The Heavy – The Glorious Dead (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THE Heavy finally began to generate the success and awareness they deserve when How Do You Like Me Now? found its way onto several movie soundtracks (including The Fighter).
Determined to capitalise on their moment, Kelvin Swaby and company now deliver their third album and look to build on the sound that helped to get them notice with 2009’s seminal The House That Dirt Built. If you can’t get enough of How Do You Like Me Now? with its dirty, hip hop laced beats, furious stabs of brass and kick-ass attitude, then there’s more of the same here.
But with the addition of a gospel choir and an even broader palette to operate from, The Heavy can also rightly lay claim to have delivered their biggest and most ambitious sound yet.
The Glorious Dead revels in its combination of dark themes and funky output, coming across as the best party album of the summer for those that don’t stick to the mainstream, as well as a cinematic joyride to boot. It’s a glorious record and, like the two albums that came before it, another shoe-in for our annual album of the year round-up.
Album opener Can’t Play Dead gets the ball rolling in splendid fashion, tapping into the showman side of things and the retro leanings with a sample from ‘60s horror movie The She Beast and some rousing beats, gritty vocals from the distinct Swaby and a chorus that mixes the gospel choir with some swirling, cinematic string arrangements.
But it’s a long way from the album’s best track despite offering a supremely cool start.
No, the first real 5-star gem of a song comes with Curse Me Good, a breezy slice of retro pop that’s armed with a disarming whistle, a more restrained central vocal and sing-along lyrics such as “if you need to curse my name, curse me good” and “so you kiss your mother with a mouth like that?”
It’s a slick, effortlessly crowd-pleasing mix of Curtis Mayfield and classic Stones and it should be a massive release for them.
Lead single What Makes A Good Man? follows with a dirty, grinding central guitar riff, gutsy beats and another rabble-rousing, gospel-backed chorus. It’s a track to rival the intensity and out-and-out gospel-rock-funk of How Do You Like Me Now? and should also do massive business for them, much like Don’t Say Nothing later on.
Just occasionally, Swaby’s enthusiasm gets the better of him and the album runs away on its own excess, as on Big Bad Wolf and Just My Luck, two of the lesser tracks.
But even then, the album has a kick-ass quality about it that maintains a grip on your attention.
And there’s always something waiting in the wings to blow you away again. Be Mine, for instance, slows down the tempo to glorious effect, tapping into the sort of retro-pop that serves Mark Ronson so well (or served Amy Winehouse). It has an effortlessly toe-tapping quality about it but also offers an unlikely romantic interlude.
Same Ol’ picks up the vibe once more with a grand opening of big drum beats and soaring strings, riding in on the apt line: “I believe a man can fly…” The track soars on its bed of violins and strings, while adopting a blues-funk-gospel vibe over the sweeping chorus.
While there’s a hangdog, playful kind of blues feel on The Lonesome Road, which leans towards the American Deep South for inspiration. Swaby also digs deep vocally to deliver his most lived-in, bluesy vocal to date, as though rooted in the New Orleans scene.
Finally, Blood Dirt Love Stop rounds things off with another heady, disarming blend of strings, love-struck melodies and Curtis Mayfield/Marvin Gaye-style vocals that recapture a bygone era of song-writing. It’s a show-stopping finale to make you exit proceedings craving more.
But then that’s been the case with every album from The Heavy to date – they always deliver the goods while refusing to outstay their welcome. The Glorious Dead is truly glorious in every sense of the word.
Download picks: Curse Me Good, What Makes A Good Man?, Same Ol’, The Lonesome Road, Be Mine, Blood Dirt Love Stop