Uriah Heep - 'Outsider' CD Review (Frontiers Records) ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Uriah Heep - 'Outsider' CD Review (Frontiers Records)

Uriah Heep - 'Outsider' CD Review (Frontiers Records)
Uriah Heep’s twenty-fourth disc, Outsider (Frontiers Records), picks up where 2011’s Into the Wild left off with 11 tracks of melodic hard rock that are sure to leave a memorable mark with fans of the classic rock genre. Now that I’ve heard my second Uriah Heep album, I really don’t understand why the band isn’t big in the States. In a different era, Outsider is the sort of arena rock that one would hear in coliseums (as opposed to B.B. King’s) but, unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be an active concert circuit in the States for hard rock bands outside of those acts pandering to boomers with ‘greatest hits’ shows.

Just a couple of ‘operational notes’ before getting into the review:
  • there are two bonus tracks on the Japanese edition - the first, “One Minute (Sixty Seconds)”, is presumably a studio track and the second is a live version of 1998’s “Between Two Worlds”,
  • long time bassist Trevor Boulder (who joined Uriah Heep in 1976) died last year from cancer and this new disc was recorded with his replacement, Dave Rimmer.
When reviewing Into the Wild, I had noted that, musically, the heavy use of a Hammond organ and Bernie Shaw’s Ian Gillian-like vocals make for an immediate comparison to Deep Purple’s comeback albums in the 80’s/90’s. While this comparison is still mostly valid, where it falls away is that founding member Mick Box delivers some solid guitar work without ever crossing into the realm of ‘guitar hero’ histrionics and all the songs have a “full band” sound rather than lingering too long on any of the members’ individual efforts.

This first single/video from the album, “One Minute”, is a solid indication for what the rest of the disc sounds like. The first minute of this song is the slowest the band gets as all of the eleven tracks range from mid-tempo to b*lls-out rockers. Within each of the songs, there is a healthy sense of melody but there is little of the pop commercialism that crept into the metal scene in the mid-80’s.

The first two songs on the disc (“Speed of Sound” and “One Minute”) will suck the listener in but the gloves come off for the two songs that follow: “The Law” and “Outsider”, as both of these songs are driving, hard-rock numbers. “The Law” starts with a repeating groove riff from Box and a galloping beat. This number shows the band at their peak as there are a number of tempo changes throughout the song where the band brings the pace down and the vocal harmonies up just to pick up speed again and pile-drive through the next part of the song.

Some of the other strong numbers on the disc are “Is Anybody Gonna Help Me?” and “Kiss the Rainbow”. On “Is Anybody Gonna Help Me?”, the band slows down the pace and highlights melancholy shimmering organ from Phil Lanzon (which has some shades of Argent) along with a stomping chorus. Similar to “The Law”, the band slows down the tempo of this song mid-way before bringing it back up again with a full head of steam. On the track “Kiss the Rainbow”, all of the band’s individual parts come together to form a memorable hard-rocker. The band doesn’t go quietly as disc ends, musically, where it started. “Say Goodbye” is a mid-tempo melodic hard-rocker that is in the same spirit as the two tracks that opened the disc.

Uriah Heep