Heart: Beautiful Broken (Universal)
Four years since their last release, 2012’s Fanatic, Heart roar back into the rock world’s gaze with Beautiful Broken, a collection of new tracks and a few reworked older tunes. It’s a pretty fine release too, with some harder edged songs balancing the calmer power ballads which you’d expect from the Wilson sisters. Opener Beautiful Broken originally featured on deluxe editions of Fanatic, and is beefed up with the addition of Metallica’s James Hetfield on co-vocals. It’s a strange combination, a heavy rocker with Hetfield’s distinctive gruff vocals working surprisingly well with Anne Wilson’s powerful mezzo soprano. Some neat guitar work gives it a heavier edge than one would expect. The band’s cover of Ne-Yo’s Two is quite something; a beautifully paced ballad which opens with Anne Wilson and Chris Joyner’s delicate piano before the rest of the band join in as the track builds. It’s a pretty saccharine coated track with some delicious harmonies from Nancy Wilson. Sweet Darlin’ first featured on 1980’s Bebe Le Strange and the comparison with that version is very interesting with the addition of strings from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra providing a much deeper, fuller and different version.
Its been no secret that Heart love their Zeppelin; their records are laced with Zeppelin covers and anyone who saw the band reduce Robert Plant to tears at the Kennedy Centre Led Zeppelin tribute in 2012 will have been blown away. I Jump, the second track to feature strings from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra has a huge Kashmir riff and hook. With Anne’s vocals stunning and the band cutting it tight with the strings, I Jump is probably one of the outstanding tracks on the album. Interestingly it contains no guitar work from Nancy, Craig Bartock taking the fretwork riffage. Another reworked track follows, Johnny Moon, from 1983’s Passionworks. This is pretty faithful to the original version, enhanced with some fine tap steel guitar from Dan Rothchild and subtle keyboard work with Nancy enhancing the complexity with marxophone. By this stage in the album, you are once again realising what a superb voice Anne Wilson still has. Her performance throughout the release is just amazing.
However much attention the Wilson sisters draw, they have always had pretty solid musicians alongside them and Heaven, another hugely Zeppelin influenced track is the perfect illustration. Nancy adds bowed acoustic guitar whilst Dan Rothchild adds bass, moog bass, upright bass and acoustic guitar. Craig Bartock’s subtle guitar work is Page-esque whilst Ben Smith’s drum sound is perfect for this multi-layered track. City’s Burning ups the tempo, a faster paced tune with some delicious string work from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra and some neat guitar work from Wilson and Bartock. Down On Me is the most straightforward track on the album, a fine meandering five-minute tune which builds in a classic rock style. Penultimate song One Word is about as classic a Heart track as you can get, with Nancy taking the lead with some aplomb, Anne adding beautiful harmonies to a smouldering gentle track. Language Of Love closes the album, another gentle ballad with more strings from the Hungarian Studio Orchestra adding acres of depth and feel. Having seen the band perform a superb set just a few weeks ago, it’s pleasing to review what might be the easy listening album of the year. It’s just magic (man) 9/10
Cold Truth: Grindstone (Blue Rose)
Grindstone is the third release from power blues rock quartet Cold Truth who come at ‘ya straight from Nashville. Grindstone is no-nonsense high quality music deeply soaked in the blues with a hard edge. Yes, it may only be their third album in over 12 years but it’s damn fine stuff. Thane Shearon (vocals, guitar), Kurt Menck (guitars), Abe White (bass) and Matt Green (drums) have produced just an hour of foot stompin’ guitar driven hog roast themed tunes which make you demand sunshine, beer and good times. It’s not ground breaking and I doubt that Cold Truth will get worldwide domination following this but if you want straight honest rocking driving music then feed this bad boy into the CD player, put on your shades and hit the pedal. Oozing quality with a fuzzy guitar sound to die for, tracks such as Where The Music Takes Me, Leave Your Leather On, opener Livin' Hard and Hands On The Wheel leave you with a smile on your face and the foot tapping. If you like your rock fuelled by the blues then check these guys out. 8/10
Dust Bolt: Mass Confusion (Napalm)
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be familiar with Dust Bolt, a thrash outfit hailing from Bavaria. Mass Confusion is their third full release, following on from 2014’s Awake The Riot. The band have been around for ten years and unsurprisingly throw down the metal in an unrelenting surge of power and chaos. A fusion of influences, with everything from the chug of Anthrax through to the power of Kreator and the chaos of Nuclear Assault, Mass Confusion is a riot, a full frontal assault. The title track gallops at 110mph with some neat breakdowns to get the neck muscles moving. I’m not a huge fan of Lenny B’s vocals which are a little too shouty for my tastes, but having played this release several times over the past few days there is enough to keep me interested. The slower paced thrash always did more for me than the balls out runaway train approach and tracks such as Turn To Grey and the Slayer influenced Blind To Art push a few buttons with some solid riffage from Lenny B and Flo D. It’s old school thrash, formulaic and follows the required blueprint but it works nicely. 7/10