It’s been three years since H.E.A.T delivered Tearing Down the Walls and in that time they’ve toured extensively, released a live album and disappeared to Thailand to record a new album. Into the Great Unknown, at first glance, looks like the last couple of albums from the Swedes: ten tracks, most of them hovering around the four/five-minute mark with the album clocking in at 45 minutes.
Opening track “Bastard of Society” picks up where Tearing Down the Walls left off: melodic hard rock for the 21st century, marrying pop hooks with the sneer of 80s hard rock. Then, “Redefined” kicks in. And a more apt song title you’d be hard-pressed to find. Because that’s precisely what H.E.A.T have done to their sound. You could almost envisage this song on an episode of Miami Vice and with rumours of a reboot, you never know…
Essentially, those two tracks are reflective of the album as a whole, there’s the H.E.A.T songs you’d expect alongside the pop being dialled up to eleven while bringing in hints of disco and electronic sounds such as on lead single “Time On Our Side” and “Best of the Broken”. It’s something you hear in parts of other songs then the epic (in the true sense of the word) closing track “Into the Great Unknown” leans heavily into those sounds once more and even gets a bit proggy at times. As a parting shot, it’s excellent.
Then there’s the anthemic choruses on “We Rule” (and its massive crescendo) and “Do You Want It?” which you can imagine vocalist Erik Grönwall asking an audience to sing along with. And it’s at this point, especially with how bouncy the latter is, you find yourself wondering why aren’t these guys massive? “Do You Want It?” was built for arenas. Meanwhile “Shit City” blends everything found on the album into one track; it’s a brilliant representation of the album, H.E.A.T as a whole and how they’re moving their sound forward rather than staying in the same spot.
Welcoming guitarist Dave Dalone back into the fold, it’s like he’s never been away. Fusing perfectly with the synth-driven arrangements, his guitar work is heavy and bombastic and at the same time, light and airy and coupled with Grönwall’s powerful vocals, gives the hard rock the melodic edge the band are known for. With the direction of the album, naturally, the bass from Jimmy Jay is more prevalent, working well with the drums of Crash and once more, tied together brilliantly with Jona Tee’s sounds. Shredding licks and massive drums are still on offer on songs like “Blind Leads the Blind” while simultaneously being something to bounce and dance to.
There’s a deliberate feeling of the band trying to evolve by playing around with new sounds but at the same time, mindful of not leaving their fans behind. Had they just decided to lay down ten tracks and say “Have another album”, I’m sure fans would have lapped it up and likely have gained some new ones in the process but here, they get to have fun; make something they truly want to. Despite being an album of two halves, the tracks have been sequenced expertly so it contains peaks and valleys so all the heavier stuff isn’t lumped together and all the pop and dance numbers similarly next to one another. After one listen, I enjoyed it. I liked not only what they were trying to do but also that they succeeded. Since then, I’ve listened to it several times and it gets better with every listen to the point I’m willing to argue it’s the best H.E.A.T album to date.
Ultimately, this is an album showing two sides of a band. Effortlessly, they’ve straddled the line of staying true to their core sound whilst experimenting. It pays off and while some albums like this can be a disjointed mess, here H.E.A.T have made something truly special. It’s likely to divide fans and possibly even alienate some but boiled down to its core, it’s unmistakably H.E.A.T and one of the most fun albums you’ll listen to this year.
Into the Great Unknown is released 22nd September