Album review: BLOODY HEELS – Rotten Romance

Frontiers [release date 10.06.22]

Sounding heavier and harder than on their previous albums, it’s clear that Bloody Heels have realised that the confines of a genre only exist for those musicians who lack wit and imagination.

There are few better examples of a band who pushed hard at the boundaries of hard rock than Dokken. And judging by the primal howl and barbed wire axework that intros opening track ‘Dream Killers’, BH at first seem determined to inherit that band’s mantle. Then the song confounds us with AOR-ish chorus, reminiscent of Scotland’s always underrated rock band, Gun.

It’s a clever start.

The band’s rock solid rhythm section, Gunnars Narbus (bass) and Gustav Vannags (drums) drive the music forward in much the energetic, vigorous way that any rhythm section should. Yet there are times when they rein it back, allowing Vatlts Berzins’ throaty vocals and Harold Avotins’ expressive axework to hold a twisting, turning melody up to the light, capturing the quartet’s poised performance.

Just as important perhaps, the band have written a bunch of well crafted songs here, concocting rock’n'roll tales that skilfully combine a raw, emotional urgency with an ascending sparkle. Most notably, title track, ‘Rotten Romance’ and ‘The Velvet‘, both echoing Motley Crue and The LA Guns Rock/metal aesthetic.

There are many stories of twisted relationships and grim realism, which are full of monochrome shading, sinuous hooks and razoring axework. The gritty, menacing, melodic ‘House Of Sinners’, the Neanderthal rock throwback, ’Distant Memory’, and ’Crows Lullaby’, a dark and downbeat tale of love and lust. All reveal songwriting and arrangement skills now truly beginning to blossom.

When you’re on the road through Europe, with talented bands who are reaching for the bigtime, like Inglorious, Painkiller and Manitou, and bands who are already there, like Nightwish, you soak it all up. You learn what works and what doesn’t. ***1/2

Review by Brian McGowan

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