Unlike most Latvian metal bands, Heaven Grey makes nice music

Heaven Grey

The Latvian metal band Heaven Grey was formed in 1993. The group has released three albums, including last year’s Falling Mist. (Publicity photo)

Falling Mist

Heaven Grey, which last year released a new album called Falling Mist, describes itself as a “doom gothic metal” band. That usually means aggressive guitars and drums are joined with keyboards and deep, often growled, vocals. The group compares itself to such venerable ensembles as Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride.

Though it has a very active metal scene, with a large number of bands and a surplus of talented musicians, Latvia has not had many heavy metal ensembles make much of a splash abroad, apart from pagan metal group Skyforger. Perhaps this is because a lot of the Latvian heavy metal music I have heard has either been somewhat generic and unoriginal, or so very aggressive and harsh that it becomes difficult to listen to.

Although I was not very familiar with Heaven Grey, what I had heard was very positive. I figured I would give Falling Mist a chance in the hope of hearing something that neither bored me nor assaulted my ears in a negative way.

The songs are also usually characterized by lyrics that are anything but positive. The group, founded in 1993, has been plying its trade for nearly two decades. Falling Mist is the third album by the band, which released Northwind in 1998 and Memory River in 1996. Heaven Grey has gone through a number of lineup changes, partly due to tragedy: guitarist Sigvard Balzhevich died in 2004 and original lead vocalist Ansis Melderis died in a motorcycle accident in 2005.

The lineup for this album includes Ervins (Verons) Francs on vocals, guitarists Vyacheslav Nikitin and Vladimir “Dr. Alien” Beluga, Andrey Rivars on bass, Olga Klubova on keyboards and Oleg Badulin playing the drums. Other featured musicians are the band’s former drummer Ervīns Ozoliņš, as well as Reinis Melbārdis, who recorded a number of cello lines.

Falling Mist, with songs in both English and Latvian, turns out to be a thoroughly enjoyable album, full of adept musicianship and crafty song writing. I think what I like the most is that this record has engaging melodies and music, which cannot be said about much of Latvian heavy metal music that often times seems to only aspire to play as fast and aggressively as possible.

The album begins to distinguish itself in the opening moments of the first song, “The Way Back is Gone,” with its melodic keyboard and cello duet, which is joined by drums and electric guitar. The group’s attention to melody comes across very strongly in this song, particularly in the guitar lines, as well as setting the tone for the entire album with lyrics like “I am cursed! I am cursed!”

A more aggressive sound is heard in the song “Zudusī dzīvība,” with some particularly intricate drumwork by Badulin. Perhaps inspired by the operatic female vocals of a group like Nightwish, the song “Life” features Eugenia Petrova on soaring vocals, but also has Francs singing in a more “normal” voice (which I actually think he should do a bit more often, since the growled vocals sometimes don’t quite fit in with the often clearer sounds of the instruments). One song is presented in both English (“It’s Time”) and Latvian (“Drīz”).

Possibly my favorite track on the album is “Upe,” which best represents Heaven Grey: the engaging melody of the guitar, the pained vocals, and the overall epic, almost symphonic, sound of the song. Because the lyrics are in a native language (Latvian), they are far more engaging than some of the English lyrics presented on the record.

The album also sounds great—instruments and vocals are distinct. Poor production is just about the most common criticism I could make about Latvian metal albums.

Certainly, the bulk of the songs are a bit on the depressing side, and vocalist Francs sounds like a soul in torment for most of the record. However, with engaging melodies, musical variety, and engrossing songs, Falling Mist is by far one of the best and most consistently satisfying Latvian metal albums that I have heard, and made for very enjoyable, if gloomy, listening.


Falling Mist

Heaven Grey

Heaven Grey,  2010

On the Web

Heaven Grey on MySpace

The band’s MySpace page includes examples of Heaven Grey’s music and videos. EN

Where to buy

Purchase Falling Mist from Amazon.com.

Note: Latvians Online receives a commission on purchases.

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

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