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H.E.A.T - Into The Great Unknown (Album Review)

Monday, 16 October 2017 Written by Simon Ramsay

There’s always been something heroic about H.E.A.T’s single-minded determination to bring 1980s arena rock back to the mainstream on their own terms, which makes the Swedes’ fifth album something of a surprise. More modern and diverse in presentation and scope, ‘Into The Great Unknown’ mixes an array of new flourishes with the band’s finest traits in a way that has unsurprisingly divided opinions.

Since frontman Erik Grönwall joined for 2012’s ‘Address The Nation’, it’s been clear H.E.A.T aren’t interested in repeating themselves. Songs like Mannequin Show, All The Nights and Downtown suggested a desire to push beyond genre conventions and that’s been realised on a record that still boasts explosive energy and wrecking ball hooks.

Bastard of Society is a typically combustible opener, packing walloping backing vocals, a smashing chorus and roaring guitar work from the returning Dave Dalone (who replaces his old six-string partner, Eric Rivers).

It’s the most classic H.E.A.T moment on an album of rock songs that have been decked out in bold new attire.  

Shit City churns out a slower, funkier groove than usual and its defiant refrain doesn’t so much knock you out as eyeball you to death. Blind Leads The Blind’s sublime hook brings to mind Heartbreaker, but its verses are darker and heavier thanks to nightmarish keyboard wails and Crash’s bass jabs. The seven minute title track is an anthemic mid-tempo leviathan with stinging riffage and a breakdown slithering with moody slide and keyboard textures.

The band clearly wanted to stir things up and have definitely done so on the record’s more left field moments. Other than the underwhelming Time On Our Side – bizarrely released as the first taste of this album - their risks pay off handsomely. Redefined, in particular, is gorgeously atmospheric modern pop-rock, boasting an unconventional structure, dreamlike keyboard soundscapes from Jona Tee and a wonderfully phrased solo from Dalone.  

Without Rivers' cocky rock ‘n’ roll swagger, Tee’s more prominent contributions and compositional flourishes give these songs a markedly different, but undeniably appealing, feel. Do You Want It? whistles out trippy licks underneath a robotic contemporary-pop falsetto that will leave some aghast. The piano-heavy orchestral bombast of We Rule, meanwhile, sounds like Queen’s We Are The Champions if it were rewritten for a stage musical.

Some have suggested H.E.A.T were pressurised into making a more commercial album by their record company, but on the ball-busting Best of the Broken they launch a stinging attack on music business sharks. Hardly the work of a band acquiescing to demands. It’s more accessible for sure, but they certainly haven’t sold out. A valid criticism, though, is that the swearing on a number of tracks comes across as a needless attempt to both distance themselves from the AOR scene that birthed them and their singer from his winning turn on Swedish Idol.

‘Into The Great Unknown’ may not be as outstanding as the band’s previous two records with Gronwall, but it’s still a strong effort that requires time and patience to adjust to its plentiful charms. While many of today’s cookie-cutter melodic rock acts continue to flounder in formulaic territory, H.E.A.T have bravely stepped onto unchartered ground, backlash be damned.

HEAT Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri November 17 2017 - WOLVERHAMPTON Slade Rooms
Sat November 18 2017 - GLASGOW Cathouse
Sun November 19 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms
Tue November 21 2017 - LONDON O2 Academy Islington

Click here to compare & buy HEAT Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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