REVIEW ROUND-UP: H.E.A.T, Beach Rats, Of Virtue

H.E.A.T standing in an alleyway with a prop of their logo


Force Majeure

Anyone all that excited for this? There’s bound to be someone listening, seeing as H.E.A.T have managed to crank out seven albums now, but they operate so deeply within the cheesy Euro-rock fields that it’s a wonder it’s come to that. They aren’t particularly exciting either, though that’s probably more a facet of the sound than H.E.A.T in particular, given that Force Majeure feels like an effort in trying to capture a mood of debauched ‘80s hair-metal that winds up more as a band circling around their own eddy again. To their credit, they’re more adrenalised than the usual throwback fair, with some pleasant meat behind the guitar sheen and a blazing coat of synth that certainly exacerbates the AOR worship, but isn’t unlikable in doing so. Beyond that, Force Majeure seldom gives off any true excitement outside of its most superficial fronts; the deliberateness with which it’s overblown feels so counterintuitive with where genuine anthemic music is now, from the pseudo-power-metal stomp of Back To The Rhythm and Wings Of An Aeroplane to the compressed zip of Nationwide. Throughout, H.E.A.T power along in such workmanlike fashion, to where there’s rarely a moment of true bombast that isn’t so meticulously inserted and fluffed up further by the glaze of production. Sure, that’s a direct lift from the heyday of this type of music, but it’s also not an excuse to burrow so deeply inside it to where it feels churned through the assembly line of copycats even more. Really, the only point of note about Force Majeure is the return of Kenny Leckremo on vocals, despite not being any kind of unique-enough presence or lyricist to hold that up in favour. What H.E.A.T deliver instead is yet another serving of throwback-rock gruel, sharpened and quicker to go down than the usual fare (on paper, anyway; this is still a pretty stodgy listen for what it is), but just as unfulfilling as every other band refusing to believe that music has evolved a bit in the last four decades. And although it’s far from the worst, H.E.A.T are still delivering basically nothing worth caring about.

For fans of: Aerosmith, Journey, Whitesnake

‘Force Majeure’ by H.E.A.T is released on 5th August on earMUSIC.

Beach Rats performing live, with the camera zoomed in on the drums

Beach Rats

Rat Beat

Might as well add Beach Rats to the list of punk supergroups that’ll probably have only the one album in them before going AWOL, because oh boy, do they fit that vibe to a T! Now to be fair, that’s more of an observation than a condemnation, and it’s not as if it hurts to boast members of Lifetime and The Bouncing Souls (plus Brian Baker from some little band called Bad Religion) for what feels like a deliberately rough, scrappy side-project. Expectedly then, it’s not an album that’ll erect another pillar of strength and import under each of its creators’ respective legacies, when the sound of repurposed ‘80s punk and hardcore riffs in sub-two-minute blasts is as commonplace as it is for this sort of project. At least you can tell it’s coming from professionals with those decades of experience, most notably when they’ll drill into a stickier hook like on Dress For Sick Sesh or Summer’s End. Beyond that though, the insulation that Rat Beat has as a side-project (and one whose imperfections and looseness have been emphasised at that) also feels like a way of drawing attention from how rudimentary it can be. For punk like this where the guitars and drums are bashed out with little pretense or trickery, that can work, except Beach Rats don’t deliver all that much beyond the bones of that older sound. Even in the realms of supergroups in this exact compositional vein, there’s usually at least one intriguing hook that everything else can stem from; Beach Rats don’t even have that, instead placing themselves wholly on a belief that this sort of comprehensive throwback—production, writing style and all—is enough to get by on. Maybe for the ride-or-die crowd for whom these bands or this sound are so deeply ingrained, but even so, you wouldn’t choose this over any number of Bad Religion or The Bouncing Souls albums if given the choice. If nothing else, Beach Rats deliver exactly what they set out to, and fair play to them for that; it’s just also not wrong to expect more than this from such a storied lineup, and from a sound that’s had nearly four decades to pick up a new trick.

For fans of: Bad Religion, The Bouncing Souls, Kid Dynamite

‘Rat Beat’ by Beach Rats is out now on Epitaph Records.

Two screaming figures facing each other, each with another mouth where their eyes and forehead would be

Of Virtue


Welcome back to 2014, apparently. Of Virtue’s metalcore certainly doesn’t fit anywhere else; it’s not like they’re in step with where the genre is that’s currently exciting. Instead, the operate more in the I Prevail school of thought, of importing that older, clearly outdated sound wholesale and trying to run from there. At least Sinner is a bit better, where the choruses connect more easily and work with Of Virtue’s scrubbed-clean melodic sensibilities. It’s never fantastic, but in the right setting under the right circumstances, a song like Cold Blooded would have a significant enough live presence on hooks alone. At the same time though, that’s also probably the faintest praise possible for Of Virtue, because they don’t leave much room for more. They aren’t all that heavy or explosive to make up for a lack of innovation, as the production swaddles these songs in the usual drained, colourless void that’s been iterated on well past the point of meaninglessness. Just take the opening title track, where its heavier, downtuned guitar rip is so obviously underpowered compared to how stomping and monolithic the drums and production are. It’s a mould that none of these four tracks are capable of escaping, the closest they come being in Tyler Ennis’ vocals which have a bit of expressiveness, albeit not exactly breaking the bank with it. That seems about right though, given that Of Virtue’s lyrical suite is so locked in metalcore cliché and tropery that it probably would be unbelievable if it were sold more. There’s paint-by-numbers rage on Cold Blooded and isolation on Echoes, and precisely nothing given any kind of edge to do something of note with. In other words, it’s exactly the sort of thing that metalcore had seemingly ejected years ago, though apparently that’s not the case. There’s still a couple of hangers-on trying to replicate the already unworthy successes of I Prevail, and it’s more than a bit disappointing to see how undervalued aiming higher is.

For fans of: I Prevail, We Came As Romans, Wage War

‘Sinner’ by Of Virtue is released on 12th August on Arising Empire.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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