By the ugly mug of the Lightbringer, we got ourselves yet another Ghost in waiting. Apostolica is a new band, out to rearrange the Power Metal landscape. But a cloudy mystique surrounds the members’ identities, as it’s their devout wish to stay incognito. Yet the label assured us that we will find – and I quote – “…some of the finest musicians of the international heavy metal scene.” Alright, then. We always like a band with a swagger.
However, the age-old marketing plot of ‘the man in the iron mask’ is indeed a tad time-worn. The band members will inevitably be found out. Ghost’s dear leader – for instance – met that fate relatively quickly, as did the members of the initially brilliant Batushka. A band now in a legal quagmire, with two separate bands claiming the same rights.
Yet, the members of this band do play their part with priestly facemasks and full bodysuits with full devotion. Talk about taking mask-wearing to the next level.
And the “…modern-day knights of the Apocalypse…”1) really had us going with their slogan saying that “…Apostolica is the heretic, powerful and anthemic antidote to the age of spiritual slavery.” Wow, that’s quite a statement. An antichurch outfit presenting you with the Haeretica Ecclesia (Heretic Church, Church of Heresy).
Churchly band themes are legion in metal, of course. The aforementioned Ghost is an example, as would be Fvneral Fvkk, albeit for totally different styles. But the heretic church here struck us with its modern interpretation of the Book of Revelations from the viewpoint of an outsider.2)
Now, Apostolica struts right down the middle of Power Metal (memory) lane. In a sense, every track kinda smacks of déjà-vu, or more precisely, déjà-entendu. It’s all something we already heard somewhere, yet cleverly packaged so that we won’t suddenly accuse them of theft. And often you hear Powerwolf and Sabaton traipsing around in the background kicking up a ruckus.
Haeretica Ecclesia comes fully equipped with all bells and whistles modern Power Metal has on offer. Like one of them Japanese cars that annoyingly already sport all those gadgets that would cost extra for your powerful muscle machine. Sing along refrains, screechy guitar shredders, fast and catchy melodies, and all of that brought about by the croaky drawl of Ezekiel, the masked vocalist. And often the RMR crew couldn’t help but howl along with tracks like The Sword of Sorrows.
The production is so squeaky clean, one would think they scrubbed it with bleach. Even the inevitable cheese to go with any Power Metal piece is neatly bundled in bite-size blobs. No scratches or specks of dust are visible on any of those black-clad figures. And all those instruments, choirs, vocals, and what have you are finely chiseled out. Well, perhaps, with the exceptions of that high-pitched snare, coupled with anemic bass drums, that scraped along my nerves more than Metallica’s St Anger did.
That said, the folks over at Apostolica know their ways around their instruments. So, Jonas’ drum work is right with the band’s style and just dandy. But by Loki, just change the fucking drum kit. Think Taiko, not cheap drum machine or worn-out percussion. It’s gotta sound like a warzone out there. For a godly war to boot.
Yet, sadly and despite all those efforts, Haeretica Ecclesia never quite reached the lofty heights other 2021 Power Metal pieces got to. It’s all too much safe road and not enough mountain trail. In other words, the band did everything to concoct a neat Power Metal record. But by spiffing everything to a fine shine, they somehow forgot to take a risk or two. Sporting no scratches on your meticulously clean armor won’t mean you just won that war against the purple hoods and assembled cassocks.
Ultimately however, this record will resound with the Power Metal crowd out there. The Church of Heresy ain’t about those cheesy wailings many other bands chose as their creed. Instead, Apostolica go full-blown nuclear power on a theme that should save the world from “…spiritual slavery…”, no less. And they’ll sound like thunder on stage, whenever the silly Covid thing left the building.
Haeretica Ecclesia is an album that builds on masterful musical prowess and provides tracks full of high-octane hooks, licks, solos, and a top-notch vocal delivery. The heretics indeed raised their voice and their mighty roar has been heard. And I’m sure they will be back with more.
Ed’s note: Did you already wonder who the vocalist could be? Here’s a suggestion. What say you?