May 17, 2021

OK, an easy review coming up. First of all, stop reading this and go out and buy the album and then play it again and again so there is now no need to read any further! If you’ve ignored me and are still here then he’s a few more reasons why you need to have this excellent power metal album in your collection. It features a perfect blend of time served and totally experienced quality musicians led by the sublime and truly gifted singer Herbie Langhans (Firewind, Avantasia, Radiant, Beyond the Bridge), Carsten Stepanowicz (Radiant) on guitar, André Hilgers (Bonfire, ex-Rage) on drums and Dominik Stotzem (Enemy Inside, Beyond Bridge) on bass so these guys have seen it, done it and bought the tee shirt! It’s true that when it comes to power metal Germany leads the way and Sonic Haven is now a new name to add to what is already a quite wonderful list. This is a perfect example of heavy metal out of the Judas Priest school but given that special German treatment that we so best see in the likes of Accept, Bonfire, Helloween and Edguy. The guys have truly produced a gem of an album as Vagabond hits the ground running and the metal onslaught is relentless as the band gives a 55-minute masterclass in how metal should be delivered i.e. fast, furious, energetic and totally intense.

It’s yet another of those lockdown albums with all of the musicians recording their individual parts at home and is therefore reliant on strong material and an even stronger hand on production, mixing and mastering duties and that is exactly what we have here. Herbie Langhans produces, Michael Rodenberg aka Miro has done the orchestrations with mixing and mastering being handled by Sascha Paeth and what a great job they have done too as the record has the dynamic of an album that has been perfected out on the road and refined by collaboration in the studio. If it’s this good when done separately then just how monstrous is this band going to be when they get together when life returns to something like normal?

Langhans has commented, “I didn’t write that many metal songs in the last few years, so am really on fire with Sonic Haven to do it again,” he continues “I like classic, traditional and melodic metal with hard rock elements and sing-along parts, so my goal was to write an album that gives you a good feeling. You know, that makes you smile, that gives you goosebumps, that gives you power! I think it’s the perfect album to rest a bit in the Sonic Haven”. So there you have it, he sounds pleased and contended with the album and so he should as it is a real barnstormer and is a real statement of intent. The riffs are powerful and the solos totally classic metal with Carsten Stepanowicz showing that he has all the skills to sit comfortably at the top table of heavy metal guitar gods. The bass and drums assault your senses as they pound with the incessant beat of an industrial power hammer over which Herbie Langhans stands head and shoulders above his peers as he gives a regal and majestic performance that shows just why he is so highly regarded. The musical is heavy but has all the essential melodic requirements and hooks with keyboards shared between guests Thomas Lehr and Miro Rodenberg and there is a nice touch with the masterful Victor Smolski (ex-Rage) providing the solos on the track Keep The Flame Alive.

Of course, the comparisons with Judas Priest and Accept will be made but this is because they are the standard bearers and the mark by which all others will be judged and Sonic Haven have passed every test with flying colours. Vagabond is an outstanding metal album that is, quite simply, an essential purpose.

Vagabond track listing

  1. Vagabond (3:46)
  2. Back To Mad (4:41)
  3. Nightmares (4:55)
  4. Keep The Flame Alive (6:09)
  5. End Of The World (5:23)
  6. The Darker Side (6:03)
  7. I Believe (4:23)
  8. Save The Best For Last (5:38)
  9. Blind The Enemy (4:31)
  10. From White To Black (4:22)
  11. Striking Back (4:30)