Final Sign – Hold High The Flame CD Review11th December 2015 0 By Fraser
Wow, well Bruce Dickinson has had a busy year, not only has he released the new and outstanding Iron Maiden album, The Book of Souls, but apparently he has a side project as well… What’s that? That’s not Bruce? Shit, my mistake! Let’s start this one again, eh-hem…
North Carolina’s Final Sign is a project years in the making, with outstanding vocalist Shawn Pelata and shred machine Brian Williams beginning their musical partnership in 1999, before drifting onto new bands and waiting for the day the right project landed for the two of them. So 16 years on from their first musical venture, the pair have unleashed Final Sign’s debut, Hold High The Flame upon us – and we should get down on our knees and kiss their boots in gratitude. The short and simple way to describe Final Sign is basically if Iron Maiden decided they wanted to start chucking some thrash metal into their song-writing arsenal – from that alone you should already know you are onto a winner with this album.
Opening with Daring The Sun, Final Sign pull no punches whatsoever. Starting with a brilliant thrashy riff and going a million miles an hour straight off the bat, Daring the Sun builds to a huge chorus complete with gang vocals. After a short bass lead break carried by Howard Baker, a fantastic melodic riff leads into a face melting solo, before they kick into the chorus for one last time. Burn The Temple Down opens with a classic rock and roll riff, and the verses are very much driven by Shawn’s incredible vocals before the short and sweet chorus. Brian’s guitar takes a very atmospheric turn building into a shreddy solo, and the groove kicks off again for the remainder of the song.
Next up is the title track, Hold High The Flame – from start to finish this sounds like it could have been taken from any of the newer Iron Maiden albums, but with the speed amped up. Absolutely slammed full of riffs and incredible drum work from Kevin Haverlah, Hold High The Flame is simply fantastic. Around the half way point, a groove filled riff takes over as another fast and brilliant solo grabs your attention before they slam through the chorus again to close the song. Possessor is possibly the most thrash influenced track on the album – so heavy, and so fast, at times it sounds like it could have been written for Kill ‘Em All. Shawn has a serious taste of venom in his voice, something that has been missing in his melodic performance so for. A speed filled, old-school thrash song packed with brilliant musicianship – there is nothing else to say, really.
The Sinister Silence takes things back to the NWOTHM, cranking out another metric tonne of meaty and shred filled riffs, and the fantastic voice of Shawn Pelata demands on your full and undivided attention once more. There is even a breakdown here, played behind yet another one of the fantastic solos you will find throughout the album. The guitar once again takes command in the intro of Scaling Lies, but once the verse starts you’re in for a surprise – a welcome break from the outrageously fast thrash tinged NWOTHM, Scaling Lies has a softer, more melodic feel to it. Everything about the chorus screams “Maiden,” and this track could easily have been a B-Side to The Final Frontier or A Matter of Life and Death. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore the speed, the old school heaviness and the piss and vinegar seen in every song up until this point, but Scaling Lies is an album highlight for sure.
Madness Eternal is yet another fantastic track with the catchiest chorus of the album – I defy you not to get this stuck in your head! Final Sign will have given you an idea of what to expect at the point – they deliver songs packed with monster riffs, outstanding vocals and brilliant, shreddy solos, and with Madness Eternal they only surpass expectations. The chorus sounds monumental and is easily the catchiest of the release, and the power metal-esque “woahs” that fade out towards the end are a really nice touch. Closing with The Ominous Black, Final Sign could be forgiven if they took their foot off the pedal here – so far every track has been a standout, and every track has been blindingly fast (with the exception of melodic highlight Scaling Lie) – but there was no chance of that happening really, was there? Thrashy and brilliant, the intro leads to a heavy verse with Shawn bringing some of that venom we saw on Possessor back. The Ominous Black is one of the fastest tracks on the album, and the double bass pedals barely stop pounding away. However, about the three minute point Final Sign do a complete 180, everything slows right down and melody takes over while Brain breaks out a solo that wouldn’t be out of place in a power ballad of yesteryear. The melody is short lived however, and the speed cranks itself back up towards the end of the song.
Hold High The Flame is a 40 minute slab of balls out, heavy fucking metal – there is no other way to put it. At times, a bit formulaic and predictable, however the songs are performed with such flawless execution that this predictability doesn’t really matter in the slightest. Final Sign have released a stellar debut which is, to be honest, one of my favourite albums of the year. It’s thrash-tinged NWOTHM and it is utterly brilliant.
1. Daring The Sun
2. Burn The Temple Down
3. Hold High The Flame
5. The Sinister Silence
6. Scaling Lies
7. Madness Eternal
8. The Ominous Black
30th October 2015
Final Sign is…
Shawn Pelata – Vocals
Brian Williams – Guitar
Howard Baker – Bass
Kevin Haverlah – Drums
About the author
This bearded wildman from North of the wall survives the harsh ever-present winter of Scotland on a healthy diet of thrash, death metal and beer.