While Heaven Wept more or less destroyed Leave the Hall with their last album, Vast Oceans Lachrymose. Quite literally in fact, as it left us unable to do anything but listen to it for a good 6 months, thus slowing our already moribund journalistic pace down to that of a drunk man walking through 3 feet of treacle. Imagine then our fear then when we get wind of a follow up being released so quickly, hot on the heels of Triumph:Tragedy:Transcendence, their excellent live album and last release for Cruz Del Sur before moving to Nuclear Blast, thus upping their output to the levels of late 70′s Judas Priest.
For the uninitiated, While Heaven Wept effortlessly craft the kind of music that the Knight Templar at the end of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade would have on his 11th Century iPod (For your information, this man and the personality I have imagined for him is my reference point when considering the merits of any epic metal, having already sought his wisdom on Atlantean Kodex), music worthy of an epic decade long journey, a coming of age or perhaps the fruition of a lifelong dream. It is irrefutable scientific fact that any moment in your life will be significantly enhanced by having them on in the background, instantly transforming your pathetic existence into a memorable scene from some sort of Oscar-grabbing blockbuster biopic.
It is surprising then that opener Hour Of Reprisal is not a 57 minute bible of epic metal storytelling but an immediate, up-tempo slice of heavy metal that gets right about your face and even incorporates a slight (very slight) black metal tinge into the relentless riffing, which in turn gives way to the headbanging intro of Destroyer Of Solace, another brisk slice of power that, powered by the uplifting vocals of Rain Irving, comes and goes before you’ve even had a chance to get fully comfortable on the chaise longue in your velvet epic metal leisure suit. Having been continuously surprised for a full 6 minutes and 47 seconds, we find ourselves merging seamlessly into the third track, Obsessions Now Effigies, and it dawns on me that this is, more or less, one long song split up into sections. However, for a band as unashamedly sprawling and grandiose as While Heaven Wept, you can’t help but feel as if you’ve been rushed through it and, while you’ve certainly enjoyed yourself, you wish you could have let things soak in a little longer, a bit like taking a sightseeing tour of a beautiful city while handcuffed to a particularly frisky Usain Bolt.
If you’re surprised by the immediacy and heaviness of the first three tracks, rest assured that the album hinges on the stripped down and emotional Unplenitude, a song that would have even a man of stone shedding small, pebble tears of emotion all down his granite face, paving the way for To Grieve Forever to exponentially up the doom factor. Its lethargic, dragging introduction is reminiscent of Mourning Beloveth at their most depressing, while Saturn and Sacrifice, amongst its perfectly formed power metal arrangements, displays the weighty menace of latter-day My Dying Bride. Finally you can slow down, settle in, relax and enjoy the long journey through some panoramic musical scenery, the likes of which album closer Finality has in abundance and, despite being laden with a chorus taken directly from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s bin marked ‘too saccharine’, gathers momentum over its 11 minute duration, soaring up and up and carrying you ever higher before abrubtly ending and sending you spiralling back down to earth like the victim of a tragic parachuting accident.
More accessible than their previous releases, yet offering enough depth and engagement to keep you coming back for more, Fear Of Infinity is a significant step forward for While Heaven Wept, demonstrating again why they are the kings of pomp and circumstance and one of Leave The Hall‘s firm favourites. Obviously we would have liked more than 37 minutes of music, but when it comes down to it, 37 minutes with Megan Fox is better than a long weekend with Lisa Riley. Probably.