Review: H.E.A.T – Force Majeure
earMusic (August 5th 2022)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
Let the debate begin! After exploding onto the scene in 2008 and releasing two albums, H.E.A.T singer Kenny Leckremo separated from the band. The band then increased their profile by hiring vocalist extraordinaire Erik Grönwall to front the band and released some of the greatest albums in the European hard rock scene. Now, over ten years later, Erik is out and Kenny is back in. Both singers have their staunch fans and expectations (and curiosities) are at peak levels. So…what does H.E.A.T 2022 sound like? If you predicted a perfect mix of classic and newer H.E.A.T, you would be correct.
This should not be a surprise to anyone who has been following the band. The three singles released are great barometers for the sound of the album. The material continues the progression of the band from the beginning with good (if a little generic) songwriting to the powerhouse they are now. I could easily see Erik singing these songs and nothing was changed to favor their older vibe with the return of Kenny. The band is firing on all cylinders and nothing has been lost in the change up.
The MVP of this album has to be guitarist Dave Dalone. His guitar solo in heavy groove rocker ‘Tainted Blood’ is one of those solos that offers impressive twiddling on the fret while also being atmospheric. ‘Hold Your Fire’ has that heavy rock mixed with blues swagger that just fires all the right neurons in my brain, giving that tingling adrenaline rush that lets you know you are listening to some exceptional playing. The double time rhythm that kicks in at the end is just the icing on the cake for this one.
Based on the singles, you may know what to expect while listening, but there are two tracks here that will take the listener by surprise. ‘Paramount’ has their classic, anthemic feel but is mixed with a marching band aesthetic making it the type of song you would hear after your favorite team scored their victory goal to win the championship. ‘Demon Eyes’ is straight up Heavy Metal! An obvious leftover from the New Horizon sessions that featured keyboardist Jona Tee and Grönwall, some will say that this song is completely out of left field and does not belong on this album. For me, I love the change of pace it offers and they pull the track off with ease. I would not want a full metal album from them, but I equate this to a band like Warrant doing their song Inside Out, a balls to the wall blaster. Once again, Dave’s playing here is stellar.
While every song here has something to offer, the one track I found myself skipping over on repeat listens was the grandiose power ballad ‘One of Us’. It has the weakest chorus of the album. I am not a big fan of a band simply repeating the title of the song and calling it a chorus. It comes across as lazy, no matter how powerful the music is trying to make it sound.
I must acknowledge my bias. Erik has been my favorite new singer over the last ten years and H.E.A.T’s last album ‘H.E.A.T II‘ was my top album of 2020. With that said, Kenny is certainly no slouch. I think the stronger melodies here complement him very well. It’s clear that what made those first two albums not as strong to me was more about the material than the vocals. Yes…I miss Erik. But if there’s going to be someone else, then I am glad to see Kenny back in that role.
As a longtime fan of the band, ranking this album is pretty easy. It is definitely better than Kenny’s two releases with the band and better than 2017’s divisive ‘Into The Great Unknown‘. I would place it neck and neck with ‘Address The Nation‘. ‘H.E.A.T II‘ and ‘Tearing Down The Walls‘ remain the definitive albums for me. I’m not sure the band could ever top those albums, but they certainly give it a strong shot with this album. An essential purchase for anyone interested in a band that is the very definition of melodic hard rock in the 21st Century.