By Jon Horberry
Since their inception, UK outfit, Heaven' s Basement have been turning heads and working their way on to prestigious events with the industry's best and most respected. In fact, their seventh ever gig was in support of none other than Bon Jovi and in front of around 50,000 people. It's surprising then, that Filthy Empire is the group's debut full length effort - a full five years after their first of two EPs.
And it kicks. It screams. And it rocks the hell out of what could be considered (barring a few artists) a rather dull British commercial rock scene. Heaven's Basement belt out a style of hard rock consistent with other UK contemporaries Jettblack and The Treatment - albeit with a less flashy musical approach and more serious lyrical approach than the former; and a little more melody than the latter. Throw in a splash of the Foo Fighter's angrier tones and you get a rough idea of how this band shapes up.
Very tight, very natural sounding production echoes through the 12 track, 45 minute offering. Guitars crunch with Deep Purple/Zeppelin reminiscence, bass clearly thundering along beneath and percussion smashing up the background with raw gusto. This musical canvass lends itself perfectly to the sometimes soaring - mostly angry - unreasonably articulate vocal performance that paints the foreground.
Filthy Empire recalls the energy of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and entwines it with the heavy handed tones prevalent in Sound Garden and Alice in Chains. Throw in a little 80s stadium rock - a la Def Leppard and Bon Jovi - and some contemporary song writing sensibilities, and you've got an album rooted in the past that sounds like it was recorded in 2013. Not an accomplishment to be taken lightly.
The songs themselves are mostly nothing short of fantastic. In fact this is one of those rare albums that doesn't find me skipping a track (or two) here and there. From the opening stampede of 'Welcome Home' to the closing bounce of 'Executioners Day' this album demands your attention. Singles 'Fire, Fire' and 'Nothing Left To Lose' feature early in the album and are a clear indication of what's to come; both featuring fantastically crafted melodies and musicianship that's never dull, but never overpowering with fantastic airplay potential. The vocal trade-offs between singer Aaron Buchanan and guitarist Sid Glover during the verses of 'Nothing Left' are truly a pleasure to hear, and it's hard not to shout along throughout. In fact, the backing vocals are well performed and well placed throughout: as can be heard punctuating the chorus melodies of the mid-paced 'The Long Goodbye', and ultra-melodic 'Can't Let Go' to highlight but a few.
There are ballads too! And when Heaven's Basement do slow down it's never a chore to hear. Prize winner of these is the beautifully composed 'Price We Pay' - a heart wrenching tearjerker of a number; featuring a believable, emotional vocal performance backed by an acoustic guitar, until the final third where everyone throws in. A typical formula, but very well executed. Then there's the Southern Rock tinged 'When the Lights Go out in London' - a haunting track that wouldn't be out of place at the end of an episode of FX's TV Drama, Sons of Anarchy.
Personal favourites of mine are found in: 3rd single 'I Am Electric', a bombastic 3 minutes of guitar driven angst; 'Heartbreaking Son Of A Bitch', with its Slash-like lead guitars and overall sleazy mood; and in the AC/DC styled guitar introduction of 'Jump Back' - another solid rocker of a tune.
Coupling the fact that I didn't like the band's prior EPs with my cynicism about the band being found all over music TV, I wasn't expecting much from Filthy Empire. And boy, was I ever wrong? From start to finish, Heaven's Basement had my undivided attention. And when it did end, I found myself pressing play all over again. It's evidence that the UK can still produce great, hard rocking music. Get a copy and get to a show, they deserve it... and so do you.
Devil Horn Rating (Out of Five): \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/