Lionheart – The Reality of Miracles Review

Let’s roll the clock back six years. It was September 2014, and the name El Cuervo was but a Spanish noun and nascent writer in the Angry Metal Guy world. The Editors™ mandated Skyscraper’s Elevation on said writer, a charming and catchy, if somewhat toothless, AOR record. Their impressive crooner, named Lee Small, struck said writer to a sufficient extent as to bother Googling his other projects. It was later discovered that he was fronting a long-defunct-but-then-revived hair rock band called Lionheart, whose 1984 release called Hot Tonight is well worth the time of any fans of men in leotards. Their early 80s endeavors included supporting much bigger names such as Whitesnake and Def Leppard, indicating their legitimate pedigree within the “men in leotards” scene. Then boasting, and still boasting now, ex-members of Iron Maiden and UFO, how fares Lionheart and The Reality of Miracles?

“Thine Is the Kingdom,” the first track proper, is a clear statement of intent. It hits with a very Whitesnakey guitar tone, featuring the overdriven sound twinned with keyboards which fans of 80s hair rock devoured. Harmonized singing, overblown solos, and schmaltzy keys abound; it’s typical of the mid-80s hard rock sound. It’s fairly derivative, but cuts such as “Widows” and “Outlaws of the Western World” sound particularly derived from Hot Tonight. There’s a satisfying circularity and sense that this is still the same band from 36 years ago, which shines through from the style of harmonized chorus vocals and interplay with the guitar. Reality is a charming throwback, evoking the sense of effortless, jaunty fun of their debut.

However, it would do a disservice to Reality to say that there is no variation or other points of note. There are a few moments that demonstrate other skills in Lionheart’s locker. The ballad called “Behind the Wall” actually boasts some reasonably sophisticated song-craft, subtly building across the track to the final chorus and the harmonized chants sitting behind it. This, and the use of a plaintive piano, a faux choir, and an understated guitar solo, forges a grander, more emotive experience. It’s a good track as a result. “Kingdom of the East” has a strange, if reasonably well-executed, Eastern flavor as it uses pentatonic scales and a wind instrument, while “Outlaws of the Western World” recalls the Western tinge on “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi. Finally, it feels like Lionheart stretched themselves with “Still It Rains on Planet Earth (Lacrimosa)” at the conclusion, having deliberately written something which feels appropriately final. It opens with the sound of thunder and uses string arrangements and an organ to build a grander feel. The children’s choir and tonally awkward chorus melodies mean it doesn’t quite stick the landing, but it demonstrates a willingness to try things on this record. There’s a little more to the songwriting here than you might credit them for on first listen.

My above comments indicate that Reality is a mixed bag for quality. This lack of consistency hinders the full success of the record. “Overdrive” is a worldie; its rocking feel, uber-catchy chorus, and jaunty guitars ensure that it’s a Song o’ the Year contender. But this is paired with “The First Man,”1 one of the prime examples of the drab filler disappointingly present here. Although it’s the closest song on offer to the NWoBHM sound, as it’s marginally heavier, it illustrates that the songs that don’t nail their vocal melodies are weak spots. Other examples include “High Plains Drifter” and “Five Tribes.” Such tracks tend to feature decent vocal bridges that tease big choruses but said choruses underwhelm by comparison. These types of records live and die by their vocal melodies, even if the guitars are good. Therefore, where these are not as strong, the record as a whole falls down. Reality is hardly an overlong record at 55 minutes, but trimming the fat would align it with their hair rock forebears, whose records tended not to exceed 45 minutes.

I’m in a strange position where I like sizable chunks of what I hear, but I’m also clear that I wouldn’t choose to listen much more without the reviewing obligation to do so. On these grounds, I find it hard to award Reality more highly than a 2.5. But it’s not a bad release if you dig the 80s hair rock sound, especially if you linger on the stronger cuts, and it’s a welcome release for those Lionheart fans still around since 1984.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metalville
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 31st, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Sadly not the Cormorant cover I was hoping for.
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