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Album Review: The Heavy - Hurt & the Merciless

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★★★★☆

You'll have definitely heard the music of soul rockers The Heavy over the past year!

Their songs have been featured in trailers for high profile films like Kingsman: The Secret Service and more notably, Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight. Despite this they haven't enjoyed the mainstream success they deserve.

This should change with the release of their fourth studio album Hurt & The Merciless.

Their trademark blend of soul and heavy rock is present throughout.

Those expecting something new and experimental with Hurt & the Merciless will be sorely disappointed, as The Heavy stick to the same formula which has characterised their past three albums.

But as with the previous efforts this one is better than the last as the band further hone their personal style and sound.

Where the band's first two albums Great Vengeance and Furious Fire and The House That Dirt Built, felt like homages to their eclectic influences like James Brown and Led Zeppelin, both The Glorious Dead and Hurt & the Merciless, are much more personal and more distinctly The Heavy. 

Hurt & the Merciless is the perfect example of a band unbeholden to modern trends, doing their own thing.

The difference here is the subject matter, as the themes take on dark and difficult ideas from the band's personal lives. Divorce, heartbreak and pain characterised the recording period and this is definitely reflected throughout.

Vocalist Kelvin Swaby's rough and soulful delivery encapsulates this sense of anguish and heartache very well.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the album is in anyway depressing or misanthropic but if you're looking for something upbeat and fun, the album does get dark and weighty in moments.

Lyrics like "Yeah, I can't have you back in my bed I'm thinking that I'm better off dead" on album opener 'Since You Been Gone' and "But it's so good to see you drowning in your misery" on the eerie 'A Ghost You Can't Forget', best sum this up.

A shortcoming which has been evident in all of the previous albums, is that the melancholic lyrics are on occasion, drowned out by the loud guitar and instrumentation. However, on most occasions here the two compliment one another well.

'Since You Been Gone" is the ideal loud and energetic opener to the album and it's not hard to see why it's one of the album's three singles.

This relentless tempo continues through the album's next three songs 'What Happened To The Love?', 'Not The One' and 'The Apology'. Whilst the next song 'Nobody's Hero' is great individually, in the context of the album it feels a bit out of place and cumbersome, slowing the pace of the album to a halt.

The same can be said of closer 'Goodbye Baby'. Like 'Since You Been Gone', fellow single 'Turn Up' is another energising highlight of the album.

It's unfair to single out singer Swaby for praise, as all four members of the band contribute in their own way to the overall sound. Whether it be the intermittent use of the drums on 'Last Confession', the hard rock guitar on 'Slave To Your Love' or the horns on 'Miss California', each instrumentalist gets their moment in the sun.

The backing choir who elevated the soul aesthetic of The Glorious Dead, also lend the same support to this album.

Hurt & the Merciless remains consistent to the Heavy's previous work, offering nothing new but ultimately something of substance and quality. Melodramatic and moody, this is their best album to date and the future looks bright for the quartet from Bath.

Hurt & the Merciless is out now on Counter Records.




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