Friday, November 9, 2007

Album Review - David Shankle Group "Hellborn" (2007)

Although I have known David Shankle’s name well from his glorious Manowar days, I must admit that “Hellborn” was my very first contact with his solo project (I feel slightly embarrassed with this fact ;). Anyway, memories of Manowar’s “Triumph of Steel” have prepared me or a solid dose of intense, high quality heavy metal, so have done the cover and the title. And the musical content definitely met my expectations.

An interesting feature of the record is that despite a pretty cool opening, it steadily gets better when getting closer to the album’s end. The first tracks precisely define the overall sound, as they’re full of heavy riffs, blazing solos and majestic, melodic choruses. What’s also worth mentioning is the rhythmic section, which can be described briefly but accurately as “ground-breaking”. The singer, Dennis Hirschauer, also does his job well, as his distinctive voice is an integral part of the quartet’s tone. These are all essential elements of a cool heavy/power metal record, but from a musician of Shankle’s experience and ability I would expect something more… and I finally get it in “The Tyrant”, one of the best songs here, which provides great, catchy melody without losing the impact of the previous ones.

Right after the last measures, there come “When Is It Wicked” and “Sins and Promises” two seven-minute-long epics that stand out from the rest due to their more complex and sophisticated structure and arrangement. David skillfully builds up tension making bigger use of clean guitar sounds and more diverse soloing approach (mixing hyperspeed licks with more intriguing, slower parts). I dare say the band enters the prog metal territory here as you can hear echoes of Dream Theater in some of the riffs… I’ve described probably my two favorite tracks together, anyway, on the album they’re separated with shorter song “Monster”, which brings you back to well-known heavy metal world. Setting the track list this way prevents the album from sounding monotonous. Then, as we move towards the CD’s end, we get a nice piece entitled “No Remorse” with very “Yngwish” riff (anyway, the Malmsteen spirit can be felt on “Hellborn” from the beginning, but do you know a neo-classical player who hasn’t been inspired by the fabulous Swede?). However, some top-class stuff has been put aside for dessert.

Now, shredheads, there comes something for you! “The Voyage” is the track none of you can miss out! Why? Because you rarely get the chance to hear four of the music industry top virtuosos crossing their axes in such a shred battle, like the one we hear on “Hellborn”’s last song. Just take a look at these names: TD Clark, Joe Stump, and the mighty Michael Angelo Batio (yes, yes, yes!). Then you can just imagine the sonic firestorm they create. They shred with no mercy, striking over and again with mind-boggling arpeggios and fiendishly fast and precise picking lines. Of course, David gets his piece o’ cake, too. Although there are some moments on the whole record when I’d rather hear more melodic soloing than Shankle’s beloved speed frenzies, no one can argue that his playing skills are simply jaw-dropping, and “Voyage” is the best proof for it. Seven minutes of pure guitar wizardry pass by quickly so… it’s time to listen once again! At least I did so :).

To sum up, “Hellborn” should satisfy a vast range of heavy sounds enthusiasts, as it contains enough hi-octane shredding for guitar-maniacs, as well as enough cool riffing and songwriting to be enjoyable for an average metal fan. Worth checking out!

Overall Rating: 8/10

Track listing:

1. Asylum God
2. The Lie
3. Bleeding Hell
4. Living For Nothing
5. Left To Die
6. Hellborn
7. The Tyrant
8. When Is It Wicked
9. Monster
10. Sins And Promises
11. Cold And Diseased
12. No Remorse
13. The Voyage

David Shankle - Guitars
Dennis Hirschauer- Vocals
Jeff Kyloe - Bass Guitar
Brad Sabathne - Drums

For more about David and the band, go to


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