Uriah Heep – Chaos & Colour (Silver Lining Music)Friday, 17th February 2023
Growing up in the 1980’s, there was a rumor that the satirical metal band Spinal Tap were based on Uriah Heep, at least in part. By that time, aside from a few classic rock radio hits that got occasional airplay, Uriah Heep were virtually forgotten in the United States for too long. Unbeknownst to me and most other yanks, the heavy, proud, influential, English proto-metal act were still campaigning in the former Soviet Union and in other parts of the globe where the idea of a rock or metal scene was mostly unheard of, releasing a generous amount of studio albums that rival or surpass much of their seminal 1970’s material.
Chaos & Colour pursues this decades-long winning streak ever further with kingly, tenured frontman Bernie Shaw leading Uriah Heep well into their 50th year with the still unheralded axeman Mick Box. Shaw’s vocals remain as compelling, theatrical, and strong as they were when he first joined the group more than 35 years ago. Box, the act’s lone founding member, solos with the vigor of a young guitar prodigy as evidenced on the Abominog-era styled opener, “Save Me Tonight” with its urgent harmonies, deft riffery, and turbulent keyboards courtesy of longtime member Phil Lanzon. And it wouldn’t be Heep without those clean-burning keys working overtime with a singular purpose to prove that they are no mere derivative of Deep Purple, a clueless dismissal that haunted them early in their career.
The songs themselves are meaty, a good chunk of them clocking in at more than 5 minutes in length, providing a roughly hour-long feast for the ears, mind, and soul. The lyrics are impassioned, uplifting, smart, and seemingly lovestruck with nature, human or otherwise.
Listen in awe as celestial dogfights such as “Fly Like An Eagle,” “Hurricane,” and “Hail The Sunrise” collude with martial ballads like “You’ll Never Be Alone” to create an album that demonstrates a profound dignity and wisdom with no wasted moments, Box and crew writing and playing as if they’re living on borrowed time and want to share as much experience and knowledge as they can before it all dims forever.
Uriah Heep have plenty of laurels to cozily rest on, but they actively choose not to do so. Instead, Uriah Heep undoubtedly celebrate the sorcery of their deservedly revered past while simultaneously embracing their present, creating music that is unabashedly vintage without sounding at all dated. From power metal champions Gamma Ray to more directly worshipful bands like Horisont, Uriah Heep have clearly had an impact that will ripple on for scores to come. Hopefully, Chaos & Colour isn’t the last Uriah Heep document, but if it is, may it serve as a most worthy swansong and tour de force of melody that leaves fans ever wanting just a little more.