By Ashley Bailey
Having risen from the ashes of Fury UK like a majestic phoenix, Manchester’s Absolva are a love letter to traditional twin lead guitar metal. Founded in May by two-thirds of Fury UK (Chris Appleton and Martin McNee), Absolva have already performed at the likes of Bloodstock Open Air and SOS Festival; they have also released their eleven track debut, Flames of Justice. So quite unlike Dick Dastardly, these guys don’t fuck around.
With the addition of seasoned Vice guitarist Tom Atkinson, Absolva have a tighter, richer sound than Fury UK; their twin guitar attack giving them a sound comparable to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Accept. Absolva also seemingly draw influence from European power metal, incorporating shades of Wolf and Helloween, making Flames of Justice very much a Heinz 57 album.
The album kicks off as it means to go on with its eponymous opener, with a barrage of infectious riffs, blistering drumming and a well crafted yet accessible chorus. It’s an incredible track; and from the very moment you hear that opening riff, you’re grabbed you by the balls and you’re never really released for the remainder of the album.
Almost immediately it becomes clear that vocalist Chris is the star of the album; his versatile vocals are capable of both powerful, rousing choruses and cutting, aggressive verses. He demonstrates a remarkable capacity for understated power and raw emotion; think Dave Mustaine, Matt Barrlow, etc. Unsurprisingly, the album is at its best when Chris is taking risky approaches, like his Warrant/White Lion esque approach to power ballad Only When It’s Over.
Highlights of the album include; State of Grace, a classically played guitar piece served perfectly between two of the heavier tracks as a nice little interlude. It’s different from anything else on the album, and shows Chris and Tom’s cognoscente side. Empires brings proceedings full circle with a track that’s everything as epic as the opener, whilst Love to Hate has the strongest intro on the entire album; after beginning with a heavy riff followed by meaty crescendo of drums from Martin, we are then led into the song proper by tantalisingly thrashy bass line.
It Is What It Is, is my favourite track on the album. It’s a seemingly no-holds barred assault on the inherent shittyness of people; driven by a heavy chugging riff and Niklas Stalvind esque whails. The grittiness of Dan’s opening bass line comes as a complete shock to the system, especially considering how squeakily clean the production is on the other tracks. From Beyond the Light with its many, many technical solos comes a close second.
However, the album is not without its low points. The single Code Red didn’t really resonate with me; it felt little more than a rehash of the album’s incredible opener. Code Red seemed like it was intended to be an anthem to rile up the masses, but the chorus (the pinnacle moment in any anthem) fell somewhat flat. Also, the rather lengthy Free could have benefited from being a minute or two shorter; the fact it was slotted between the shred heavy From Beyond the Light and the hard hitting Love to Hate, didn’t do it any favours.
Flames of Justice is probably the strongest debut any band could wish for (unless of course, you happen to be Dio). It’s unashamedly old-school, but has enough lashings of modernisation that it never becomes clichéd. Chris and Tom’s guitarwork is superb, and so intricately crafted that no one song ever feels like filler (even the weakest songs are likely to have you bopping/fist pumping/masturbating along). It’s a top quality album created by traditional metal nerds, for traditional metal nerds; and the fact they have achieved this having only been together (as Absolva) for six months, is truly a testament to their remarkable skill.
Devil Horn Rating (Out of Five): \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \n