Funny thing is, back in the late ‘70s, friends of mine were great Heep fans, but for me the early David Byron years material didn’t really grab me as it did their true fans, the ones who gave the band their success.
Mick Box has been the solitary mainstay of the band since its beginning in 1969. In 1986 they pulled in the original Grand Prix singer Bernie Shaw. This is Shaw’s fifth studio album with Heep, and the band’s 21st studio album. Shaw is their sixth (and longest serving) vocalist. Shaw’s voice, put simply, works great for Heep, a perfect fit.
Other reviews of this release have made statements along the lines of, “this album is more Deep Purple than Purple are these days.” I’d say that’s not far from the truth, but there’s more to this that just that. If you like a little Boston mixed with say, Purple, then you’ll love the opening title track, “Wake The Sleeper.” It totally rocks!
Tracking the Tracks
“Tears of the World” reminds me of Rainbow, with hints of elements of “Starstruck.” I just love everything they have captured in the sound of this album, and Mike Paxman has the production totally nailed.
“Light of a Thousand Stars” sounds more like recent Heep outings, but Im also reminded of the Head First (1983) era of songs. In Shaw’s voice I hear similarities to the power of, say, Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) without the screaming!
The next track, “Heaven’s Rain” almost scared me when I thought the intro seemed more than a little like the intro to “With A Little Help From My Friends,” but then it gets into its rhythm and it’s certainly nothing like that. It’s a slower paced melodic rocker with a great solo from guitarist Mick Box and another strong vocal from Shaw.
“Book Of Lies” hints to me of Grand Prix’s sound in places and has an excellent chorus. It’s a really strong mid paced melodic rocker, with catchy lines throughout.
Purple and Black
“Ghost of the Ocean” rips in, another strong song for old school fans, not far off some of the Equator material either.
Now I would never compare Heep to Black Sabbath, but something in the mix of “Angels Walk With You” kind of hints at Purple with a slightly darker feel to it, making me think of Sabbath. But then the keys solo is more akin to something Jon Lord would jam and totally rocks!
“Shadow” sounds more in keeping with older Heep and again, I am reminded of Rainbow and don’t mean any of these comparisons in a derogatory way. Tt makes the album sound so much stronger.
“War Child” is the closer and although I said I don’t think there’s a weak track on the album, I would say this track is perhaps the least commercial sounding track here, way more involved, darker prog rock.
Overall this was a surprise for me, as I really didn’t know what to expect, as I kept reading seriously mixed thoughts from old die hard Heep fans. I was very impressed with this release and hope we get a US tour to support it soon!