By Todd Whitesel
“Into The Wild” is the second new studio recording from Uriah Heep in the last three years, following 2008’s “Wake The Sleeper.” That Heep even released “Sleeper” after a decade of here-today-gone-tomorrow record deals was a tribute to the band members’ determination and loyal fans always clamoring for new material. And this newest material doesn’t disappoint.
“Into The Wild” is probably the most straightforward rock record Heep has made in decades, if ever. The emphasis on the operatic three- and four-part vocal harmonies that created the Heep sound have been pulled back, and lead singer Bernie Shaw delivers the performance of his career. As well, the riffs and melodies are strong and memorable; the songs are fully developed and realized.
The album opens with “Nail On The Head,” a solid rocker built on chugging power chords, swirling organ flourishes and a steaming Mick Box guitar solo. If the album has a “single,” it’s “Nail,” which the band presented as a YouTube video prior to the official release. “I Can See You” is vintage Heep, with a fierce guitar and organ give-and-take that would have sounded at home on 1973’s “Sweet Freedom.” The title track is another hard-charging slab with an awesome minor-key chorus that should bring down the house at live shows. “Trail Of Diamonds” floats on delicate keyboard chords and Trevor Bolder’s melodic bass lines before taking a sharp turn down hard rock lane 2 minutes and 20 seconds in.
The tune trails out on a majestic, multi-part harmony. “Believe” is an exotic rocker that never gets ponderous even with its rushing waves of organ courtesy of Phil Lanzon, plus Box’s squealing guitar. Like the rest of the record, everything is in perfect balance. This is the best Heep album of the Bernie Shaw era, which includes several fine overlooked recordings (“Sea Of Light,” “Sonic Origami” to name two). Great sound and cover art by Ioannis, too.