Sentinel Daily’s editor Scott Adams labelled last year’s Crazy Lixx album, Forever Wild, ‘as good as it gets for hair metal in 2019’. It’s not even the end of January, and I believe I might have the album in my sweaty paws that’ll take that accolade for 2020 already – Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new H.E.A.T. album…
Craftily entitled II (even though it’s actually the band’s sixth studio full-lengther) to signify a return to the band’s raucous yet slinky early sounds, the album kicks off with an absolute stormer – the Jeff Paris-styled rabble rouser Rock Your Body – and then doesn’t let up for a second over the ensuing ten tracks… this undoubtedly is what we want!
Second track Dangerous Ground sounds like the title track to a film of the same name released in 1983 and recorded by The Eric Martin Band such is it’s extreme attention to detail and dedication to recreating the glory days of this kind of music; Guitarist Dave Dalone even throws in a sort of Neil Schon-style solo to push nostalgia needles into the red, and Erik Grönwall delivers the first of a series of truly compelling vocal performances that prove he really is a modern day melodic rock master.
Come Clean is much more modern in construction; a little heavier but still resolutely melodic, fans who’ve come to the band a little later will recognise and love this from the first bar. Victory rides in on some suitably epic and pompous keys and choral backing vocals before hitting it’s groove propelled with some urgent bass work from Jimmy Jay. The chorus is almost like something HammerFall might have come up with in their prime, exhibiting the ease through which the band navigates modern rock and metal, weaving everything together in a delirious overload of air-punching chorus mayhem and air-guitar inspiring guitar excellence. Jona Tee also throws in a nice little keyboard solo to add to the sonic nirvana.
We are Gods isn’t quite as gonzoid as the band clearly intended, being only excellent as opposed to stratospheric, but it’s followed by Adrenaline, one of the absolute highlights of the album.
Simple yet devastatingly effective, it’s another mid-eighties reference, wrapped in a gorgeous, polished production that’s all 2020; a classic case of ‘when worlds collide’ – but with a happy result!
Next up is One By One, a meat and potatoes (but stll bloody anthemic) rocker that serves again to prove just how impressive Grönwall is on this kinda stuff; powerful yet always in control, he’s like a lab-coated egghead’s fusion of the best bits of Coverdale and Tempest, roaring like a rock Leviathan, energising material that other band’s would struggle to get anything out of. It’s an amazing skill to possess, and our Erik makes the most of it time and again.
Of course, this is AOR we’re talking about, so it’s no surprise that track eight is a tear-jerking ballad. Nothing To Say bears a slight relation to Desmond Child’s Love On A Rooftop, by way of something by Roxette, and Grönwall’s impassioned yet controlled delivery is his best on the record. The charts don’t really welcome this sort of track anymore, which is a shame as it deserves to be heard on radios the world over on the hour every hour – where’s the justice?
That’s a debate for another day and another forum, and anyway we’ve got more golden nuggets of melodic brilliance to unearth. First up is Heaven Must Have Won An Angel, another track whose epic construction belies it’s concise execution; a chorus that Jimi Jamison would have loved singing comes accompanied by more pulsing four string work and another assured, solid performance behind the kit from Lars Jarkell; together they push the song’s inherent drama forward superbly, before Dalone takes the song home with another superb solo. Penultimate track Under The Gun is another straightforward rocker, which gets in and gets the job done quickly, setting the stage for titanic closing track Rise…
Rise is an absolute stormer of a track, taking it’s cues from fellow Scandi names like Pretty Maids and Treat but knocking both into a cocked hat through sheer force of talent and melodic will. It’s an absolute belter of muscle and melody, dropping the pace to a trot mid song to allow Dalone the space to contribute another killer solo before ratcheting everything up to eleven again for the run to the finishing line. It’s exhilarating stuff, that’s for sure, and I have absolutely zero qualms about recommending this to anyone who possesses what Jack Donaghy might have referred too as ‘two ears and a heart’. Worldshaking stuff.
II will be released on February 21st.