If you’re a fan of soaring vocals, rampant kick drums and technical shred guitar, then it’s highly recommended that you run right out and get the sophomore Holy Grail record, Ride the Void. Formed by key members of White Wizzard, the overtly metal stalwarts from Pasadena, California have done it again and even raised the bar from their debut outing, Crisis in Utopia (2010).
While the first record was a testament to the rawness of a band trying to find its sound, it lacked the consistency and strength with which Ride the Void is graced. Five years into their career, Holy Grail has concocted an infectious recipe of sing-along hooks, brutal thrash riffs and precise drumming with a respectful nod towards some of the greats.
Band members James Paul Luna (vocals) and Eli Santana (guitar) offer their thoughts about their progression via a slightly confusing conference call that resulted in oddly inconsistent commentary. Luna begins, suggesting the growth came from introspection.
“Knowing our strengths and weaknesses in our songwriting and also in our playing, which has improved from the first record” resulted in Ride, he says. Santana agrees, emphasizing Holy Grail’s attention to composition.
“Our ability to tackle those songs in different parts and arrangements has definitely improved,” he says. It’s “not just a bunch of metal riffs.”
It was Santana who penned a large portion of Ride the Void’s initial structure. Afterwards, it was Luna and the rest of the group – Alex Lee (guitar), Blake Mount (bass) and Tyler Meahl (drums) – who rounded out the recording with tasty harmonies and savage rhythms. At times, the result feels forced, as if the group purposely went over the top with technicality. Not so, counters Luna.
“We never wrote a song for the sake of being more technical or being more flashy. Sometimes it just ended it up that.”
Oddly enough given the NWOBHM-infused result, the duo reminisced that they’d seriously considered doing something more punk-infused given the difficulty they encountered in the recording and performing of their debut. Their classic sound won out and they couldn’t be happier with the results. Comparatively speaking, it’s a weird crossbreed of Iron Maiden and Manowar, with an appropriately cheesy touch of Yngwie Malmsteen.
Ride the Void aside, everything’s coming up Milhouse for Holy Grail who, in addition to the two albums, have already played standout gigs at Wacken Open Air, 70,000 Tons of Metal and the Metal Alliance Tour. They will soon embark on their North American tour with Oklahoma natives Anti-Mortem as well. For you burgeoning guitarists, Santana and Lee plan to offer guitar clinics before each gig to anyone who is interested. It’s a good opportunity for those seeking out jam time with modern day guitar heroes who are really just fanboys, a trait that was realized on their recent Metal Alliance tour.
“Every day you’re standing next to these idols of ours. Sharing the same stage with Belladonna, Scott Ian, Gary Holt… it was just crazy,” says Santana, with a touch of awe in his voice. “They actually appreciate stuff that you’re doing.
“It was surreal and mindblowing.”
Catch Holy Grail at Dickens Pub on July 19 with Anti-Mortem on their “Ride the Void” tour. You may contact the band via https://www.facebook.com/holygrailofficial to inquire about guitar clinics.
By Brandon McNeil
Photo: Alex Solca