Thursday, August 11, 2022

H.E.A.T.: "Force Majeure"

Rating: RRRR

Label: Ear Music 2022

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

A lot has happened in the H.E.A.T. camp since the release of "II", their excellent previous album. The promotional efforts and the tour were pretty much swept under the carpet by Covid, and later that year vocalist Erik Grönwall left the band. In true H.E.A.T. tradition, his replacement was an old band member, the original vocalist Kenny Leckremo.

With "Force Majeure" the band doesn't take steps back to the sound of the Leckremo-fronted first two albums, but continues on the path started with "II". This is probably their hardest rocking album to date, and the pop influences of "Into The Great Unknown" are pretty much gone.

After the first spin I was quite disappointed. Only a couple of songs really stood out, and a couple   I didn't really like at all. I've now lived with the album for a few days ( and seen the band live last Sunday), and things have clicked. I won't lie to you, this isn't my favourite H.E.A.T. album but it's not a disappointment either.

The album starts with familiar material, among the first four tracks you'll find the three singles released so far, "Back To The Rhythm", "Nationwide" and "Hollywood". They're all hardrockin' songs with big choruses and I can assure you that they work perfectly live. Somewhere between the singles is "Tainted Blood". It's not among my favourites, and it reminds me a bit of latter-day Europe.

The mid-tempo "Harder To Breathe" had me puzzled at first, but in the end I came to the conclusion that it's a pretty clever track, with an unusual chorus. "Not For Sale" is classic H.E.A.T., an anthemic track with a kingsized chorus. 

"One Of Us" isn't a cover of the Abba song, but a Leckremo-penned power ballad. And a good one! "Hold Your Fire" didn't grab me at first listen, but I've grown to like it more and more. A bit of a Leppard meets Europe vibe in it I think. "Paramount" is another peculiar song, with a interesting fanfare hook. I do like it, even though it's not necessary a highlight of the album.

"Demon Eyes" is a bit of a departure from the normal H.E.A.T. sound, as it's more in the vein of early eighties Dio and that sort of things. A fast, hard-hitting metal track with not much of a chorus hook to speak of... not for me, but I think this song will have its' fans. 

"Wings Of An Aeroplane" closes the album in grand fashion: it's a stunning track with a massive, layered chorus, easily one of my favourite tracks from the album. 

Hopefully the band has somehow reached the "heaviness level" they desire, because I really don't want them to go to a more metal direction. If anything, it would be awesome if they could bring back a little bit AOR for the next one. But whatever they do, I think they'll provide us yet another quality album.