Friday, April 2, 2010

Rob Rock - Holy Hell

I didn’t expect to like this half as much as I did. Here in the metal scene, people don’t seem to take very kindly to Christian related music (But Chris Barnes growling about raping dead children? That’s totally A-okay, apparently). It doesn’t help that so many of these Christian bands are your generic metalcore thing, suffering from the same issues as a gazillion secular metalcore bands anyway.

Yet here we are with a heavy/power release that barrels out of the gate with fist-pumping riffs supported by a solid rhythm section, exceedingly strong vocal work and straightforward, but certainly memorable songwriting. I once heard this band described as the ideal blend of Maiden and Priest, and I see where that comment comes from: this is like…well, maybe not Painkiller, but at least Ram It Down with a more Dickinsonian vocal performance.

But the Maiden/Priest school of singing about kickass things comes into play here as well. While bands like With Blood Comes Cleansing (A part of the aforementioned forgettable crop) are busy grunting about bible verses or whatever, here you have Rob Rock belting out lyrics about Satan, apocalypse, et cetera. Of course, his take on Satan is a more negative view consistent with Christian dogma. As someone who often immerses himself in a genre where the dark side of religiosity is so often idealized, it’s refreshing to see an upturned view of that.

And it’s not preachy, either, unlike parts of the album that succeeded this one, Garden Of Chaos. Yeah, lyrics don’t matter all that much when you can hardly understand them, but fact is, the forefronted vocal melody is a huge part of a lot of heavy and power metal, so I’m glad that Rock isn’t trying to evangelize to me here. In the song Calling Angels, there’s even a glimmer of honest agnosticism often missing from overtly Christian records, where he professes to need to know if there’s an answer above to get him through the night, and so forth.

But it’s good, solid music, and that’s what matters most. Tobi (Edguy, Avantasia) even makes an extended and memorable vocal appearance on closing ballad Move On, which shows hints of compact, but 70s-style proggery and closes the record wonderfully.
This is a superb entry into the heavy/power metal canon, and unless you’re one of –those– metalheads who claim to be all for free expression in metal and then get prissy and pissy when anything takes a slant on Christianity that doesn’t amount to “Splatter the bastard Christ by the goat of Satan”, you should get this.

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