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Friday, January 28, 2022

Review: Heir Apparent – Graceful Inheritance

Label: Hammerheart Records

Date: January 21st, 2022

We all love archaeology, right? Hell no! It’s a boring and messy business. But we all love it when archaeologists dig up pyramids, the sphinx, discover the ancient city of Troy or Machu Picchu. Then it’s all fun and games and tourism. However, there are many cases when these people just discover some village settlements that weren’t all that important for the history books. Sure, you can pick up an artefact or two, but the overall importance is not all that spectacular. Hardly a History Channel material, right?

Speaking of musical archaeology, it’s somewhat of a similar nature. There’s a thing or two to be unearthed, but most of it will still hardly make to Metal Hammer’s front cover. Just as it didn’t back in the day. You see, just as not all ancient people were buried in pyramids, not every metal band who got published back in the 1980’s was gold. And not all of them could be construed as pearls from the abyss. Calling a release a “forgotten classic” is, for the most part, just a blatant PR scheme. Classics do not get forgotten. Especially in an era where it took a whole lot to even get published. Plus the whole world was keeping its ears open for everything and anything that came out. So, can you forget about “Master of Puppets”? “Raining Blood”? “Keeper of the Seven Keys”? “Screaming for Vengeance”? “Seventh Son of the Seventh Son”? No chance in hell!

Thus, how in God’s name you managed to forget “Graceful Inheritance”? Simply, it was not that good. It was good enough, and still is, to get published and even re-mastered and re-released. But a classic it simply is not! I mean, when you rely on an “audible bass line” as one of the “selling points”, there’s not that much of a discussion, however exquisite the bass line actually is. And there is some real mastery behind the thick strings here.

But, when it comes to the songs themselves and the album in general, you get to the real reason why “Graceful Inheritance” got overlooked back in 1986. Also, you might get the answer to why you’ve never heard of Heir Apparent, especially since, judging from what I’ve read while researching for this review, this is their most successful record. On that note, there’s a live track “R. I. P.” which I initially thought was a bonus, but turns out it was also on the original release. If I’m not mistaken. The reason why I’m bringing it up is that there’s no audience participation whatsoever. Throughout the five minute instrumental, not a voice is heard which just goes to show that even back in the day Heir Apparent wasn’t all that popular. Perhaps on a local level, out in Seattle, but outside…

Anyway, the music on “Graceful Inheritance” basically sums up the sound of the 1980’s. As with many US bands, Heir Apparent looked across the ocean for inspiration. That’s why their debut sounds like a mixture between Saxon and Helloween, for the most obvious part. The band dwelled somewhere on the fine line between the new wave of British heavy metal and primordial German power metal. Some denim and leather rock n’ rolling attitude and a melodic approach to song writing make for the most of the album. And the nicely audible bass line, not to forget since it’s mentioned just about everywhere you look for the band’s name.

The songs are made up of occasional peaks in creativity and many easy to forget elements. In an era when mega hits sprung up like mushrooms after rain, even in metal music, “Graceful Inheritance” has none and therein lays the answer to each and every question you may have. The album sounds interesting while it lasts and that’s about it. Even during the audition your thoughts can get sidetracked fairly easy, but after the album is done, you can just as easily move on.

Returning to the archaeology metaphors, there are a few intriguing artefacts to be dug up here, but those will hardly make me get off the road to visit the entire site. I would still much rather go along to see the pyramids. This one is for the hopelessly nostalgic.

By the way, Heir Apparent is active, though they had a couple of breaks in existence, expectedly. Their most recent record came out in 2018. I’m almost scared to hear it.