Ever since I became a real Hard Rock / Metal fan in my teens in the early 80’s, 70’s based acts were my first loves. Kiss and Sweet came first, as a kid in the 70’s, but when all Hell broke loose for me, it was with bands such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow and Whitesnake. Led Zeppelin, I didn’t get at first so they came onboard later – much later. But one band that I read about constantly but never stuck with me was Uriah Heep. As a classic Hard Rock band and one the first, they should really had come along for the ride but for some reason, I just wasn’t interested. And it has been that way ever since. Sure, I have listened to the odd album or two in the eighties and yes, I have heard their most famous songs – “Easy Living”, “Lady In Black”, “Gypsy” and the likes and sure, some of them were really good but still, something kept my interest at bay.
Since the formation in 1969, Uriah Heep has gone through lots of changes in both musical and line-ups and especially in the 80’s, the band got loads of criticism for becoming too radio-friendly and cheesy when they took the AOR route that many bands did at time so when they were finally back on track musically, the band had to start all over again to get the love and recognition from both fans and media. Today, the only remaining original member is guitar player Mick Box but the truth is, many of the current members have been in the band for ages. Both singer Bernie Shaw (Praying Mantis, Grand Prix) and keyboarder Phil Lanzon (Grand Prix, Lionheart, Sweet) has been with the band since 1986 while drummer Russell Gilbrook joined in 2007 and bassist Davey Rimmer joined in 2013. The new album is their first in four years and to date, Uriah Heep has released 25 albums including the new one.
They open the album with the leading single “Grazed By Heaven”, co-written by Rimmer and Jeff Scott Soto (Sons Of Apollo, Talisman, Eyes, Journey, Axel Rudi Pell). It’s an upbeat, punchy and raw Hard Rock tune that both takes Heep back to the 70’s but also holds a slight 80’s twist. The tune is a pretty even mix of Classic Rock and Melodic Rock, very memorable that holds a good, meaty wah solo from Box and a big Hammond sound from Lanzon. Very good. The title-track is slower in pace, quite heavy and dark 70’s based Hard Rock that opens up with the refrain sung in a’capella. Again, Lanzon’s big, robust organ-sound brings on the Classic Rock vibes together with the raunchy guitars which contrasts good to the chorus’ catchy, hook-laden melodies. There’s also a faster, groove-laden middle-break that kicks up some dust for good measure. Great track.
Latest single “Take Away My Soul” is an uptempo and punchy thing where a Pomp influence is present. It’s big on harmonies, a raunchy organ, a stompy rhythm and the fat, 70’s laden guitar riff is a real beast together with a memorable main melody and a catchy refrain. A winner! Rough guitars and a raging organ is the core of the bouncy, groovy and heavy rocker “Knocking At My Door”. It’s a somewhat complex yet easy-going Hard Rock number with both its feet in the mid 70’s that kicks and bites down hard. A good track. “Rocks In The Road” is the album’s monster – an epic, proggy eight and a half minutes of extra everything. The tune holds an infectious groove in a faster pace, bouncy and raging and really in-your-face where a quite pompy arrangement is also let in. The song then takes a soft keyboard-laden turn that brings on a late 60’s Doors-like vibe before it moves into a pumping groove with a twist of psychedelia. Then in comes a crunchy organ which melody brings Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers” to mind before the tune leaves you almost breathless. This is just bloody awesome!
“Waters Flowin'” is a slower paced piece that opens with an acoustic, orchestral arrangement, it’s a bit trippy, folky and progressive in a Led Zep kind of way where the striking melody is at front. The song also reminds me of some of the stuff that appeared on Phil Lanzon’s brilliant solo album If You Think I’m Crazy (2017). The tune is more of a big ballad than an actual rocker and the peaceful, spacey and floating arrangement makes the tune almost tranquilizing. Very good. “It’s All Been Said” starts off with a big, punchy and heavy groove. The verses are on the laid-back, soft-ish side with a proggy twist before the tune turns into a faster pace with a heavy 70’s Hard Rock vibe and for the rest of the tune, it alters between the laid-back and the heaviness which makes for a dynamic and varied contrast. The melodies overall and the chorus are on the catchy side without being the least Pop-oriented or radio-friendly. Great tune.
“Goodbye To Innocence” is an uptempo Classic Rock tune that comes across like a mix of classic Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. It’s pretty straight-forward with a hard bite and a king-size groove that will probably go down like crazy live. “Falling Under Your Spell” is a distinct and direct hard rocker with a good punch and rawer base. The in-your-face attitude is combined with a somewhat pompous outlook which makes the tune a bit more than just another rock’n’roll stomper. The album closes with “Dreams Of Yesteryear”, a mid-tempo groover that’s sniffing around balladry and holds a main melody that goes into AOR / Melodic Rock territory. It might be the least Heep-like tune on the album but this is no mawkish sea of syrup, no, it still holds the base in the 70’s and runs along both Pomp Rock and classic Hard Rock – and the band manages to mix all of the above with all the glory – a very good closer.
Since I really can’t compare to anything Uriah Heep has come up with since the glory days, this is an album that stands on its own for me and I can only tip my hat to the guys for showing us all that they’re still a force to be reckoned with almost 50 years into their career which is nothing but impressing. Do they sound old and passé then? Not one iota, is my answer. Uriah Heep shows with this album that they know exactly how to take their past, update it some and still sound current. The AOR and Melodic Rock days with albums such as Abominog (1982), Head First (1983) and Equator (1985) are long gone and forgotten and by the sound of this album they manage just fine without classic members such as Ken Hensley, Lee Kerslake and David Byron (RIP). What hardcore and classic fans of Uriah Heep thinks of this record remains to be seen but it stands pretty clear that Heep of 2018 still knows what once made them famous and can use that without sounding dated. This is a very good album and I reckon I finally have to go back and see for myself what the fuss is all about.
1. Grazed By Heaven
2. Living The Dream
3. Take Away My Soul
4. Knocking At My Door
5. Rocks In The Road
6. Waters Flowin’
7. It’s All Been Said
8. Goodbye To Innocence
9. Falling Under Your Spell
10. Dreams Of Yesteryear