California retro-metal band Holy Grail were formed in 2008 by three disgruntled ex-members of White Wizzard. Adding a bassist and a second guitarist to their core lineup, they released a 7" EP, Improper Burial, the CD version of which included two covers -- Judas Priest's "Exciter" and Accept's "Fast as a Shark" -- that showed quite clearly where they were coming from. On their full-length debut, they're proving themselves to be old-school metal warriors, their sound rooted in the early-'80s, pre-thrash. There are guitar solos erupting all over this disc, and song titles like "Fight to Kill," "Call of Valhalla," "Immortal Man," etc., etc. The songs are about death, terror, and all the classic larger-than-life metal subjects, and some of them -- "Call of Valhalla" in particular -- are damn catchy. The band even gets to explore its quiet, more introspective side on the instrumental "Nocturne in D Minor." When they get too close to contemporary sounds, as on "Requiem," they wind up sounding too much like Shadows Fall, but overall, this is a very solid full-length debut from a bunch of talented semi-newcomers. The great White Wizzard schism of 2008 seems to have been a boon for metal in general, as there are now two good bands in the place formerly occupied by only one. ~ Phil Freeman, Rovi

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