Traditional heavy metal has mostly taken a backseat in modern metal, with the genre’s ongoing fragmentation into the billion-and-one genres on display today. Clearly London’s Savage Messiah never got the memo, and play the kind of rollicking, balls-to-the-wall heavy metal that never truly went away and has been sorely missing from the forefront of the genre.
Hands of Fate is the Brits’ eagerly-awaited fourth full length album and sees them stripping back the sound of previous albums and going for a far leaner, more accessible sound that sacrifices nothing of heaviness but adds a plethora of massive vocal hooks, shredding guitar solos and riffs aplenty. Boasting songs that run the gauntlet from breakneck speed of opener ‘Hands of Fate’ to the slow-burning power ballad moments of ‘Last Confession’, Hands of Fate is testament to the ability of Savage Messiah to write giant hooks and catchy songs while retaining the more-metal-than-thou stomp of classic era heavy metal a la Testament and Overkill.
Opening Hands of Fate is the track of the same name, with its guitar licks and leads ripped straight from 80s thrash and lead guitar often following the vocal lines, particularly in the chorus - a hallmark of Savage Messiah’s sound that crops up on nearly all of the album’s ten tracks, including following track ‘Wing and a Prayer’. The band also dip into cheesy power ballad territory such as the opening act of ‘Last Confession’, an acoustic-tinged ballad that morphs into one of the album’s fastest in its second half, recalling Metallica and even Blind Guardian in equal measure. Penultimate outing ‘The Crucible’ smacks of 90s Metallica with its riffy, mid-paced stomp before morphing into a chorus ripped straight from classic American power metal in the vein of Fates Warning.
The duelling guitars comes straight out of Iron Maiden’s playbook by way of thrash legends Anthrax and Overkill, while still packing a modern crunch. Shredding is kept to a relative minimum, the band clearly favouring the aforementioned Maiden style of solos. Vocally the album recalls the classic opera-tinged sounds of yesteryear, soaring over the music, with the melody occasionally shared (or as mentioned, repeated) by the guitars as well as a clear love of reverb and vocal layering if the opening cry and chorus of ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ is anything to go by. Savage Messiah’s rhythm section is tight, the bass underpinning the riffs with its clear rumble and the drums driving ever forwards but without either ever truly stepping into the spotlight or shining themselves.
A major bone of contention with Hands of Fate is that it brings nothing new to the table; the band seem content with reformulating and repackaging what came before with a new lick of paint and a modern production, and that the songs themselves can run on to the point of blending in with each other; with ten tracks at over 45 minutes the album could certainly have benefited from a little trimming of the fat without sacrificing its impact. A shorter album would perhaps have lent the album more immediacy, and many of the tracks don’t live up to the promise and talent on display, and get somewhat lost among the stronger tracks on the album, notably opener ‘Hands of Fate’ and closer ‘Out of Time’.
Any and all shortcomings aside, Hands of Fate is delivered with conviction, some serious chops and above all a real sense of passion for heavy metal, harnessing the classic sound of the genre’s forerunners and updating it with the crunch and grittiness of modern metal to form an entirely compelling listen.
Check out: Hands of Fate, The Crucible, Out of Time