Monday, January 03, 2011

Holy Grail: Crisis in Utopia (2010)


Holy Grail is a California traditional metal band formed by three former members of White Wizzard. Crisis in Utopia is their first full-length, and it demonstrates the band has everything it could ever possibly need to start filling stadiums in a few years. Perfect production? Check. Memorable riffs? Check. Catchy choruses? Check. Crowd-pleasing vocal technique? Check.

Their style is instantly recognizable as traditional heavy metal, influenced by all the usual suspects. It's not quite over the top either--I'd say it's right at the top. They never turn into a joke, like most others in the trad metal revival (I'm looking at you, Enforcer). You probably won't notice the bass, and the drums are basically here to keep it moving forward. The real stars here are guitar and vocals.

First, the guitars. The pace ranges from middle to fast, and the riffs are memorable (especially check out "The Blackest Night"). Occasional pinch harmonics are thrown in, and the solos tend toward the neoclassical; I'd never say they shred (no Zakk Wylde in the bunch) but they can definitely play their instruments. Give them another album or two of experience, and I would expect these twin axes to chop off some heads.

The vocals are both an asset and a liability. The backup vocals provide the very occasional growl, which doesn't really hurt or help anything, it's just there. On the lead vocal front, Luna's talent is undeniable, in range (Halford-esque), lyrical content (Vikings and battle), and the ability to write a stadium-ready shout-along hook ("Rage! Fire! Born of your desire!"). If you're not singing "Run your sword through the enemy!" by the end of "Call of Valhalla", you might want to turn in your metalhead badge right now. On the other hand, his throaty, high singing has a bit too much resemblance to the douche from Avenged Sevenfold. It's never bad, by itself, and if that band had never existed it probably wouldn't bother anyone. But at times (e.g. the title track) it's hard to shake that impression.

Still, if you can get past that, it's hard not to sing along. It will probably broaden their appeal to a more mainstream audience, potentially making them the next gateway drug of choice to more extreme things. And thankfully, none of the music is remotely metalcore.

The Verdict: Holy Grail has a hell of a lot of potential, and Crisis in Utopia is a fun listen. It's not perfect, but it's one of the best trad metal debuts in a while. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.


  1. I just picked this one up yesterday, but have not had a chance to listen to it yet. Looking forward to it.

  2. It will not disappoint. (In fact, I think that's the best summation of what my 3.5 of 5 rating means.)