Album Review : The Heavy - Sons (2019)
Listen to Sons here (complete album available on May 17th)
From 2009 to 2013 (give or take), The Heavy was the coolest band in the world. Their rugged, soulful brand of rock washed over the charts like a goddamn hurricane and left music fans begging for more. They were catchy, but deep. Fun without sacrificing grit or integrity. But that was kind of it for the British quartet. They released another album called The Hurt & the Merciless in 2016. While the music wasn’t bad… the overall experience felt bland, like listening to a killer wedding band. Their trademark swagger had mysteriously disappeared.
Their upcoming album Sons has slightly better crafted songs, but it doesn’t have any identity either. It’s like the band never understood what made them so popular in the first place.
I’m a huge fan of The Heavy’s breakthrough records The House Dirt Built and The Glorious Dead. I paid money to get them on iTunes. Remember when we used to do that? What’s the difference between The Heavy of then and The Heavy or now? Well, the music on Sons is not that different. It’s just cranked up to 11. The opener Heavy For You is one of the best songs on the album. It starts with squealing guitars and an inspired Kelvin Swaby bragging about how good of a lover he is. It gave me hope right there and then. It’s fun and full of life. But it hints at a problem that’s more obvious on the rest of Sons: it’s kind of a one trick pony.
See, it becomes apparent on The Thief that on Sons, The Heavy surf a thin line between all out balls to the wall rock n’roll and obnoxious clichés. I don’t know how many rock bands made songs calling women thieves because they stole their hearts, but it’s at least in the high three digits. It has interesting drumming, but as soon as the brass section kicks in, The Thief loses the little personality it had built up. That’s what I mean when I say The Heavy cranked it out to 11 on Sons. By throwing everything at the wall the way they do, they never let tension build in their songs. They don’t work towards a climax, they try to have it all the time and it doesn’t work.
Many songs suffer from this problem. Better As One gets right to business, but keeps the same exact pace for three minutes. I understand it’s supposed to be an anthem calling for us to be nicer to one another in these troubled times, but it doesn’t work me into its message. It bangs me on the head with it and feels more opportunistic than genuine. Fire and Fighting For the Same Thing have their moments. The latter has this killer trumpet bridge that instantly shines a new light on the song. I just wished Kelvin Swaby had something deeper than Give me some love. You gotta give me some love on it.
By the time I got to Put the Hurt on Me, listener’s fatigue set in. The songs had to work harder to impress me. Even when I took break between songs, at that point the pattern became painfully clear: Sons is loud and in-your-face, but doesn’t have much personality. A song like A Whole Lot of Love is a good time, but it doesn’t make you want to listen to it again. And it has the same title than a Led Zeppelin song? Same for What Don’t Kill You and Burn Bright, which are the two slower songs on the record. They come next to one another at the end and would’ve benefited some breathing room.
So, what’s the problem exactly? Why doesn’t it work like it used to? I believe The Heavy can’t see the forest for the trees here. It might sound superficial, but the band succeeded in the first place because of their image and lyrics. They played catchy music, but had something to say too Whether it’s their hymn to self-reinvention with a chip on its shoulder How You Like Me Now? that works its way up from a trumpet melody or their call to embrace your own dark side on Big, Bad Wolf, The Heavy had a unique and oddly festive message. It was music for people who went through some shit to dance and have fun to. It’s not anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, Sons is not bad. But it doesn’t live up to what made The Heavy so popular and beloved. It lacks the texture, the patience and most important, the message they once conveyed so earnestly. I wanted this album to be great, but it unfortunately isn’t.