Apostolica – Haeretica Ecclesia
Release Date: 17/09/2021
Running Time: 50:04
Review by Simon Black
Apostolica are a band with a bit of a buzz about them at the moment, although I’m very wary of the word ‘buzz’, because it’s a little too close to the entry for ‘hype’ in my thesaurus. As I often blather away on here, European Power Metal bands are churning records out at a crazy rate of knots all the time, despite the fact that in both America and especially here in the UK, they are very much a niche taste by comparison to other sub-genres of our wonderful metallum familiae. The phrase ‘cookie-cutter’ is often deployed when reviewing a fair few of them, but in reality ‘sausage-factory’ might be closer to the truth, given the sheer volume of acts and albums cranking the handle right now. When you have a crowded marketplace the risk of repetition and derivation is incredibly high and on the face of it this is a band, that sounds like Powerwolf and Sabaton, whilst borrowing the concepts both lyrically and visually of medieval masquerade and anonymity that Ghost have done so well…
…And those masks look great by the way, suiting the theme of “modern day knights of the Apocalypse” down to a tee, with ‘Meliora’-era matching Nameless Ghoul styled suits and hard, fixed black medieval death masks – but with the chin kept free for vocal movement (not to mention being a darn site cooler to wear). Ah well, there’s plenty of knobbly bits to hang a medical grade surgical mask on if needed…
I’m perhaps being a bit harsh here, as this is a band on their debut album (although by all accounts experienced musos make up their anonymous ranks) and I am judging this without any opportunity to understand if the positive parts of their reputation came from the live arena, since no-one has seen them perform yet (and to be clear when reviewing a new band I often try and track down live snippets online rather than watching their official videos). The derivation ceases to be an issue when a belter of a live show is unfolding, as the influences often just move into the background if the band are ripping you a new bum hole on stage, but in this instance I have only the record to go on.
Musically this is anthemic Power Metal with every track underscored with church organ orchestrations – which is a bit unfortunate really since Powerwolf just delivered the masterclass in this style with their ‘Call Of The Wild’ album a few months ago (although to be fair those boys have had six increasingly accomplished studio albums to polish their style and that record may well prove to be their peak). Add to this sound is a much gruffer vocal delivery more akin to that of Sabaton’s Joakim Brodén and lyrically Tobias Forge deserves an influential credit. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with what they are doing here, it’s just they aren’t quite doing it as well as those three big influences…
But then, it is early days, and more theatrical bands are stealing the glory right now, and I reserve the right to eat an appropriately chocolaty knight’s helmet when I do finally get to see them live. And to be clear, I think that would be worth waiting for, as musically these boys know how to crank the handle well, although for some bizarre reason all the best tracks don’t really start to surface until the album is over half way through. From ‘No More Place In Hell’ onwards, the anthemic first punching gets going with a vengeance, the arrangements get tighter and this starts to sound like a band well on their way to forging a strong individual sound of their own. What makes the difference is the harmonised ensemble choruses, which sound like the whole band are contributing to and unlike the discordance that often accompanies a bunch or rough and ready metallers doing backing grunts, these guys manage a pretty good choral harmony together. More of this please.
Add to the fact that the arrangements jump up a notch from this point on and I find myself having a completely different listening experience. It doesn’t let up after this, with the moody and elegantly structured ‘The Doom’ driving things forward superbly. After that, Simon is a happy bunny, but clearly next time around a bit more time is going to be needed on pre-production, and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here and assuming that Covid fucked this up, as it really is an album of two halves. Deliver a whole album with the punch of the second half, and these boys are going to build a reputation that makes winging old hacks like me bitching about their influences irrelevant. A promising start…
‘Sanctus Spiritus’ (Official Video)
01. Sanctus Spiritus
02. The Sword Of Sorrow
03. Come With Us
05. Pollution Is My Name
06. No More Place In Hell
07. The Doom
09. The Dusk Is Coming
Ezekiel – Vocals
Isaia – Guitar
Jonas – Bass
Malachia – Drums
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