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And the day will come here below
When the light will cross my destiny
Domination to succeed the crown
Just remember the man you used to be
Cause when the virus comes, it's time for victory!

What? But this kind of thing is what passes for normal lyrics from Heavenly. After not buying any new music for about a year myself, I was given their new album "Virus" by two separate people this Christmas - one Japanese version (because strangely that's the import that America gets) and one extended European one. Their previous album, "Dust to Dust", has to be one of the best in my collection, and it's taken them three years to produce a follow-up due to an almost complete change of line-up - now only two of the original members remain, but the sound has stayed consistent. The album is apparently called "Virus" because it "contains highly infectious music" - honest, that's what it says in the booklet. As silly as it sounds, it does have some truth to it.

There are some changes to the general sound - the most significant is the new keyboardist, who introduces an almost Amstrad-like high chord/string instrument into the background of many songs. Like every band that produces this sort of music these days, they've also tried to include some more classical elements, but it's only obvious in a couple of tracks - they haven't become Dream Theater (which would have been pretentious) or Stratovarius (which would have been disastrous). If anything, it seems that they're now closer to what Sonata Arctica originally sounded like in their music, particularly the over-the-top immensely powerful choruses. Really, Ben Sotto is now almost equal to Piet Sielck in this department.

Interestingly, a couple of themes from the previous album are reused here, both in lines from the lyrics and the actual music. The musical ones are fine as they're always in a different key or rhythm from before even when they're obvious, but the lyrical repetition does stop seeming clever about the third time it happens.

Ben Sotto's English has also improved - even though the lyrics make little sense most of the time, a few lines are actually understandable now. The pronounciation is a little shaky, but nowhere near as bad as on Dust to Dust. The only really notable bit is the triumphant shout of "GLAH-REE-ICE!" during the chorus of "Bravery in the Field". And he can now sing "Happiness" without it sounding remotely like "A penis", which is most welcome. Nevertheless, the booklet with the lyrics proves invaluable - there are also further song comments, but unfortunately they're all in Japanese and I can't read them.

Interestingly, it also contains a Jermaine Jackson cover, "When the Rain Begins to Fall", and they've made it sound somehow like The Final Countdown. In fact, as I was writing all this, I realized that the whole album really does represent everything that people hate about power metal. And as far as I'm concerned, that makes it absolutely phenomenal.