Album Review – Absolva / Fire In The Sky (2022)

One of the torchbearers of contemporary Heavy Metal made in the UK is back with their sixth opus, bearing all the hallmarks of the genre plus an even greater level of intensity.

After their critically acclaimed album Side By Side, released back in 2020, Manchester, England-based four-piece Melodic Heavy Metal squad Absolva is back in action with an ass-kicking new album, entitled Fire In The Sky, bearing all the hallmarks of old school British metal music that vocalist and guitarist Christopher Appleton, guitarist Luke Appleton, bassist Karl Schramm and drummer Martin Mcnee are known for, plus an even greater level of intensity. Recorded at Rocksector Records, mixed and produced by Chris Appleton himself, mastered by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone Mastering Ltd., and  featuring a classic artwork by Alberto Quirantes of Akirant Illustration, Fire in the Sky deals with an array of contemporary issues that impact everyone’s lives, such as alcohol and drug problems and the all too familiar effects of the global pandemic. “Absolva is usually known for the positive themes in our lyrics, yet this time we’ve been drawn toward some darker issues. The pandemic was a rough ride for most people and I personally found it difficult to take, with a mix of effects on my life. Like so many people we suffered the pain of losing a very good friend to the virus and then more generally the negative effects on our music industry as a whole were obviously really bad,” commented Chris about the band’s biggest inspirations for the new album.

Demon Tormentor is pure, unfiltered Heavy Metal from the very first second, with Chris and Luke pulverizing everything and everyone with their strident riffs while Karl and Martin smash their rumbling instruments in great fashion, starting the album on an electrifying mode. Then continuing their incendiary path of classic heavy music we have Burn Inside, reminding me of the more recent creations by Blaze Bayley (for obvious reason) and with Chris once again showcasing his vocal potency accompanied by his bandmates’ epic backing vocals; and rev up your engines for a Heavy Metal feast infused with Southern Rock and Metal nuances titled Addiction, perfect for raising your fists in the air to the pounding beats by Martin and the striking solos by the band’s dynamic guitar duo. Melodious lines permeate the air in What Does God Know, a power ballad by the quartet where Chris declaims the song’s words with tons of passion, whereas Stand Your Ground is another straightforward display of their Melodic Heavy Metal, albeit not as exciting as the other songs of the album, with Chris and Luke still presenting a great job on the guitars.

The title-track Fire In The Sky puts the band back on track, exhaling fire, electricity and epicness, or in other words, it’s a song perfect for hitting the road while Martin hammers his drums in great fashion, not to mention how sharp the song’s riffs sound and feel. Chris keeps delivering his trademark vocals and riffs in Man For All Seasons, supported by the always melodic and thunderous bass by Karl in an old school but at the same time modern version of heavy music, and get ready to bang your head nonstop together with the Absolva boys in Galloglaigh, a beyond pure British tune with their Judas Priest-inspired guitars adding fire to the overall sonority. Historic Year brings to our ears six minutes of epicness in the form of music, alternating between mid-tempo passages and sheer adrenaline thanks to the awesome riffage blasted by Chris and Luke. It will sound fantastic if played live, I might say, whereas Refuse To Die is a brilliant way to close the album, offering us all another round of their vibrant and melodious Heavy Metal with Chris being on absolute fire on vocals while Karl and Martin keep demolishing our souls with their undisputed kitchen.

As already mentioned in our review for Side By Side, you can get in touch with Chris, Luke, Karl and Martin through their official Facebook page and their Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their music and stream all of their creations on Spotify, and of course purchase Fire In The Sky from their own Big Cartel page or from Apple Music. Although as mentioned by Chris the themes explored in their new album might be darker than usual, the quartet managed to turn all that obscurity and negativity into flammable, striking metal music, proving they’re much more than just another Heavy Metal band hailing from the UK, and therefore inviting us all to join them in their quest for heavy music for many years to come no matter what.

Best moments of the album: Demon Tormentor, Fire In The Sky and Refuse To Die.

Worst moments of the album: Stand Your Ground.

Released in 2022 Rocksector Records

Track listing
1. Demon Tormentor 3:36
2. Burn Inside 3:54
3. Addiction 4:25
4. What Does God Know 4:23
5. Stand Your Ground 5:07
6. Fire In The Sky 4:03
7. Man For All Seasons 4:00
8. Galloglaigh 4:06
9. Historic Year 6:00
10. Refuse To Die 3:06

Band members
Christopher Appleton – lead vocals, lead guitar
Luke Appleton – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass
Martin Mcnee – drums

Album Review – Absolva / Side By Side (2020)

Celebrating the great tradition of British Heavy Metal with huge riffs and massive hooks, this young and restless Manchester, UK-based unity returns with their breathtaking fifth full-length album.

