It is more and more apparent to me every day that heavy metal is going into a hibernation stage. As an Angry Metal Guy I try to keep my ear to the ground for movement in a forward direction, particularly from younger people. Instead, there’s nothing but a rash of neo-heavy metal and thrash bands that flood the market as apparently 18 year olds all feel like the really missed out on thrash and are out of ideas. But what’s worse than kids writing thrash metal records that could’ve been written in 1982? Kids writing butt rock albums that should’ve been written in the dying throws of 1980s cock rock in about 1991. That’s right, H.E.A.T., from the same town as venerable rockers Europe have decided to run with 1980s action movie theme as the basis for their sound.
So, you know how this sounds. In case you don’t, it’s like Winger or Warrant or any other one of those generic, unremarkable 1980s butt rock bands that everyone was so happy to do away with in the early 1990s. But there’s a twist. Oh yes, a twist. (Actually there’s more than one.) Firstly, this is an intentionally radio friendly pop band that is having their sound driven by the pop music industry in Sweden towards short, catchy and, finally, TV friendly songs that are cynically aimed directly at the panties of middle aged women who were super sexy in 1986 and miss all the hairspray, stiletto heels and tight skirts (or just never stopped..). Secondly, these guys aren’t even remotely on the cutting edge of anything. They are pure nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia and I’m not actually sure how they sleep at night, because they must have no dignity.
But let me go on a little tangent before continuing this review. Let us remember that when Europe released their excellent first two albums (Europe, and The Wings of Tomorrow a record that I still regularly listen to) they were doing something new. Sure, they were trying pretty hard to be Thin Lizzy and they were cheesy as hell. But they were on the cutting edge of rock (not as cutting as Bathory but, really, aside from that). They were part of a generation of young dudes who were breaking against the old traditions of masculinity by taking long hair, mullets and tights to extremes. They were writing Malmsteenesque guitar solos that still rule and they didn’t have producers standing at their backs (neither were they thanking slave drivers in their booklet). They were an independent group that got signed and wrote some great fucking music before finally selling their souls to the devil.
H.E.A.T. is the exact opposite of Europe. They are the exact opposite of forward thinking. They are the exact opposite of rock music rebellion of danger, of toughness and of anything except for pre-packaged commercial crap. They are nothing more than a repackaging of another schlager hit (complete with obligatory key changes in the final chorus). While they, surprisingly, do write their own music and are actually apparently fairly gifted musicians (there’s the occasional guitar solo that is really well done, like the one from the utterly cheesy “Danger Road”), the utter cynicism of this music turns my stomach.
Then again, I’m not the target audience by any stretch of the imagination. I feel like I’ve actually maybe been a little hard on the neo-thrash bands. Because thrash, while it maybe got a tad commercial when Metallica and Megadeth were on top of the world in the early 90s, isn’t the kind of thing that they’re expecting to have huge commercial success with. Drinking beer, rocking a Flying V and wearing tight jeans is still fundamentally metal and cool. H.E.A.T. is fundamentally neither of those things and if you’re a real metal fan you will not like this unless, maybe, you have an ironic mullet. Then it’s up in the air.