in every context and the rhythm section is just as prominent. The keyboards are bombastic without getting too cheesy and a huskier vocal approach helps avoid the Geoff Tate emulations of memories past.
Old school prog heads may deem such a view blasphemous, but Heir Apparent’s third album may be their best. The vibrant musicianship helps tie The View from Below to the band’s late 80s predecessors, but an emphasis on more introspective songwriting allows for greater consistency. This is an album that could’ve easily come out decades ago, but makes for a refreshing listen in the modern era.
“Here We Aren’t”
“The Road to Palestine”