Heaven Shall Burn has become one of those bands that you could split their catalog completely in half in terms of musical direction. The early days the band did their best to mimic the pure crushing sound of Bolt Thrower and had songs like “Behind A Wall Of Silence” that would be the perfect backdrop to beating someone to death with one of their own limbs. In 2004 though, the band opted to take a more commercial or safe route with the release on Antigone. Gone were the borderline death metal riffs and in their place were Gothenburg like melodic harmonies. With 5 releases a piece in terms of sound, the new album, Veto, would essentially serve as the tie breaker. Atleast one would think so…

From 1999 to about 2003, I was contemplating footing the bill to get myself overseas to see Heaven Shall Burn because they never tour the states. Whatever It May Take, Asunder, and In Battle have been in constant rotation since I first got my hands on them. The high regard I held for this band was absolutely crushed with the release of 2004’s, Antigone. HSB seemed to go the route few metalcore bands would travel and in releasing Antigone, they showed they were willing to conform to modern trends. Right around this time, the Swedish melodic death/thrash hybrid was becoming ever increasingly popular and the success of bands like In Flames, Soilwork, and The Haunted seemed to convince pretty much every other band out there to try their hands at this genre. Heaven Shall Burn caved and what came of it seemed very fake and disappointing. In my opinion, it was a very obvious attempt in cashing in, especially with the pitiful clean vocals. Luckily for everyone, the band must have received enough backlash because everything that was wrong with Antigone was removed for the follow-up in Deaf To Our Prayers. The more melodic approach remained but it wasn’t chock full of cheesiness. The only problem was that the balls the band was known for having wasn’t present for this record either. Some really solid songs but ultimately a forgettable album. The next release, Iconoclast, brought back some of that pissed off attitude from the bands earlier records and even brought back a lot of the earlier death metal type influences. Significantly beefed up production had made this easily the best sounding record of theirs to date and one of my favorite records of theirs overall. Invictus, unfortunately was a setback as it came off to me as the thrown out B-sides to Iconoclast. The sound and style were there but it appeared to be lacking some heart and felt like a run through the motions. I won’t even get on the horrendous decision of using techno.

If you’ve read any of my reviews before, when I tend to give a back story it normally leads into a resulting paragraph about how the newest disc, in this case Veto, is a culmination record. Well, that’s exactly what this record is. Songs like Land Of The Upright Ones, You Will Be Godless, and Antagonized sound like equal parts of both ends of the spectrum of their career. However, what I noticed with this record is that Heaven Shall Burn has seemed to have grown up. The album still retains the relentlessness but in the interest of progress has a new found sense of melody that was never present on a previous album. Songs like Godiva and Hunters Will Be Hunted have such beautiful guitar work laced throughout and there are solos abound that they really create an atmosphere that allows this new record to stand along amongst the rest of the catalog. If a band has to get mature, this is the way it should be done. Just enough change to give it character without ruining the original idea.

As with pretty much every Heaven Shall Burn release, there is a cover song. Most of the previous artists covered like Merauder, Bolt Thrower, and Therapy? made sense. When I noticed Valhalla was on this record, I thought “Blind Guardian? This can only turn out bad.” To my surprise this is one of the best instances of a band taking an original song and making it their own. The special guest vocals by BG’s own, Hansai Kursch is completely welcomed added bonus. I think fans of both bands will really dig this version of one my favorite Blind Guardian songs. On the deluxe edition there is a cover of Killing Joke’s European Super Slate, which is a song I never heard prior to this. Listening to the original, it’s another faithful recreation with Heaven Shall Burn’s sound but I think they could have chosen a way better Killing Joke song to cover.

Overall I’m greatly impressed with this record. I was beginning to think the band was beginning to get burnt out and facing the end with the general lull feeling I had with Invictus. It’s nice to see the band take a chance in the right direction to almost reinvent themselves while staying true to their roots. I think fans of either sides of the bands discography will appreciate the songs on this record.