When I first read of Heaven’s Cry’s stylistic similarities to the excellent Pain of Salvation, it was enough to get me excited in these French Canadian prog metallers. And if that wasn’t enough, Heaven’s Cry bassist Pierre St-Jean was a session bassist on Voivod’s reserved masterpiece “The Outer Limits”. Although they churned out a demo in 1993, Heaven’s Cry has been a fairly intermittent band in terms of releasing material. For the longest time, they were a band I had always heard mentioned, yet never heard outright. Following up on their sophomore “Primal Power Addiction” that dropped a decade ago, “Wheels of Impermanence” is a bold reunion for a band that’s flown under the radar for the better part of the ’00s. The band’s sound picks up not far from where they left off, and they don’t feel any loss from their inactivity. In a word, Heaven’s Cry are back, and if “Wheels of Impermanence” is any indicator of their future quality, we can only hope we don’t have to wait a decade for the next album!
Although the Pain of Salvation comparisons are not unwarranted, I feel that Heaven’s Cry fit better into the melodic canon of progressive metal- the school that values anthemic, memorable songwriting over complex arrangement. Fortunately, Heaven’s Cry tends to find a balance between the melodic and technical aspects in their music. Especially in a modern progressive metal scene where most bands tend to either fall firmly within the cerebral or melodic trends, it’s great to hear a band that fuses the two together successfully. This similarity to Pain of Salvation is arguably most profound in the way Heaven’s Cry layer their songs. Although some of these songs could have made for lighter-toting arena rockers, there’s always something going on just beneath the surface. This layering usually takes the form of the keyboard. Any synths or pianos here are used only to accentuate atmosphere, and it works like a charm. It’s no surprise that guitar is the dominant element in Heaven’s Cry, but it’s the smaller parts of the whole that see Heaven’s Cry set apart.
Save for the curiously large gaps between songs, the production of “Wheels of Impermanence” is well done; Heaven’s Cry sound like a band that have been around the block a few times, and rightly so. The flow of the album is not quite as successful however. Perhaps it is a result of the ten second pauses between tracks, but “Wheels of Impermanence” occasionally comes across as a compilation of well-written songs rather than a front-to-back album. The album ultimately ends abruptly, and considering the quality of the musical ideas themselves, it’s a little disappointing. To fortunately offset this however, there are a few recurring musical ideas that pop up here and there. They are not pronounced enough so as to be considered ‘themes’ of the album; instead, they become more apparent with multiple listens. “Wheels of Impermanence” is definitely a grower of a record, and perhaps moreso than one would expect from such a melodic record.
Although the band’s melodic style pervades the entire record, it’s interesting to hear Heaven’s Cry take it through such a variety of emotions. The title track “Wheels of Impermanence” takes Heaven’s Cry down an uncharacteristically dark path, with brooding bass ideas that echo the work of Tool. On the other hand, “Catalyse” is remarkably happy, holding on to the prog metal leanings, yet exuding a mood that rivals a triumphant celebration complete with good food and Belgian imports. If one needs any overt demonstration of Heaven’s Cry’s tightness and skill as a group, they can look no further than the intro to the closer, “A Glimpse of Hope”. Although it’s subtle, the way the band twists and traces the sound together is remarkable. It may be simply due to the fact that the progressive metal genre is so notorious for its technical showboating, but Heaven’s Cry feel almost a little too modest in their approach. Their skill becomes very evident within a few listens, but it may have been nice to hear a balls-out prog assault from them, even if only once on the album. As it is, “Wheels of Impermanence” follows the progressive metal canon with a more reserved demeanour than many listeners will be used to. Heaven’s Cry have not done anything remarkably different than what has come before, but considering the quality and skill with which they do it, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Wheels of Impermanence” is definitely an album for the aspiring prog metaller, and it’s one that keeps its magic, even following many listens.
1. Empire’s Doll
3. The Hollow
4. Wheels of Impermanence
5. The Healing
7. The Mad Machine
10. A Glimpse of Hope
* Rene Lacharite – drums
* Éric Jarrin – guitars
* Sylvain Auclair – vocals, bass
* Pierre St. Jean – vocals, guitar