Heaven’s Cry – Outcast (Prosthetic Records)Thursday, 2nd June 2016
Montreal, Canada’s Heaven’s Cry possess a long history full of twists and turns that could mirror their progressive rock/metal style. Bursting on the scene with a killer debut Food for Thought Substitute album in 1996, derailed in momentum through years in litigation with management and record label woes – the space between releases has been beneficial for the listeners and the musicians themselves. Given their outside work in the 2000’s (guitarist Éric Jarrin most notable as a part of deathcore veterans Despised Icon), the last few years have been more productive since signing to Prosthetic Records – bringing us to their fourth record Outcast.
Heaven’s Cry come from a background where dual clean vocalists offer up wider dynamic possibilities that match the openness of their musical abilities. Bassist Sylvain Auclair and guitarist Pierre St-Jean beyond being exemplary songwriters and proficient players have ranges that rival the best in the AOR/rock business – elements of everyone from Kansas and the Little River Band to Styx come up when the choruses to the title cut and the energetic, semi-spacey “Symmetry” hit the airwaves. Balancing out the longer arrangements such as the almost 15-minute “The Day the System Failed” with shorter constructs in Rush-like five-minute range for “A Shift in Scenery” allows the band a chance to develop hooks and harmonies in different settings, while still challenging the listener through the chord build ups and off-time rhythmic interpretations.
The challenge progressive metal bands face is constructing ideas in such a way as to be musically enticing while not overwhelming or drowning the mind and body into technical, maze-like exhaustion. Heaven’s Cry even in the aforementioned “The Day the System Failed” manage to float echoing refrains or hooks (check out the one musically from the guitar/bass perspective at 5:08-6:46 that builds and drops into atmospheric bliss) while Pierre and Sylvain switch up more emotional vocals with those sincere twin harmonies that lift you into the clouds. Incorporating everything from tasteful acoustic guitars to Chapman Stick work, the band also give mind food for thought in the historical meets human evolution story-line – infusing Noam Chomsky’s speech work in the opening track “The Human Factor” that brings the best thinkers of the past into present day awareness.
Imagine a synthesis of progressive rock bands like Spock’s Beard or Pendragon against the metal veneer of Dream Theater, Pagan’s Mind, and a touch of Pain of Salvation – and that will give insight into Heaven’s Cry far reaching appeal. Outcast represents another pinnacle release not only for the band, but for the vitality of progressive rock/metal as a whole.