Album Title: Written By Life
Label: Massacre Records
Date of Release: 22 April 2022
Sometimes, I feel the need to take a step back from the more vicious forms of extreme metal and mix things up with something altogether more melodic. Today, I’m doing just that with Radiant and their second full-length album entitled ‘Written By Life’. As the name suggests, this record has been inspired by the band members themselves, turning their own personal tragedies, milestones, and adventures into the songs that feature here. Each of quintet was involved, making this a truly collaborative affair. And that’s how it feels, despite Radiant being headed up by Herbie Langhans, the powerful and distinctive vocalist whose personal discography covers everyone from Firewind to Voodoo Circle, from Beyond The Bridge to Sinbreed and Seventh Avenue.
Not only did he sing on this record, but Langhans also produced and mastered ‘Written By Life’, with the mastering undertaken by the equally well-known Sasha Paeth at Gate Studio. Unsurprisingly, the music sounds strong, pulling every last ounce of strength out of the performances of guitarists Carsten Stepanowicz and Flo Gottsleben, bassist Markus Beck, and drummer Manni Spalka, not to mention himself.
Your personal perspective is likely to strongly determine your overall thoughts on this sophomore Radiant album because, if you’re looking for a solid album of well-performed, energetic melodic heavy metal with a touch of hard rock swagger at points, as well as some well-placed Euro cheese, then ‘Written By Life’ is likely to score highly with you. If you’re looking for something a little different, or off the beaten track, then you might end up being a little disappointed. Me, I’m going to get splinters because I’m sitting on the fence somewhere between the two camps. On the one hand, there’s a lot to like, but on the other, it doesn’t fully set my world alight and demand that I listen again and again. When I press play and listen, I enjoy what I hear, but I’m not compelled by the record to immediately return to the start and begin again.
If I’m honest, I’m seduced a little by the opening track, ‘Nightshift’, after which the same level of magic rarely returns within the remaining ten subsequent tracks. On it’s own, ‘Nightshift’ is glorious, a true 80s-influenced anthem of infectious up-beat intensity, with powerful melodies that lead to a hard rock/AOR-infused sing-along chorus. It is the kind of music that can turn a frown upside-down and make you smile. Complete with melodic lead guitar solos that call to mind the best harmonies of the NWOBHM movement, as well as a few flamboyant drum fills and galloping bass, it offers a bit of everything. I can’t sing the praises of this opening track highly enough.
I may be being a little harsh when I then suggest that this magic rarely makes a return appearance, certainly not to the same intensity at any rate. ‘Don’t Stop The Daydream’ is a thunderous follow-up, keeping the momentum going thanks to powerhouse rhythms and chunky riffs. However, the chorus doesn’t carry with it the same ‘stop everything’ vibe of its predecessor.
I don’t want to appear unduly unfair, so in order to focus on the positives, I’d pick out a few songs within the eleven that offer something genuinely positive. On that score, I’d have to begin with ‘Live The Adventure’ thanks mainly to the darker, more serious vibe, aside from the slightly unnecessary spoken word samples later in the song and at the very end. But regardless, the chorus is also one of the most pleasing and enjoyable for my tastes, a definite stand-out moment for sure.
Then there’s ‘Life Contagioned’ which provides a lovely hard-rocking groove and swagger that then segues into a moody bluesy verse. The chorus is the real highlight though, a real lighter-in-the-air style affair that delivers one of Langhans’ best vocal performances on the album. Here, his gravelly tones briefly disappear as he soars to the sky.
I’m not sure whether I’m hearing things, but as ‘Written By Life’ nears the end, the 70s classic rock influences appear to grow and dominate a couple of the later tracks. Whilst it’s not normally my ‘thing’, it’s hard not to grow fond of the strangely infectious chorus within ‘Twice A Week’, a song that begins intriguingly with bold string-led orchestration before acoustic guitars strum warmly.
And despite taking my time to warm to it, there’s a definite charm to the closing composition, ‘Hang Around With Friends’. The actual music itself may not light a fire under me, by lyrically, I connect to the song that’s clearly been written about these guys’ childhoods when friendship and camaraderie were the only things that mattered. Speaking as a battered and bruised adult, I love the sentiment of this song and its carefree vibe, as I think back to a similar time in my life with rose-tinted glasses. Sentimentality aside, I will concede that the chorus does eventually burrow its way in and ends the record on a genuinely fun and infectious note.
Overall, there is a lot to like about ‘Written By Life’, especially if melodic hard rock/metal is something you instinctively gravitate towards. A definite handful of songs hit the mark with me one way or the other, meaning that I derive enjoyment from listening to it. I’m just left a little frustrated with the consistency and the direction of travel here; after the first song, I was all in, excited to hear the rest of the album. But the same magic never quite returns for me, despite the best efforts of all concerned here. You may think very differently however, so I urge you to listen for yourself before passing judgement. Who knows, I’m probably in a tiny minority.
The Score of Much Metal: 78%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme
Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set
Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes
Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn
Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone
Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama
Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP
Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse
Playgrounded – The Death Of Death
Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum
PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2
Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse
The Midgard Project – The Great Divide
Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light
Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts
New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods
Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation
Sabaton – The War To End All Wars
Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void
Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order
Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine
Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time
Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts
Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined
The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity
Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North
Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier
Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion
Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools
Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night
Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge
Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP
Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel
Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: