Album Title: H.E.A.T II
Date of Release: 21 February 2020
Longer term readers of manofmuchmetal.com will know that I have a soft spot for a little melodic hard rock from time to time. One of my favourite bands within this genre is Swedish xtet H.E.A.T, having been a fan since I received their self-titled debut album to review back in 2008 whilst writing for Powerplay. It hardly seems possible that the calendar has fast-forwarded twelve years, in which time H.E.A.T have released a further four albums. And, with each release, they have rightly received acclaim from fans and critics alike because they seem incapable of writing anything even remotely substandard.
That being said, there were a few raised eyebrows over the last release, 2017’s ‘Into The great Unknown’, which strayed further into the realm of pop and mainstream music than ever before. It was far more experimental and riskier in some ways than previous efforts but, with plenty of listening, I grew to love it. I gave it a positive review at the time and I can honestly say that I still enjoy it as much as any other album in their back catalogue.
Nevertheless, to hear rumours that album number six, entitled ‘H.E.A.T II’ would be more of a throwback to their first couple of albums and therefore more hard-rocking and no-nonsense, was music to my ears. These rumours have proved to be true, although that only tells half of the story, because with ‘H.E.A.T II’, the band have travelled back to their roots whilst also managing to sound fresh, exciting and entirely relevant as we travel headlong into a brand new decade.
As is becoming ever more depressingly familiar, I was only offered a stream of this record, so I’ve not had the flexibility to listen to it in the manner or frequency that I would have liked. No driving anthems, no dog-walking company and, with the state of public transport WiFi that is weaker than the onboard coffee, no commuting enjoyment either. Nonetheless, given my penchant for this group of talented musicians, I made sure that I streamed the record whenever the opportunity arose so that I could bring this review to you.
Unsurprisingly, I’m glad I made the effort because, even more unsurprisingly, H.E.A.T have once again delivered an absolute masterclass of melodic hard rock. This is the kind of music that gives you an instant hit of that all-too-rare human emotion of happiness. It is infectious, upbeat and listening to it makes me happy to be alive. Yes, it’s genuinely that good. It was my accompaniment to my most recent trip to the gym and I literally smashed my previous personal best on the bike. Oh yes. Smug face!
Enough of that though, let’s get down to business.
‘H.E.A.T II’ opens with an absolute monster in the form of ‘Rock Your Body’. It begins with a real urgency and then carries us away on the crest of a wave. The chorus is simple and the kind of arena anthem that’ll sound massive in the live environment as thousands of fans shout along. Dave Dalone’s effervescent lead breaks, an uncompromising rhythmic section courtesy of drummer Crash and bassist Jimmy Jay, and another flawless and energetic performance from vocalist Erik Grönwall mean that it is over before it has begun, but not without making a huge impression. Jona Tee’s keys are superb and I also like the fact that the lead-up to the chorus is as melodic and catchy as the chorus itself. I’m no world expert on melodic hard rock, but this would appear to be a new tactic at play on this record.
What follows, enhanced by a crystal-clear in-house production that was handled by the band themselves, has to be one of my favourites on the album given how many times in the last couple of weeks I have woken up with this song in my mind. Whilst sounding modern, ‘Dangerous Ground’ also has that unmistakable heady 80s vibe to it that’s so addictive. Again, the lead guitar solos are brilliant, and to underline a previous point I made, the pre-chorus is hook-laden in the extreme.
‘Come Clean’ delivers possibly my favourite chorus on the album. It isn’t a ballad, but the lyrics give it a heartfelt edge that is enhanced by an insanely powerful and committed performance from Erik Grönwall. Gang vocals might not be everyone’s cup of tea but they are perfectly placed within the hard rocking ‘Victory’, whilst ‘We Are Gods’ blends a more overt bluesy element with an expansive and highly melodic chorus. This has been a real grower but grow it has, to a point where it punches hard.
In the past, I would have carried on and turned this review into a blow-by-blow, track-by-track dissection of the album. But with 2020 comes a new me and a new attempt at being more succinct. As such, I will say that all eleven songs that make up ‘H.E.A.T II’ are worthy of mention and a moment in the spotlight, even the closer ‘Rise’ which I initially thought might be a tiny bit weaker than the rest. I was wrong. Even the ubiquitous ballad, ‘Nothing To Say’ is stunning and before long you’ll be clutching whatever you can find as a microphone substitute whilst singing along in front of the mirror.
I begin to feel like I’m stuck in groundhog day because this is the third or fourth review in a row of a H.E.A.T album that has had me reaching for my box of superlatives and where there is literally nothing that I can say to criticise it. But truth is truth and I can’t bend the truth in order to mix things up for you – the fact is that H.E.A.T once again prove that they are a special band and a force to be reckoned with when it comes to melodic hard rock. I cannot recommend this album more highly, it is simply majestic.
The Score of Much Metal: 98%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: