H.E.A.T - Tearing Down The Walls (2014/Gain)
H.E.A.T is a band that probably needs no introduction to most readers of this site. The former Stockholm-based sextet, now quintet, has become somewhat of a minor institution in the melodic rock world and anticipations are always skyhigh when a new album is on the horizon. And why shouldn’t they: over three strong and widely praised albums, accompanied by extensive touring around the world, they have built a solid reputation as the undisputable masters of european retro-AOR, not to mention one of the best live acts of the genre.
Building on the successful formula of 2012´s "Address The Nation", the first album to feature vocalist Erik Grönwall, the band once again decided to work with producer Tobias Lindell in the making of their fourth full-length studio album.
With Dave Dalone (sadly) out of the picture, it was a valid question how much his depature would affect the band and perhaps in particular, the songwriting, since Dalone has been one of the main composers in the band from the beginning. Well, not much it would seem, as the material on this album could easily qualify as some of the band’s best to date. In itself a testament to the fact that the talent of this band seem to know no limits.
The title for the new record, "Tearing Down The Walls", was in the band’s own words chosen as an allegory for breaking free from boundaries and “taking a few risks”. Having now heard the record at least 6 or 7 times, I can certainly see the point in these statements. For example, lead off single "A Shot At Redemption" seemed to receive mixed reactions from fans, some of them describing it as “too modern” or complaining about the lack of keys. Third track, "Inferno", on the other hand, is one of the band’s heaviest numbers yet while the title track is a streamlined semi-ballad with an eye on mainstream radio.
The point, however, is that if one looks beyond these minor observations and at the record as a whole, there’s really nothing new under the sun here. Sure, the AOR influences might not be as appearant as on "Address the Nation" or even "Freedom Rock", but look deep underneath the surface (even on the more so called “controversial” material) and the melody and nerve that has made the band into what they are is still very much there. Look at it as “Address the Nation Part 2”, just with some slight new influences and an overall more powerful melodic rock approach.
As with "Address the Nation", the running order of these twelve tracks are carefully planned out, each track flowing into the next perfectly. Singling out highlights is almost pointless, because every track, from the bombastic melodic hard rock of opener "Point Of No Return" to the more lightweight and down-to-earth AOR of closer "Laughing At Tomorrow" has something different to offer. In a way, the ability to effortlessly move between the different subgenres of melodic rock while never slipping in quality has become one of the band’s trademarks. It was especially evident on "Address the Nation", which offered a variety of Def Leppard-styled rock anthems and Bon Jovi like ballads to slick AOR numbers, and this album is a continuation of that. Want pure melodic hard rock? Check out the criminally excellent "Emergency" or the previously mentioned "Point of No Return" for starters. Want pure AOR? Listen to the equally brilliant keyboard driven mid tempo shuffle "We Will Never Die". In the mood for a heart wrenching ballad? "All The Nights" will do the trick. There’s simply something for everyone here, with a track like the previously mentioned Inferno even seeing the band fishing in the same waters as their swedish sleaze rock collegues Crashdïet and Dynazty.
In short, there’s no point beating around the bush here. "Tearing Down The Walls" deliver the goods and fulfills all expectations, while at the same time adding some new elements to the H.E.A.T sound that could really open new doors for the band. Is it their best yet? Hard to tell, since the last 2 albums and, to a lesser extent, the debut, already were perfect albums. I guess it’ll be something for the fans to ponder over the coming months. Beyond question, however, is that for fans of melodic rock and AOR, this CD could very well be one of the safest investments of the year. Buy pronto!
Originally published on PlanetAOR.com
Bob Wheeler - s/t
Fury - s/t