In the beginning, H.E.A.T was a “meh” band for me. Their self-titled debut album from 2008 created a hype as soon as it was released and the band was hailed as the great new hope for AOR and Melodic Rock. I never got it. Still don’t. I even thought that their follow-up Freedom Rock (2010) was better, something I guess I’m pretty much alone in thinking. Things changed for me with their 2012 album Address The Nation and the recruiting of singer Erik Grönwall as the ship-jumping Kenny Leckremo’s replacement. Since then, I have turned into a massive H.E.A.T fan with every album since then being close to masterpieces. All of them. As a live-act, they’re also on top of the game with Grönwall being a frontman extraordinary. That said, with an increasing fanbase and rave reviews everywhere, their last album sure was a watershed among fans.
Into The Great Unknown (2017) was an experimental outing, an album that three years later still divides their fan base. I can understand that. It took a while for me to embrace it too. But even though the album was a risky move, it still didn’t shrunk their fanbase – the one’s who dug it dug it and the rest just kept listening to their old stuff instead. I love that album today. I love the diversity and all the unpredictable moves. No matter in which style the songs came, they were still awesome songs. I love that they released such an album. But with that record out of their systems, it was time for the band to get back into business again. Why they decided on calling their sixth album II had its reasons. According to the band, this album sounds like the real follow-up to the debut, something that worried me some as I was never a huge fan of the debut. That being said, I’m still confident that these dudes are way to good song writers to release a let-down album.
The first single “One By One” came out some six months ago and was all over radio right away so no one could miss out on that one – and the song really made expectations for the new album sky-rocketing. Sound-wise, the tune screamed classic H.E.A.T and must have put a smile on everybody who thought the last record was the wrong way to go. It’s an uptempo rocker with chunky riffs, crispy guitars and massive melodies that goes right for the throat and on top a chorus so immediately catchy it’s unreal. It was a hit because it deserved to be one. Phenomenal. But I’m getting ahead of myself here – let’s start from the beginning. The album opens with “Rock Your Body”, an upbeat, raunchy and crunchy hard-rocker on a massive groove and a beefy rhythm section. As an opener, it’s perfect with its kicking beat and simple yet effective refrain that will have any audience go bananas when they hit the stage with the song. Because it must be a future live opener as well.
Latest single “Dangerous Ground” is a rough, rowdy and in-your-face rocker, big on guitars and a kicking, forceful rhythm. With Hard Rock as its core base, there’s a build-up of Melodic Rock hooks and where the pre-chorus is so catchy it really could be the actual refrain, the actual refrain is so unbelievable catchy it almost makes me laugh. I bow to thee, H.E.A.T-guys! Third single “Come Clean” is more of a Melodic Rock track with clear AOR tendencies all over the song. That being said, it’s no cheese-fest we’re talking about here. No, it’s a tough and meaty rocker that’s bigger on keyboards but never loses out on the guitars. With a chorus as big as Mount Everest, this tune is a textbook example of how to write a major hit. It’s an amazing number that sounds as if it came from the Address the Nation sessions. Bloody marvelous!
H.E.A.T takes one step into Metal territory with “Victory”. Big, fat riffing and a heavy and tough rhythm that kicks up dust, uptempo and punchy. With hints of a Hammond organ, gang-vocals and a Hard Rock style chorus that reminds me some of Eclipse, this is an out-of-the-box tune that has very little to do with the band’s earliest brand of Melodic Rock – and I love that they decided to go with it. A brilliant track. “We Are Gods” are slower in pace and holds a slightly bluesier feel and this one too is more Metal influenced with a darker atmosphere. It’s heavier with a thunderous rhythm, aggressive riffing and maybe the most headbang-friendly H.E.A.T has ever been. But the song is also extremely hook-laden and melodic where the refrain shines with some amazingly catchy Melodic Rock touches that’s impossible to resist. I love this!
“Adrenaline” takes us back to more familiar H.E.A.T territories as it is an uptempo Melodic Rock stomper, big on groove and infectious melodies all over and a chorus both effective and addictive that sticks right from go. Melodic Rock hardly gets any better than this! The ballad “Nothing To Say” goes total 80’s on us with a synth-sound that’s all 1986, acoustic guitars and a smooth and slick vocal melody. When the whole band joins in both rhythm and sound tells us it’s 1987 and Whitesnake’s “Is This Love” is #1 in the charts. It’s very catchy but also a bit sugary and even though I do think it’s a good song, it’s not as strong as the previous songs.
“Heaven Must Have Won An Angel” is uptempo AOR-pop on a solid beat but with keyboards taking over and the very pink n’ fluffy melodies makes it sound too much like any one of those thirteen-a-dozen Scandinavian AOR bands with a touch of ESC-sugar. It’s an ok track but it’s too syrupy and the real H.E.A.T sound is lacking. They do get back on track with the fat-rocking, ass-kicking “Under The Gun”, a song that holds an enormous groove, a big-ass rhythm and guitars and keyboards blending splendidly. The chorus is spot-on and hits bulls-eye without flirting with radio. Awesome! Closing track and second single “Rise” is a pretty raunchy AOR/Melodic Rock belter thats carried by a solid beat and a stompy groove. It’s a bit 80’s laden but it’s punchy with a striking main melody, some fat, prog-laden keyboard riffs and a big live-feel. The chorus is of mastodon proportions where the hit potential is endless.
To look at the quality of the songs and production here alone, I reckon no fan of the band will be disappointed in this record. These guys are so phenomenally brilliant at what they do it’s a god-damned mystery they’re not a a huge, headlining band by now. But style-wise, I’m not sure I agree on that this record has gone back to their earliest sound. H.E.A.T’s debut album was more of a full-blown AOR album whereas this one is much heavier and raunchier, much more in style of the first two Grönwall-fronted records. What they have done, though, is taken their music back to what they do best – big Melodic Rock songs with shitloads of hooks, choruses to die for and a fun-loving outlook. As a whole, this is without a doubt one of the band’s finest moments and an album any fan of the band could buy unheard right off the bat. Maybe this album will be the one that takes H.E.A.T to the next level. It sure deserve to.
More H.E.A.T reviews:
1. Rock Your Body
2. Dangerous Ground
3. Come Clean
5. We Are Gods
7. One By One
8. Nothing To Say
9. Heaven Must Have Won An Angel
10. Under The Gun