Review: Holy Grail – Times of Pride and Peril

 

The shred lords of California are back in action! ‘Times of Pride and Peril’ marks Holy Grail’s third studio release and this fret shredding riff-fest is the shot in the arm that American heavy metal desperately needs.

Opening slowly with solemn guitars and gentle taps of the cymbals ‘Crystal King’ quickly kicks the album into gear with some fast, galloping guitar riffs and high vocals within 20 seconds. Showcasing a fantasy driven lyrical element, Holy Grail quickly establishes the basics of a power metal album with technical riffing, soaring vocals, rumbling bass and drums, melodic leads, and shredding solos. Though not a show stopper, ‘Crystal King’ is a strong opening to the album.

Continuing with a slow beginning driven by rumbling drums and a humming bass, ‘Waste Them All Always’ quickly kicks into a fast riff before slowing down a bit as vocalist James-Paul Luna enters with a more reserved showing this time around, but like its predecessor, this song features strong riffing and soaring vocals. The drums feel a bit muted, which is a shame since the drumming really drives the track here. Regardless, ‘Waste Them All Away’ features two excellent and differing guitar solos – the first is slower in tempo and has an epic feel to it, while the second has more thrash character. Unfortunately, it’s something of a lukewarm tune as it lacks the speed and grit that we’ve become accustomed to with the previous release.

Kicking off with a heavy, almost death metal-like riff and pounding drums ‘Sudden Death’ kicks off on the right foot. Luna’s vocals are as powerful as ever and the technicality of the riffing is something to be adored, especially with the heavy drums driving a furious beat in the background. Holy Grail certainly stepped up their game here, especially with the dizzying solo late in the song and simplistic but awesome lyrics like “Sudden death is coming!”

Taking a much more traditional heavy metal route in this tune, ‘Those Who Will Remain’ is a bass-heavy, riff-driven tune. Luna’s vocals are at their best here, especially his screams during the chorus. Once again featuring two very different guitar solos, this track definitely shakes things up with a dueling solo midway through and a simple but pleasing solo to finish out the track.

Kicking up the speed, ‘Descent into the Maelstrom’ is straight-up heavy metal that firmly establishes Holy Grail’s formula for this album. The riffing is simple but enjoyable, while the solos are wild, technical and exciting, and take up over a minute and a half of the song! Solo lovers rejoice, this is your holy grail right here.

Following the established formula of heavy, mid tempo riffing, strong drumming, and soaring vocals, ‘Apotheosis’ seemingly falls in line with the others until the first breakdown drops and leads to a thrashy riff chockfull of harmonics. A breakdown lover’s dream, this song track is all over the place, but in a good way. One moment it’s speeding along nicely, next it’s slowing down then suddenly erupting into a chunky riff. Without a doubt, this song has strong metalcore qualities in its musical approach, but retains its traditional heavy metal feel throughout. The only drawback is the lack of a solo that goes beyond the ten second mark, but that’s a minor, borderline elitist criticism.

‘Psychomachia’ is quite possibly the heaviest track on the album, both musically and vocally. Luna’s vocals are pained and strained early on and the riffs are almost Slayer-like at the beginning. Before the track can lead this album to the dark side, however, Luna’s breaks into his normal vocal style and the riffs tradeoff between slow and heavy to technical and melodic. The mid-track thumping of the drums preceding one of the best solos on the albums gives a war-like feel to the track that’s quickly outshined by the dazzling solo. Once the solo dies down, the track ends on a high note with the fast and melodic riffing playing along with a double reprisal of the chorus before a heavy finish

‘No More Heroes’ is a solid track. It’s not much different than anything that we have heard so far, but it’s a solid track. The guitar solos are ferocious and the riffing is strong, but the biggest attraction here is Luna’s voice. He’s remained powerful throughout the album and truly shines brightest on ‘No More Heroes.’

‘Pro Patria Mori’ is without question the best track on the entire. It takes everything that makes Holy Grail great such as fret-shredding solos, technical riffs, powerful vocals and fantastic lyrics telling of heroism, courage, and duty, and kicks it up a few notches. There really isn’t much left to be said at this point other than the album has reached its high point. The very same can be said of the nearly ten minute album closer ‘Black Lotus,” and that’s certainly not a criticism.

After listening through all ten tracks several times over, it’s safe to say that ‘Times of Pride and Peril’ is a solid album with great overall consistency. The music acts as a bridge that blends the best of classic and modern metal. Filled with catchy hooks and edgy vocals, well-placed harmonies, strong technical dual lead guitar work, and a tight rhythm section, it makes a great addition to anyone’s music library. The production on the album is fantastic, giving its most attractive qualities a finely sharpened edge. 8/10

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