Uriah Heep have never had the recognition they deserve in their home country. In continental Europe just about every metal band with a keyboard player seems to cite them as a major influence. But in Britain they’re a cult band, all-too-often thought of as 70s also-rans, best known for being one of the principal inspirations for “This is Spinal Tap”.
They have undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. After the constantly changing lineups of the 70s and 80s, leaving just guitarist Mick Box and bassist Trevor Bolder from their 70s glory days, they’ve enjoyed many years of stability, with vocalist Bernie Shaw and keyboard player Phil Lanzon members of the band for well over than half their four-decade career. Studio releases have been infrequent, but the sheer quality of albums like 1995′s “Sea of Light” and especially 2008′s excellent “Wake the Sleeper” showed a band who weren’t ready to turn into their own tribute band like so many of their contemporaries.
And now, forty-one years after their debut, they’ve gone and delivered one of the best albums of their career.
From the opener “Nail on the Head”, onwards this is a very much a hard rock album with a classic 70s vibe. It’s got the combination of searing guitar and Hammond organ that defines the quintessential Uriah Heep sound. But just as on “Wake the Sleeper”, ‘new’ drummer Russell Gilbrook has upped the energy level considerably, resulting in a very hard-rocking Heep indeed.
While there is a definite echo of “Lady in Black” in Trevor Bolder’s “Lost”, the nearest thing to a ballad on the album. there’s not much of their acoustic side on display, and very little trace of the Americanised AOR that characterised a lot of their 80s output. There is, however, noticeably more of Phil Lanzon’s keys used as a lead instrument. I don’t think I’ve heard this much Hammond organ on a Heep album since the days of Ken Hensley. The album closer, the epic “Kiss of Freedom” ends with a magnificent solo, each crescendo more extravagant than the last; nothing less than a “Comfortably Numb” of the Hammond B3.
Few bands can come up with an album this good in the fifth decade of their career, and even fewer come up with albums that rock this hard. But Uriah Heep are one of those bands.