Album Review: To Hell or Kingdom Come by Heidra (Mighty Music)

Copenhagen based melodic death/Viking metal warriors, Heidra, return with their 3rd full length, To Hell or Kingdom Come, due for release on the 8th of April via Mighty Music.

Heidra play a mix of melodic, black, and power metal with folk-themed undertones, powerful choruses, and brutal growls. The band was formed in 2006 and has been steadily growing in strength, in song-writing and as a live performing band over the years. Heidra released their debut EP Sworn to Vengeance in 2012 which was followed by the band’s first full album, Awaiting Dawn, in 2014. The Blackening Tide continued and expanded on Awaiting Dawn, in 2017 and To Hell or Kingdom Come co0mpletes the trilogy of albums.

Hard work and extensive touring has seen the band grow considerably with a large following in their home country of Denmark and an ever growing international fanbase. Tours with the likes of Korpiklaani, Ensiferum, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Omnium Gatherum gave them the opportunity to show their wares further and further afield. A chance the band lapped up and saw them impress new and old fans all across Europe.

Now, on the 8th of April, Heidra unleash their next chapter, To Hell or Kingdom Come. An album recorded in Italy and Denmark in July and August of 2021 and like “The Blackening Tide”, recorded with Marco Mastrobuono. Having a vacant drum slot, the band alos managed to enlist the help of the supremely gifted Francesco Paoli (Fleshgod Apocalypse) to fill in.

Heidra are Morten Bryld on vocals, keys, acoustic guitars with Martin W. Jensen and Carlos G.R. on guitars and James Atkin on bass and vocals.

Heidra - To Hell or Kingdom Come band
Phot by Jannie Ravn Madsen

To Hell or Kingdom Come takes Heidra in a more aggressive direction, drawing inspiration from classic melodic death metal, while at the same time having the band’s melodies and clean singing at its core.

To Hell or Kingdom Come hits us with 10 tracks starting with a short, atmosphere building instrumental called The Beginning and the End. It is what you might expect, typically layered and epic and transitions perfectly into Retribution’s Dawn. An over 8 minute beast of a track, it really shows off a wide scope of influence within Heidra. At first it seems simple enough, very much in the Amon Amarth camp of this melodic Viking metal. Chunky riffs and booming drums lay the foundation for deep, growled vocals to attack. Orchestral backing gives the grandiose layer in a verse worthy of a pretty intense mosh pit.

As we progress through the song, it starts to transform in truly exciting ways. The clean vocals that start taking sections are wonderful as is the guitars that back them. I adore the back and forth we end up getting between the two vocal styles. We jump from soaring and soothing cleans to sudden screams and roars. A short and simple chorus sees the melody take control as both vocals start backing each other. The drums and the bass create a nice thick foundation throughout with the drums really standing out. What a talent Francesco Paoli is! As the song continues, we drop down into an acoustic section with clean vocals delivered in a folk style in a beautiful and passionate section backed by a stunning melodic guitar.

As you would expect, this sets the scene for the song to explode back into life with an epic chorus and then a huge, fiery solo. I love it. It is completely stereotypical of the genre with few surprises but who cares when it is executed to perfection, like this is.

Dusk and then The Rebirth continue the tale with the former hitting you with a guitar and drum intro that will see you instantly headbanging along. The orchestral backing works a treat and the vocals exude aggression and power. I love the pace, the drums the frenetic and energetic feel this track has. The clean chorus is supremely catchy and the solos is absolutely massive. it’s a wonderful track.

As for The Rebirth, again the drums are just wow! The pace is mostly there still but drops down for sections into a thicker groove. I really like the flow of this song, it is exciting and interesting, switching tempo and combining the drums, riffs and backing orchestrals perfectly. A piano interlude has impact and leads back into a gloriously sung verse that starts clean and transforms into a writing beats of aggression. This is great.

Wolfborn Rising has an anthemic feel – big guitars and powerful cleans get the song underway before the heavier chug and growls join in. The lead guitars and backing keep the song feeling optimistic and light, even through the darker chunky sections. The breakdown part will definitely get your adrenaline flowing, if you aren’t already pumped by the time you reach it. Fall of the Fey is another banger on an album full of quality. I love the beat to the intro and the drums are phenomenal. The blending of harsh and clean vocals is a magical thing and of course the soaring leads add a touch of grandiosity to the song. Heidra bring the full works here with plenty of orchestral backing, a catchy chorus, piano sections, a choir like chanted verse and of course a huge solo.

The title track, To Hell or Kingdom Come, is up next and you can see why it was the lead single and chosen title track. A 7 minute long epic, it combines the very best of Heidra into a single composition full of excitement and feeling. Majestic, grand, epic – all descriptive words that don’t do this song justice. Amongst all of that though, it alos has some of the heavier sections on the whole of the album with ripping vocals, insane drum and bass rhythm and a punishing riff. Combining the two sides of the band seamlessly, To Hell or Kingdom Come becomes an emphatic track that has you head banging in one section and throwing fists in the air seconds later.

Ancient Gates follows and is another firm favourite. More of the ballad style but with a dark and sinister touch, it still has that balance between crunching heaviness and clean beauty in an overall package of excellence led by piano is the clean moments and deep punchy riffs in the heavier parts. We near the end of To Hell or Kingdom Come starting with the penultimate track, Cloaks and Daggers. A little bit of piano skill showing off leads the song in, tricking you into expecting a gentler track, it explodes into a vicious assault of melodeath with intense drumming and riffs backed by speedily delivered aggressive vocals. The chorus brings in some clean backing to elevate it further. It’s yet another showcase of Heidra’s skill managing to use stereotypical elements but in an exciting way that makes it all feel like something new.

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And so the journey concludes with Two Kings. It’s another good song but actually doesn’t quite capture my imagination as much as some of the other songs on the album. It’s still good, with great vocals and catchy rhythms. Strong drums and lead guitars but I guess maybe I built my expectations up and found myself looking for that 9 minute long epic quest ending song so familiar to this style of music. Very good song, just not the best on the album.

I admit, starting off To Hell or Kingdom Come, I wondered whether I would like it but find it very stereotypical of the scene or if Heidra could genuinely capture something fresh and new. I really do love all of elements and genres within this style of metal. The Viking edge, the orchestral backing, folk, power, melodic death but I am aware of how much of this there is and how limiting the boundaries. I am pleased to say though that Heidra have managed to capture something magical here. They have all the elements that make Viking/Power metal so awesome but excel in ways that many others don’t.

Structurally their songs are very exciting and there use of the mix of harsh and clean vocals give them a contrast that really works so well. Many songs have sections that would have you pitting energetically  before sudden transitions would you have trying to sing out soaring choruses while throwing fists of defiance in the air. When they go heavy, they really throw it down and when they want to hook you in, a mammoth chorus will arrive. The drums are next level brilliance though all the instruments demonstrate real skill with some huge and exciting solos also capturing the imagination. It feels like Heidra don’t hold back, they throw everything in and give 100% to each song and that shines through. To Hell or Kingdom Come is immensely enjoyable, very memorable and will be getting a lot of playtime this year.

Grab your copy of this excellent release from the band, here.

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To Hell or Kingdom Come by Heidra (Mighty Music)
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