If you’re a fan of the most recent solo albums by the indomitable Blaze Bayley, more specifically with his  Infinite Entanglement Trilogy, you’ve probably heard the names of vocalist and guitarist Christopher Appleton, bassist Karl Schramm and drummer Martin Mcnee, who together with Chris’ brother, guitarist Luke Appleton (of Iced Earth), have been making a lot of noise since 2012 with their Manchester, England-based Melodic/Heavy Metal band Absolva. Each member has a wealth of experience with an impressive pedigree recording and touring with their other above-mentioned associations with Iced Earth and Blaze Bayley, and have also toured as support artists with the likes of Saxon, Michael Schenker and Y&T. Now in 2020 it’s time for Absolva to strike again with Side By Side, their fifth studio album following on from Flames of Justice (2012), Anthems to the Dead (2014), Never a Good Day to Die (2015) and Defiance (2017).

Recorded at Rocksector Records headquarters in Manchester, produced by Chris Appleton himself, mastered by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone Mastering Ltd. in London, and featuring a classic artwork by Brazilian artist Alberto Quirantes of Akirant Illustration (Blaze Bayley, Iron Maiden, Star Wars), Side By Side undoubtedly celebrates the great tradition of British Heavy Metal with huge riffs and massive hooks. However, Absolva have never been scared to mix things up, and fans will discover light and shade across the ten original songs (plus two very special bonus tracks) found in such entertaining album that transpires metal music, showcasing an exceptional performance by all band members and, therefore, being highly recommended for fans of the music by Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest, Helloween and several other metal giants.

The strident guitars by Chris and Luke bring thunder to the opening track Advocate Your Fate, accompanied by the band’s heavy kitchen of Martin and Karl in a pure traditional Heavy Metal feast, with their guitar solos being absolutely incendiary; and blasting a Judas Priest-inspired mega-riff the band embellishes the airwaves with the high-octane Burning Star, where Chris’ soaring screams are beautifully supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals, sounding perfect for headbanging nonstop in the name of Heavy Metal. Then keep banging your heads and raising your horns to the sound of The Sky’s Your Limit, where the bass punches by Karl will reverberate inside your brain, feeling very melodic from start to finish and being obviously recommended for enjoying it while on a road trip, whereas the title-track Side by Side brings forward an inspiring, upbeat atmosphere showcasing the union among the band members, with both Chris and Luke taking the lead with their refined riffs and solos and, of course, living up to the legacy of the biggest exponents of the genre.

After such amazing first batch of songs, it’s time to speed things up and slam into the pit together with the boys in Living a Lie, another lesson in traditional Heavy Metal where Martin is unstoppable on drums while its guitars will pierce your ears and Chris powerfully declaims the song’s austere lyrics, followed by Legion, presenting a “Stranger in a Stranger Land” vibe generated by Karl and his menacing bass, alternating between heavier moments spiced up by Chris and Luke’s shredding and more serene, melodic passages. And more metallic sounds permeate the airwaves in Eternal Soul, a galloping tune led by Karl and Martin armed with their thunderous instruments, feeling like a metal classic from the 80’s with a catchy chorus that will put you to sing along with the band, not to mention their trademark electrifying solos.

Chris leads his metal army in the rebellious anthem End of Days, a more epic and imposing tune where Martin’s beats dictate the pace and the band’s stringed trio doesn’t stop firing sheer electricity from their axes, and setting fire to the world the band brings forth the frantic, melodic and absolutely awesome Heart Let’s Go, where Chris keeps blasting his sharp vocals accompanied by the razor-edged sound of the guitars and the groovy bass by Karl. Finally, a serene Hard Rock-inspired intro ignites the melodic From This World, the last original song of the album where the quartet showcases a lot of passion and feeling, led by the pounding beats by Martin (albeit going on for a little too long, though), before we’re treated to two metallic and vibrant bonus tracks by Absolva showing their respect and admiration for the undisputed metal titans Iron Maiden, with 2 Minutes to Midnight, and Black Sabbath, with Heaven and Hell, with their Iron Maiden version sounding and feeling beyond stunning.

The guys form Absolva are waiting for you on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify, ready to invade your senses with their refined old school Heavy Metal, and with Side By Side being the perfect representation of everything they stand for and what we can except from such talented band in a not-so-distant future. Hence, don’t forget to purchase your copy of the album from their Big Cartel page, from Apple Music or from Amazon, standing side by side with one of the youngest and most promising bands of the UK scene and, as a consequence, living and breathing metal music together with a band that proudly carries the flag of NWOBHM wherever they go.

Best moments of the album: Burning Star, Eternal Soul, Heart Let’s Go and 2 Minutes to Midnight.

Worst moments of the album: From This World.

Released in 2020 Rocksector Records

Track listing
1. Advocate Your Fate 4:39
2. Burning Star 4:02
3. The Sky’s Your Limit 5:22
4. Side by Side 4:39
5. Living a Lie 3:07
6. Legion 3:42
7. Eternal Soul 5:37
8. End of Days 6:07
9. Heart Let’s Go 4:21
10. From This World 5:51

Bonus tracks
11. 2 Minutes to Midnight (Iron Maiden cover) 5:49
12. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath cover) 7:01

Band members
Christopher Appleton – lead vocals, lead guitar
Luke Appleton – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass
Martin Mcnee – drums