It’s been twenty-nine long years since the day “One Small Voice” was released. Time was the price HEIR APPARENT had to pay in order to come back with a brand new album, and trust me, words like “highly anticipated” are very poor to describe it.
It would be an easy task for someone to stick to the facts and just go through the band’s story. Everybody knows about the numerous line-up changes, the stories occurred in the background, the breathtaking live performances and everyone’s untold hopes for a new HEIR APPARENT album all these years… However, there’s more to the story than just facts.
For people willing to read between the lines the take away from all these should be Terry Gorle’s vision, as HEIR APPARENT is a band that made no compromises whatsoever. Their goal has always been clear and the bar was always set high. These were the only requirements that had to be met for the band to break its silence, both in studio and on stage. “Perfectionism?”, you may ask. “Probably”, I’d say.
“Their goal has always been clear”. I mention this mostly because I have in mind how different the band’s first two albums sound from one another. From “Graceful Inheritance” in 1986, to “One Small Voice” in 1989. Two albums released so closely together, yet sounding so different, as if there’s an ocean drawn between them. Sometimes I even wonder how fans reacted to such a change the back in the day. Consider this food for thought with the opportunity of remembering these two classics. Yes, classics. I guess you didn’t expect me to tell you that “Graceful Inheritance” is considered one of the best US Power Metal releases, or that “One Small Voice” is perceived as one of the best and among the most important Progressive Metal albums of all times.
With these thoughts in mind and with the certainty that HEIR APPARENT would never rely on industry gimmicks – never did, why now? – I hit the “play” button on my stereo.
“The View From Below” is an album that, for the most part, consists of imposing low-tempo songs. This works great, as it leaves all the room guitars require to weave their themes. I’m using the term guitar themes instead of riffs, because in this album guitar parts have to do more with phrasing than pure riffage. These themes guide the listener through different passages acting as the backbone for each of the songs.
The work on the rhythm section is just outstanding. On the one hand you have the incredible drum dynamics and phrasing of mr. Ray Schwartz, while on the other hand, mr. Derek Peace’s grandiose bass-lines have both a supportive and a leading role throughout the album.
With such a setup, Terry Gorle has everything he needs to put his creativity to work and express his ideas through his unique playing style. As you might expect, the album is full of his signature guitar licks that act as a connection to the past. On vocals, Will Shaw with his magnificent voice does an excellent job in “sealing” the fate of the songs, making the album a true piece of art. A masterpiece.
The album consists of eight songs that show in the best possible example the artistic unrest that “turmoiled” HEIR APPARENT all these years. As it happened with the transition from “Graceful Inheritance” to “One Small Voice”, all that matters here is taking one step further through the exploration of music. This has been the band’s drive in the past and couldn’t be any different today.
Everything starts with “Man In The Sky” and from the first seconds you can listen to the Prog Metal virtues it encompasses. It’s a mid-tempo song that answers why mr. Shaw is the man behind the mic for HEIR APPARENT. Vocal range is a good thing to have when you want to be a good vocalist, but mr. Shaw’s expressiveness and delicate vocal melodies indicate there’s more one should master in order to be among the greatest of his league.
Second song in the list is “The Door”. It’s a song dominated by a prog metal ambience that takes the listener back to the early 2010’s. Several of bands held a resemblance to this type of sound, but they were lacking the sound of mr. Gorle, the ethereal vocals of mr. Shaw and above all: the inspiration that made HEIR APPARENT what they are. You’ll definitely enjoy this one if you’re a fan of ARCH / MATEOS‘s “Sympathetic Resonance”.
Moving deeper into the album, the band shows its unique lyrical mindset with “Here We Aren’t”, the third song in the album. With this one we get to see the importance of having someone like mr. Sakiya’s on the piano/keyboards, as they play a major role in the development of the song. A slow tune that takes you to familiar places, only to lead you into the darkness of “Synthetic Lies”. A imposing song that lets you observe its growth, while you get devoured by its gloomy aura. Definitely among the highlights of the album. From the slow and mellow “Here We Aren’t” to the dark matter of “Synthetic Lies”, and from there right into the electrified storm that’s simply called “Savior”. High speed galloping riffs and Shaw’s extraordinary vocals is everything you need to know about this song.
“Further And Farther” is the song that’s holds the closest resemblance to the sound of “One Small Voice”, as it contains all the elements that made us to fall in love with this band in the first place. Just to clarify, the “typical” HEIR APPARENT elements are able to spot everywhere in the album. It’s just that sometimes they are given to us “as is”, while others they’re diligently obscured in various places.
“Road To Palestine”. A majestic piece of music. That’s all I have to say about this one. Just listen to the ethereal/eastern-like guitar and vocal phrasing. Simply magnificent.
The album ends with my personal favourite “Insomnia”. This is where the band’s compositional skills shine for one more time. The vocals act as the bridge from which the listener is guided through every single guitar note that builds “Insomnia”. You really have to experience the mystifying deepness that runs this song in order to understand what I’m talking about. I mean, when was the last time that a voice whispering “Chasing the dream…” gave you chills? Just think about it… Truly magnificent.
As with the debut, the man responsible for pushing the buttons on “The View From Below” is no other than mr. Tom Hall. Yes, I know the name rings a bell and a quick look at the credits of QUEENSRYCHE’s E.P. and “Empire” will prove you right. The overall audio production bears the mark of today: massive sound with lot of room for the guitars, with discrete but essential keyboards spreading their ambience and solid work on the rhythm section.
With “The View From Below” HEIR APPARENT showed us how inspiration and quality in music should sound like in 2018. They delivered an album with a meaning and a purpose, an album that encapsulates all of those things that made HEIR APPARENT the legend they’re today. I’m confident this album will stand the test of time due to the sheer amount of talent and passion it encloses. Open your ears, soul and mind. Experience it.