STEELHEART – Through Worlds Of Stardust

Back in 1990, Steelheart, with charismatic singer, Croatian born Miljenko (back then he was Mike) Matijevic at the front, had a couple of huge hits with the songs “I’ll Never Let You Go” and “She’s Gone” which made their self-titled debut album a platinum affair and were on the verge of a big break-through. But when they released the follow-up, the criminally underrated Tangled In Reins, in 1992 the musical climate had started to change and melodic hard rock / arena rock wasn’t such a hot affair anymore. Seattle had become the new L.A. and grunge was the thing on everybody’s lips. The album wasn’t even close to the sales of the debut and shortly after, Steelheart disbanded – or went on a hiatus, depending on how you see it. When Steelheart resurrected in 1996 with the album Wait, Matijevic was the only remaining original member. The album bombed, the time wasn’t right for resurrected arena rock bands just yet, but also, without being bad, the album couldn’t hold a candle to the two first records. So Steelheart went away again and it would take eight years for them to show a sign of life once again, this time with an album called Good 2 B Alive (2008).

But the same thing happened again – Miljenko had yet another new line-up, the record wasn’t up to par with their two first albums quality wise and even though every old melodic hard rock band and their mothers had reunited by then, the album never made an impact at all. So, here we are in 2017, nine years later and Miljenko have decided to bring Steelheart back for the third time – still without any of the original members onboard. This time, the band was signed to Frontiers records and it looked like Miljenko had decided to give Steelheart a real go this time. When it comes to me, I can’t say that I had very high expectations on the album. The previous two albums were underwhelming and their appearance at Sweden Rock Festival in 2011 left me cold. Too many new songs and not enough classics were played. So to convince me that Steelheart are still a force to be reckoned with, Matijevic and his buddies have to come up with something exceptional this time. An album that rocks my world or something like that.

So the album opens with Miljenko doing one of his classic high-pitch screams over a funky groove. The song is called “Stream Line Savings”, a 70’s influenced groove-laden hard rocker with a somewhat spaced-out sound scape. The song is ok, but doesn’t really stick. It’s quite hard to get a grip of it and it feels a bit unstructured. “My Dirty Girl” is rough, heavy, ballsy, groovy and very much an in-your-face hard rocker. I wasn’t too sure about the tune at first but it grows on you as it goes along. In the end, I really liked it and it sure kicks up some dust. “Come Inside” sports a pretty thunderous rhythm over a laid-back groove. There’s even some punkiness to it and I really like the contrasts. However, the song itself isn’t all that catchy and doesn’t really leaves a mark. Not bad, though. “My Word” is darker and more grungy with a modern touch, kind of like Alice In Chains meets Alter Bridge. That said, the chorus brings back a classic, early 90’s Steelheart nod and it works like a charm – a really good tune.

The single “You Got Me Twisted” follows. It’s an acoustic guitar based melodic hard rocker the borders to a ballad. It sports some AOR-ish undertones and since the tune runs in mid pace, it has this radio friendly sound. The chorus sticks right away and I instantly get this classic Steelheart vibe – a great tune. The band goes into total ballad mood with “Lips Of Rain”, a powerful, atmospheric, emotional and beautiful ballad with a killer vocal performance from Miljenko. Slightly orchestrated, the song’s fantastic melody and amazing chorus brings the vibe back to the golden days. It’s a brilliant tune and one of the best songs on the album. They stick to the ballad mood with “With Love We Live Again”, a Zeppelin-esque acoustic ballad – soft, laid back and even a bit folky. There’s a dreamy vibe and the song is quite hippie-laden and I can’t help thinking about Blind Melon when I hear it. A great tune!

They turn an alternative twist, albeit with the classic Steelheart melodies on top, with “Got Me Running”. It’s an upbeat hard rocker with a steady beat and a distinct refrain. But the alternative twist feels unnecessary and it just doesn’t fit. It’s not a bad song but it doesn’t rock my world. “My Freedom” is big and pompous, a bit symphonic with strings and keyboards. It’s heavily built on the influence of 70’s hard rock and a big Led Zeppelin groove. It’s a good song but something, that I can’t put my finger on is missing and it just won’t catch on. They close the album with “I’m So In Love With You”, a slow, stripped and gentle ballad with only piano and vocals. The song comes off as very personal and Matijevic sings it with heart and soul. That said, as a song it passes my by almost unnoticed and when it ends it feels like the tune never even got started.

As a whole, the album do not rock my world at all but it’s still Steelheart’s best effort since Tangled In Reins and it outperforms their two previous records by the mile. Sound wise the album comes close to the old Steelheart sound only at times and there’s a lot of different influences coming in from here and there. It’s a good thing that they want to move forward and not being a nostalgia act, repeating their 90’s all over again but at the same time I miss that sound, the melodic arena rock with power and punch that they used to play. Also, I have some issues with the production. At many times the album is unstructured and it sounds tinny. With too many fillers at hand, I still must say that there are some songs that are really good that shows that the band just might be on to something. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t take them another nine years to get there.

5/10

Tracklist:

1. Stream Line Savings
2. My Dirty Girl
3. Come Inside
4. My Word
5. You Got Me Twisted
6. Lips Of Rain
7. With Love We Live Again
8. Got Me Running
9. My Freedom
10. I’m So In Love With You

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