|Heartland Move On||Escape Music |
Almost two years to the day, UK melodic rock stars Heartland return with what is possibly their best ever album. A lot of care and attention has been put into this release – something which shines through in every aspect of the album.|
Heartland has always been a personal favourite – I have every one of their 8 previous releases. The band's debut was an AOR classic, which with a major label budget has been hard for the band to top. Each release has seen the guys get a little heavier and each release has seen an improvement in quality – leading up their great last album Communication Down.
But Move On moves not one, but two steps ahead, with important improvements in all areas, and especially in an area the band needed to work on most – chorus hooks!
Vocalist Chris Ousey and guitarist Steve Morris wrote and produced the album in the UK and famed producer Tommy Hansen mixed the album in Denmark, while also supervising the recording and placement of the rhythm section.
In the grand scheme of things, the band's sound is not too heavy – they remain a melodic rock act, yet this album is their heaviest to date, mainly due to increased urgency in the delivery and a super tight sound that features a wonderfully crisp and sharp guitar presence.
The style suits the guys perfectly and the uptempo numbers really get the heart racing and feet tapping along.
So, the sound is tougher and tighter than ever, the performances are flawless and the mix perfect. And the songwriting is their best since the debut. A great deal of Heartland's melodies are played out by the vocal acrobatics of Chirs Ousey. He turns a simple phrase into a hook and the band's verses are at times, just as catchy as the choruses themselves. But I've always stated that in order for the band to improve further, chorus hooks is where it needs to take place.
Move On features some of the band's best chorus hooks since their AOR drenched debut. The vocals are layered more than ever before and feature extra orchestration which lifts them away from the verse into their own stratosphere.
This change is largely due to the input of the quite brilliant Anders Rydhom, who produced the vocals, which are enhanced by fellow Grand Illusioners Peter Sundell and Per Svensson, adding their mighty backing vocals throughout.
Track By Track:
Opening with a bang, Hard Hearted Man bursts to life in double time fashion, with a snappy drum sound and authorative lead vocal that's typical Heartland and reminiscent of their last album. The chorus, although subtle, lifts the track when needed and a new classic is born. Some tasteful guitar work closes out the track, which is immediately replaced by an even more intense rocker - City of Lights.
I love the heard edged guitar intro and the overdubbed soloing. Drums kick in and we are away again. The song builds further, with Chris Ousey's lead vocals as powerful as they have ever been. The chorus sees the song gain more momentum and the layered backing vocals are rich and glorious. This is another great chorus from the guys.
The hard edged rock continues with Take Me Alive, although in a slightly different vein. This track has a different vibe entirely and is something a little different for Heartland. More great harmony vocals surround the chorus, which has a real bluesy swagger to it.
Proceedings slow briefly for the semi-acoustic ballad How Was I To Know. The base of the track is acoustic, but the overdubs are all electric, giving it a real punch. A heartfelt vocal drives the track and again, backing vocals are used perfectly throughout.
Ousey's voice is amazing at times and he really lets fly with some sustained notes.
I'm Getting Ready is another album highlight – even though every track has been great so far. I love the chorus on this mid-tempo melodic rocker, which features some big Grand Illusion style pomp vocals. The track clocks in at 6 minutes and changes focus towards the end. Classy songwriting at it's best.
Hell Or High Water is a slow to mid-tempo track and doesn't quite fit the mould for a ballad or a rocker. Rather it's a moody melodic rock track that features a big harmony filled chorus that comes from nowhere. The track provides a great change of pace mid album.
Time for a happy go lucky rocker in the guise of Too Sad To Cry. This is a simple, but classy rocker that reminds me of classic Heartland from albums such as Wide Open and Bridge Of Fools.
Remember Me Continues the vibe of the previous track, but in a more uptempo setting. The chorus is simple, but fits the album well.
Redemption is a rare instrumental for the band. I'm not a huge fan of these interludes on what is primarily a vocal album, but the track and importantly, the lead guitar melody is brilliant and I find it enhances the record rather than taking away from it. It makes for a cleaver break before running into the last three tracks of the album.
I love that one of the album's best tracks and most energetic rockers is left until the back end of the album. One thing about this album is the precision in the running order – it works beautifully and having this track placed here gives renewed energy to the listener.
Where Do We Go From Here is a great uptempo rocker with a lush layered chorus and features a keyboard sound reminiscent of classic early Heartland and even Virginia Wolf.
One Fine Day is yet another great track and is the prefect answer to the energy of the last track. This moody mid-tempo rock track has a feel good vibe and equally warm chorus.
Closing the album is Rotate, a big funky rocker that's a little bit of fun and ends the album on a spirited high note.
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