TOBY KNAPP is without a doubt one of the most important guitar players and composers on the later post-00s Metal age. His on going creative involvement on his diverse projects have offered to the metal masses lots of remarkably good music within various Metal genres. Moreover he have managed to built a unique playing style on his own emphasizing mainly on a solid combination of power and complexity driving the term “riffing” on a totally new dimension. His recognizable guitar themes are becoming the main trademark on his music, no matter the Metal genre he would choose to follow with each and every project. You can add to the frame his virtuoso, shining leads that makes the KNAPP magic more recognizable.
KNAPP initially started to work on this current album’s material under the WHERE EVIL FOLLOWS moniker. I still consider their “Portable Darkness” as one of the HUGE Speed Metal albums of the past decade and I was really happy when I noticed that their spiritual fathers is developing some new music. This happiness would eventually turn to a real piece of ecstasy, as KNAPP announced that he would resurrect ONWARD in order to release this particular material. On his announcement -that was made back into May of 2021- the musician explained that the overall sound and style of those -still on development back then- songs were becoming more and more ONWARD-oriented, so he decided to use the ONWARD moniker.
If it happens for you to live on another planet you probably are unaware of the fact that ONWARD is KNAPP’s trademark band and one of the most important US Power groups to arise during the 00s era. Existing from 2000 to 2003 they have delivered two absolute Heavy / Power classics –“Evermoving” (2001) and “Reawaken” (2002)– plus the “Neverending Sun” demo (2003). After the band’s split many demo stuff was out through various releases. The hope for a possible third album was always strong until 2012, the year that the band’s trademark singer Michael Grant died (31-5-2012). I could spend thousands of lines to write about Grant’s talent but I prefer to remained focused on this new album so I would just point that he have participated in many many really important US Metal bands (LEGEND MAKER, CRESCENT SHIELD, MALAKIS REIGN, CYPHER SEER etc) and that his vocals on the ONWARD classics offered this band a huge part of its sonic identification.
For the ONWARD resurrection KNAPP has worked with another huge vocalist: ROBERT VAN WAR from the mighty ATTIKA. VAN WAR has signed on the band’s classics –“Attika” (1988) and “When Heroes Fall” (1991), he have also sung on the band’s comeback album “Metal Lands” that was released back on 2021. The result is this highly anticipated -especially since the KANPP’s announcement- third ONWARD album.
“Of Epoch and Inferno” is a great album that does justice to the band’s legacy. It contains 8 songs. Musically I can describe it as a huge combination of US Heavy / Power Metal with many Speed Metal touches here and there.
The album’s main basis is once again the characteristic guitar riffing of Mr TOBY KNAPP. The songs are actually built upon complete rhythm guitar themes and not just “riffs”. There is a diverse approaching on each and every part of those themes that is resulting to a solid result that shapes a huge sonic ground, suitable for the overall expansion of the lead instrument parts.
And when I am referring to “lead instrument parts” I first and foremost mean the amazing leads and guitar solos, yeah folks, they sound really HUGE on this one, believe me. I feel really amazed cause in this particular record I can hear some of the best leaks that KNAPP have ever delivered. Shredding addicted listeners would be in heaven listening this album. I guarantee that.
The other lead instrument of the frame is the voice of course. I have heard the album many times and I can assure you for one thing: There is a perfect balancing between the guitars and the vocals. It seems like KNAPP has chosen VAN WAR because he wanted a very specific vocal approaching that would be balanced with his guitar work on this particular release. And in order to help you understand the above statement more clearly I would have to refer to the main influences of this particular album:
I can hear a lot of CACOPHONY, early OVERKILL and ANNIHILATOR -mainly first album-, I can even here lots of -early- FLOTSAM AND JETSAM-. Yes it is crystal clear that the Speed Metal influences coming from WHERE EVIL FOLLOWS universe are a key point on this album’s songwriting. On the other hand the above influences are combined with the classic ONWARD Heavy / Power Metal vibe, although that it is now offered on a more technical and in many times darker version that highlights influences like MERCYFUL FATE or even DESTINY’S END. So KNAPP had to find a vocalist that would be the perfect bridging within those influences. ROBERT VAN WAR did the job perfectly. Not only he has managed to get the vibe of the overall album but he actually delivered those vocal melodies that are aesthetically taking the final sonic result of the songs on really highe levels. I know that you would ask so I have to notice that a probable comparing with MICHAEL GRANT would not be fair. VAN WAR is a total different singer, with different range and his mission now is quite different -compared with the ONWARD past-, having the above in mind I assure you that he did a great job.
Well I still can not believe that I am writing a review for the new ONWARD album but yes, it is happening! At the end of the day the question remains straight and simple: Are you after some guitar oriented technical Heavy / Power Metal with Speed Metal touches, enforced by some shredding madness? If yes this is your album.
It is difficult to choose a specific song from it but if I had to choose one track this would be the mighty “Onward we Sail” that closes the record. I consider it as the ONWARD hymn of the new age -and it is one of the most melodic songs of the album-.
I am always happy to notice that talented musicians are delivering albums that matter. This is the case on this one. ONWARD WE SAIL!
Check the discussion about the album in our forum pages.