Heir Apparent first started out way back in 1983, releasing their debut album Graceful Inheritance and following it up with One Small Voice (1989). Then the ‘90s went all ‘90s on the Seattle prog metal group, and although they’ve been active since 2000 it’s not until October 2018 that the third full length was finally released. Titled The View From Below, it showcases a definitely modern touch of progressive power metal, not intent on bringing back the days of yore but on bringing the band into a new era. Whether or not it is a worthy comeback is better left to fans of the previous two albums, but it is a decent album. There’s some new personnel on here, in vocalist Will Shaw (Athem, ex- Abodean Sky) and keyboardist Op Sakiya (Screams of Angels). Derek Peace, Terry Gorle and Ray Schwartz - on bass, guitar and drums respectively - remain from the first two albums.
The tempos are downsized, the musicianship on point, the sound crisp and clear, the tone of the album critical and poignant. Gorle’s guitars take a frequent lead position, but do trade off with Shaw’s distinct cleans as the melodic touch, delivering plenty of vibrant instrumentals that just as soon burst into colorful solos as they do into emotive choruses for Shaw to fill in. The burst toward the end of The Door is slow but packed to the rim with energy that Gorle releases in a slow solo that then trades off to an emotive last passage from Shaw, who makes this album his own with passion aplenty to go with the smooth riffing and the grooving bass lines.
However, there is a problem on this album, and that is the pacing. The album certainly needs more speed and intensity in some places. The slow tempo throughout makes it seem longer than it actually is - the album clocks in at a modest (well, by today’s standards anyhow) 45 minutes. The only track that speeds things up a little is Savior, in the middle of the album - and it’s only two and a half minutes long. Interweaving more speedy elements, which don’t necessarily have to be speed metal, would pick the album’s pace up and make it a smoother listen. Here We Aren’t and Synthetic Lies unfortunately drag the momentum to a near halt after the first two songs open the album on a fairly low paced, but still fresh note. The former is a slow ballad, and while it’s not necessarily a bad song, it’s way too early and undeserved after a mere twelve minutes of opening. The three closing songs fare better, however and coupled with the equally well fleshed out start, manage to make The View From Below an enjoyable, but nowhere near essential, listen.
Standout tracks: Man in the Sky, The Door, Further and Farther