Final Sign – Hold High the Flame (Divebomb Records)

Tuesday, 10th November 2015
Rating: 8.5/10

Sharing musical ties since 1999, guitarist Brian ‘Hellstorm’ Williams (October 31) and vocalist Shawn Pelata recorded together in K-Octave, issuing an album through German label Hellion Records but quickly dissolved in the early 2000’s. Carving out the right time and ready for another creative endeavor, Final Sign is born – a quartet that blend together a potent cocktail of thrash, US power metal and traditional tinges that keep the old school 80’s ethics burning bright for today’s heavy generation to savor.

Immediately noticeable is Brian’s knack to reach for the perfect riff/melodic hook combinations to cause mandatory brain/body engagement, hair raising at times like the mid-tempo Accept-oriented anthem “Burn the Temple Down” or the faster, more Helstar-ish follow up title track. There’s no disputing his speed shredding lead break abilities, but being cognizant of proper, catchy foundations or necessary layering for dynamic intensity makes Final Sign rise leaps and bounds over their competition. Bassist Howard Baker and drummer Kevin Haverlah accentuate the versatile rhythms and speeds like top notch professionals – keeping a highly melodic “Scaling Lies” in the pocket during the chorus while being a little more open and fluid during the verses and bridge where things get adventurous vocally.

The star beyond Brian’s indisputable metal axe heroics is Shawn’s multi-octave range and sustained upper tier abilities. Rich in texture, grace, and feel – there’s no pitch control problems as he reminds me of what the greats from Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson to James Rivera and even Midnight can do on the faster, thrash-oriented “Madness Eternal” as well as crunchy, double-bass fueled opener “Daring the Sun”. Steven Cobb’s animation-oriented cover plus the natural production values bring the total album package to top tier terrain.

Remembering the array of bands in the 1980’s that had that power foundation but also sprinkled in traditional and thrash aspects, Final Sign possess that killer musicianship and strong performances to carry these eight songs home brilliantly. Expect followers of Accept, Metal Church, and early Reverend to feast on Hold High the Flame – a stout 38 minute reminder of the longevity of denim and leather bringing us all together.

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