H.E.A.T. // Freedom Rock
Rating: 0.5/5.0 —Cynical bullshit
Label: Playground Music
Websites: heatsweden.com | myspace.com/heatsweden
Release Dates: Northern Europe: Out | Rest of Europe: 28.05.2010

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.

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  • Dave

    I am curious, how come you are reviewing this album? Do you review artists like Savage garden and Lady gaga? These guys never claimed to play metal.

    Cheers

    • By the standards of the history of metal they play a variety of music that is quite close. I got it as a promo. Normally I choose to leave things that walk that fine line alone, but it depends. This album was so bad that I really had to review it.

  • Poundie

    I loooooove this album :) It’s a perfect antithesis to “modern metal”, which is enormously tedious (Katatonia, Opeth and one or two others aside). It’s bright, it’s smiley, it’s very well played and sung, and although it could be my advanced age (40+) talking, it’s the best album of the year so far.

  • Poundie

    Oh, sorry, I also forgot to mention that Winger, Treat and Danger Danger have all released fantastic albums within the last year. Long live pop-metal!!! ;p

    • I’ve heard the new RATT record is actually good. But other than that, I’m not sure that this is your website.. haha.

      That said: I think this is totally ridiculous and cynical, as you read. I’m not sure what this whole thing is, but I really can’t imagine that anyone who isn’t 40+ could possibly like this record. No offense. ;)

      Glad you love it, though. Check out older Sonata Arctica if you like this. You might really like that as well. Edguy as well. There’s a ton of crappy retro cheese metal for people who are into that kind of stuff.

      Cheers!

  • Poundie

    LOL! I love the thinly veiled insult at the end there. I’m going to start using “Crappy Retro Cheese Metal” whenever anyone asks me what kind of music I like.

    The thing is, this music was popular, to some extent(and probably moreso in the US), in the 80’s and early 90’s, and there were some half- decent bands, but Crappy Retro Cheese Metal has never been sounded better than right now and I think it might just have it’s place with the young ‘uns today.

    Metal/Hard Rock is really quite diverse and there’s no shame in putting your iPod (or whatever) on shuffle and getting Toto followed by Meshuggah or Heat followed by Pantera.

    • I grew up on bands like Skid Row and Poison, so it’s not like I don’t like the stuff that much. My issue is that it’s super, super done. How can you say that H.e.a.t. sounds anything other than tired late 80s movie soundtrack music and then feel happy about it? At least, that’s how I see it.

      I’m not trying to actually insult you, I’m just not a fan of the style. I do love old Sonata Arctica, which was basically just Europe with double kick. But I just don’t see anything remotely interesting about these retro bands and H.e.a.t. is particularly cynical among them. When Toto and Europe (again I loooove Europe’s old material) were doing this stuff it was still edgy. That’s just not the case at all with these bands. In my opinion the biggest crowd for this stuff is older people and a few young people who feel left behind by where heavy music has gone.

      I full expect that in 5 years time these bands will have gone back into the woodwork and metal will be producing something new and cool. This is just a step backwards by a generation that feels like they missed out on something.

  • Poundie

    A little of my own history, if you’re interested as I know you’ll have better things to do than discuss A.O.R – When I was 12 (that was 1981) I was heavily in to The Beatles. Then I bought Deepest Purple by Deep Purple, obviously. That thing blew me away. Not long after that Number of the Beast came out and I was transformed into a bona fide metalhead. It was a great time for metal. I was buying Ride The Lightning, Hell Awaits,Skid Row, Vulgar Display Of Power, Appetite For Destruction and literally hundreds more fabulous heavy metal albums all on the day they came out. I had an insatiable hunger for Heavy Metal. But all along the way, largely because of The Beatles, I still had a love for pop. A.O.R was a blessing because it delivered highly technical musicianship but with great tunes.

    When the 90’s came and Grunge almost destroyed the Heavy Metal/Hard Rock that I liked, it happened way to soon for me. I hadn’t had my fill of Crappy Retro Cheese Metal (love that). This new resurgance is a godsend. I still love it loud and hard, but still NEED my pop rock fix.

    For the record, King’s X are my favourite band. They meld the best of both worlds – heavy and melodic, and I mean truly melodic – and I strongly, recommend digging up their ’94 classic album Dogman, or even a song or two, like Black The Sky , Complain or the title track, Dogman.

    Anyway, dude, it has actually been nice chatting. You’re not as angry as I thought you’d be. :) I’ll let you get back to the hard stuff. Rock on!

    • Not to give too much personal away, but I mean, I listen to a lot of different music and love pop and indie and all sorts of stuff myself. Take a look at my last.fm and you’ll see that The Beatles and Radiohead are in my top 10. Good pop music is good pop music and, despite the denial of the majority of metalheads, I think that a lot of metal is basically pop music as well. However, there’s a difference between good pop music and cynical pop music (think Eurovision). And Heat is being driven by that second group.

      Never been a big Kings X fan, but I mean I was just a kid when Ride the Lightning and Hell Awaits and Skid Row were coming out. That’s the stuff I grew up on. Iron Maiden’s 7th Son came out when I was 6 and it is still my favorite album to this day. I like me some catchy, poppy metal. But there’s gotta be more to it.

      Anyway, I’m angry. Grrr! Thanks for reading. :)