Friday, June 23, 2023

Heavenwood - The Tarot of the Bohemians (2016)

Heavenwood decided to go all out with its fifth album, and not only come up with an interesting tarot concept for the titling and lyrics, but also deliver what must be their heaviest and most dynamic album yet. Not to say that they're not still incorporating all of the Gothic and doom metal elements you've come to expect, it's not a far cry from 2011's Abyss Masterpiece, but this one actually beats up on the listener with a selection of really heavy guitars, riffs that draw upon a lot of groove metal or thrash in addition to the stable of influences they already had. You'll also notice that the drumming here is just massive compared to their older recordings, with lots more double bass hammering and just a lot more going on which accents the busier guitars.

Fear not, they'll still blaze off into some gorgeous, sorrow-stricken melody, and the vocals still have that mix of weighty growl and bark which juggle between the British death/doom influences and the more gritty Goth guy sound. But where you've got that, they'll use the ramped up intensity to thunder it right into your skull this time. There's also a little bit of a progressive metal swagger in spots, just in how they form some of the choppier guitar patterns, The Tarot of the Bohemians feels like its ready to take on everything, that the Portuguese band is keeping up with everything going on around it and up to the challenge of modernizing, not unlike how Greece's Nightfall evolved itself through the years. This is essentially like mid-ought's Paradise Lost if it were given steroids so you could listen to it at the gym, its tender and mournful moments boxed in on all sides with heaving, hawing beefcake guitars. You were never going to see a fight in a Heavenwood pit before this album...

Or maybe not even a 'pit' at all. But through that, they keep some of the exotic mystique that bled through their sound on Abyss Masterpiece or Redemption, and the album still seems distinctly rooted in their sound, but an ironclad version of that which is much more taxing to perform. Hell, in "The Emperor" they start slowly blasting to a tremolo picked death metal riff! And you'd think that they shouldn't even try to touch such an idea, but it fits in quite flush with the Gothic architecture of their overtures. I do think some audiences might find this a little much if they were expecting Swallow 2: The Stomaching, it does have a bit of the brickwall vibe of a lot of anything goes modern metal albums, but in the end it's a welcome and formidable progression by a band willing to explore further shores than those that lapped at the lake on the 1996 debut.

Verdict: Win [7.78/10]

No comments: