Sound: Do you like to be punched in the face from the get-go when you put on a metal album? Then Divine Heresy is your band. The Los Angeles quartet knows how to get your attention, which is quite evident in pretty much every track selection on its sophomore album Bringer of Plagues. If the rapid-fire, machine gun rhythms of the band's debut record (Bleed The Fifth) clicked with you, then you'll be once again drooling over the amazing team of guitarist Dino Cazares (formerly of Fear Factory), bassist Joe Payne, and percussive monster Tim Yeung. The primary difference this time around is the addition of new vocalist Travis Neal, who doesn't stray too far from the vocals that fans heard on the debut album. Much like former frontman Tommy Vext Cummings, Neal has the ability to tackle demonic screams and aurally pleasing singing with ease. And in any case, it's hard to detract from the main attraction: the double bass pedal.
Never has there been such an apt title for a song as the opening track Facebreaker. Between the seemingly nonstop, crazy-fast beats from Yeung and the bumblebee riff (it simply sounds like an insect's wings amplified) from Cazares, there is plenty to take in. All of the different musical sections are almost startling at first, but that was likely Divine Heresy's intention. Mission accomplished. While the primary focus of Facebreaker and the vast majority of the CD revolves around the rhythmic element, there are moments when the melody takes control. In this area, Neal truly shines and is able to show his true depth as a vocalist.
Creatively, Divine Heresy brings a great deal to the table this time around. Between the eerie, synth-driven (programmed to sound like classical strings) interlude Undivine Prophecies to the guitar part in Letter To Mother that seems to fly from one side of the stereo speaker to the other, the band was definitely not just trying to keep the status quo. The melodic aspect certainly gets the spotlight in several choruses, but at no time does it overtake the song. Divine Heresy excels in creating what sound like insanely difficult rhythm parts, and it almost makes you believe that Yeung has a robotic arm hidden under his sleeve.
It would be remiss to not mention Darkness Embedded, which although features a rather dark title, leans toward more of a metal ballad. Yes, there is still a good deal of double bass pedal, but it has an interesting effect considering that every other aspect is done in a straightforward, mellow way (think A Perfect Circle). It would have actually been cool to hear one or two more of these types of songs, if only to give a nice contrast to the up-tempo tunes. // 8
Lyrics: For the debut album Bleed The Fifth, many of the song themes were inspired by The Bible's Book of Revelation namely the part about disasters and war. That approach seemed to sit well with the band because there is definitely more talk about war, and as the album title Bringer of Plagues suggests, an onslaught of disasters. The topics might be slightly too serious for some listeners, but given the badass music underneath it all, a little talk about war and plagues seems necessary. // 8
Overall Impression: New vocalist Travis Neal absolutely does justice to the band, and he covers pretty much every situation range-wise that you can possibly imagine. High-pitched screams? Check. Growls? Check. Melodic with a pleasant vibrato? Check. The members chose wisely when they selected Neal, as he can keep up with every twist and turn that the rhythm section delivers and they deliver a lot. While guitarist Cazares has some nice melodic lines in his playing, the lead work is still usually overshadowed by the rhythms he lays down elsewhere. When it comes down to it, there is absolutely a brutal element to Divine Heresy's new material and it should be embraced by those who like a more aggressive blend to their metal. // 9