Heavenly – Carpe Diem (2010, AFM Records)
- Carpe Diem
- Lost In Your Eyes
- A Better Me
- Ashen Paradise
- The Face Of Truth
- Ode To Joy
- Save Our Souls
Benjamin Sotto – Vocals
Charley Corbiaux – Guitars
Matthieu Plana – Bass
Olivier Lapauze – Guitars
Pierre-Emmanuel “Piwee” Desfray - Drums
Oliver Hartmann – Vocals on ‘Save our Souls’
Geraldine Gadaut – Vocals on ‘Carpe Diem’ & ‘Ashen Paradise’
Nicolas Marco – Orchestration, piano & keyboards
Producers: Philip Colodetti & Heavenly
Total Time = 45:15
European Power Metal.
Some of you may stop reading right now because Power Metal is a hotly debated genre in the world of Heavy Metal. I’m a Power Metal fan, I like the soaring vocals and the duelling guitars…..I grew up with bands like Judas Priest, Helloween, Manowar and Grave Digger, some of the pioneers of the genre. Then I moved on to bands like Blind Guardian, Angra, Gamma Ray, and Hammerfall but I always enjoy discovering a band that may have fallen under my radar. I had never really heard of Heavenly, maybe a passing review online, but the release of the band’s new album, CARPE DIEM, in December 2009 (U.S. release was in late January 2010) gave me a closer inspection. I’ve had a digital promo copy of the album since late December 2009 but I wasn’t going to pay the high import prices, I waited until the U.S. release date in January to pick this up for my collection.
The title track opens the album with blistering double bass pounding from Piwee Desfray and lightning fast riffs from the Corbiaux/Laspauze guitar duo but the song quickly moves in and out of orchestrated parts with guest vocals by Benighted Soul’s Geraldine Gadaut. The song is very good and the trade-off between Gadaut and Ben Sotto works well because she compliments his lead vocal. ‘Lost In Your Eyes’ follows with over the top, technical speed…..basically your typical Power Metal styled song. This track reminds me of the faster songs from Angra’s FIREWORKS (1998) album, it has that huge sound with the multi-layered background vocals and swirling guitars. Honestly, if your not a fan of Power Metal, then ‘Lost In Your Eyes’ is going to turn you off because it’s pretty formulaic in it’s performance but fans like myself will enjoy it.
The thing about Power Metal is that you need to expand your sound and add different elements to it in order to have the music and band stand out. For Heavenly, this means showcasing their obvious love of British Rock icons Queen. ‘Farewell’ is a grand Queen-styled showcase complete with Sotto delivering an extremely high falsetto to an opening piano and weaving in and out of Freddie Mercury’s range (but falling short). Sotto does a decent impression but Mercury is the master! ‘Farewell’ has the orchestration, the piano and almost the exact guitar tone that Brian May uses on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’…..this is Heavenly’s ‘Rhapsody’, even copying the ending of the song for the most part. Queen is one of my favorite bands so I have no problem with the overt influence, it breaks the album up and gives you something different. ‘Fullmoon’ follows the same pattern as ‘Lost In Your Eyes’…..fast paced, guitar and double bass heavy with soaring vocals, sounding like Angra again. It’s definitely repetitive and I feel like I’ve heard this all before and I even pulled out Angra’s FIREWORKS for further comparison! Speaking of repetitive, Heavenly gives us another Queen-inspired song with ‘A Better Me’. There are Queen elements all over this song from the Brian May guitar sound, to the background vocals, to the piano accompaniment and the various pacing added to Sotto’s flamboyant Freddie impression. I like this song too but I definitely would have moved it down the track order so there wasn’t any Queen overkill. It’s definitely over the top with that really large sound and that could be the thing that turns other fans off.
The band returns to the pure speed of ‘Ashen Paradise’, complete with Desfray’s pummelling double bass drumming (he is a force on the entire record!), some airplane sound effects and special guest Oliver Hartmann contributing vocals. The guitar duel between Corbiaux and Lapauze at the solo is very frantic, a little DragonForce maybe, but the speed fits well with the song and there is a lot of melody within those bombarding notes. Another great song follows with ‘The Face Of Truth’, a slower song compared to ‘Ashen Paradise’ but not devoid of speed and power. ‘The Face Of Truth’ has a little more grit and strength to it especially around the main riff. The keyboards compliment the song well but I wouldn’t have minded a tougher vocal from Sotto…..the falsetto is very good but sometimes a lower register adds a lot more. Like many Power Metal bands, Classical Music plays a big part in the overall influence of the band, hence ‘Ode To Joy’. Obviously, the inspiration comes from Beethoven’s 9th symphony and the band weaves a speed metal journey around it. It’s a good song but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, kind of like classical Helloween but with higher vocals. The good news is that Heavenly gives one more solid track with ‘Save Our Souls’ and builds on the “power” in Power Metal rather than the obvious speed. The song opens with some sort of sci-fi intro but moves into a really good, less frantic pace. The speed is still there, especially at the solo, and the layered background vocals give the song that huge sound but there is a bit more control on this song and that makes it one of the better songs on CARPE DIEM.
From my description of the songs one might think that I didn’t like this album but I actually like it a lot. That’s the thing about Power Metal, you either love it or you hate it. I like the over the top huge sound, the speedy guitar work, the grand orchestrated passages and the soaring high vocals but that doesn’t appeal to everyone. There is a Power Metal backlash out there that has been brewing for at least the last 10 years so I figured I would describe the songs so people know what they are getting into. I thought the Queen influence was a highlight, although I would have spaced those two tracks out to avoid overkill. The music is performed expertly and there is plenty of power and melody throughout, I would have preferred that Ben Sotto used a little more grit on some of the songs rather than focusing completely with his falsetto but he still has a great voice. For me, there was enough good songs and interesting pieces on CARPE DIEM for me to go back and check out Heavenly’s back catalogue. This is the band’s fifth album and, from what I’ve read, the first four albums are really good. Overall, I liked the album but it did get a little repetitive at times and I found myself checking other bands’ (Angra, Gamma Ray) albums for similar sounding songs. If you like Helloween, Angra, Gamma Ray and Queen then you can’t go wrong with this record. By the way, great album cover!
‘Carpe Diem’, ‘Farewell’, ‘A Better Me’, ‘Save Our Souls’, ‘Ashen Paradise’