When talking about US rockers Hearts & Hand Grenades, it seems most tag their sound as hard rock. Though certainly a rich part to their roar, it feels a too easy even lazy option to label it with as highlighted by the release of their new album; Turning To Ashes proving there is so much more to their music. It is punk, metal, alternative, and classic rock seeded and more besides in its invention and character. Quite simply it is rock ‘n’ roll in its fullest and richest temptation and drama, an encounter that hits you between the eyes and then takes you on a riotous stomp impossible not to roar and throw the body around with.
Anticipation for the Buffalo NY hailing band’s debut album had been well stirred by the release of a pair of lead singles yet they still did not fully give an inkling of the adventure to be found within Turning To Ashes. It is a record which builds on the success and temptation found within previous EPs and songs, each of which increased the support and attention upon the quartet. The album is its own beast though, from its first breath commanding, indeed demanding attention and we can say it was very easy to accept that insistence.
Turning To Ashes opens with its title track and new single, instantly erupting on the senses with energy and enterprise as the guitars of Kenny Blesy and Mike Bress, whose keys are just as rich throughout the release, melodically wrap the darker rhythmic character of bass and drums. Instantly neck muscles and feet eagerly aligned to the track’s temptation, ears even more drawn as alongside her stirring bass incitement Stephanie Wlosinski bears her vocal prowess. Riffs and grooves nag as rhythms incite; the track under the skin with devilish intent.
While the song epitomises the craft and personality of Hearts & Hand Grenades’ sound, its melodic sound is just one shade of its tapestry, the following For The Weakened bearing a darker intent as it immediately prowls around the listener. There is a post punk whiff to its predation and a punkish attitude to its air but tempered by Wlosinski and the melodic engagement on offer. Soon it is all attitude and challenge though; driving instincts to join its roar and the imagination to immerse in its enjoyably nagging and unpredictable enterprise further lit by the skilled exploits of Blesy.
Daggers has a classic rock heart at its core but again at the centre of a broad weave of flavours and styles which captivated from start to finish. Lustily infectious and almost menacingly welcoming, the track proved nothing less than a magnet for ears and appetite if maybe without quite matching the heights of its predecessors while I Hide from its engaging opening and composed lure just enthralled. Harmonies and melody weave its temptation, a mercurial underlining teasing throughout the first moments before the fire in its belly brings the song to bolder life; a proposition akin to a fusion of Illusions of Grandeur and Halestorm.
As Adrenaline marched through ears with its metallic muscle and heavy rock vociferousness, Turning To Ashes firmly had enjoyment in its grip, the song another fiery but melodically radiant proposal borne of various decades of creative adventures and inspirations but solidly forging its own identity though soon paling slightly in the virulent confrontation and catchiness of next up Nothing Left. From voice to rhythms, the track is a snarling protagonist but wired with melodic and sonic temptation for a delicious trespass.
Even so, it too is outshone by our favourite track, The In Crowd. Old school rock ‘n’ roll nurtured, the song teased and seduced with a devilish grin to its creativity while at the centre of its mischievous saunter, Wlosinski is majestic. Like a devil in disguise with Wanda Jackson-esque hue to her tones she is simply compelling as she leads the punk explosions which interrupt but only escalate the song’s inimitable seduction.
Brought to a close by the quickly riveting My Sickness, another rousing slice of persuasion as much punk ‘n’ roll fuelled as it is hard and melodic rock shaped, the Justin Rose (Goo Goo Dolls, James Taylor) produced Turning To Ashes is simply superb from start to finish. Individual craft and imagination aligns to united passion and enterprise throughout for a debut which no one should be passing by let alone ignoring. So do yourself a massive favour and grab yourself some Hearts & Hand Grenades.
Turning to Ashes is out now via Eclipse Records.
Pete RingMaster 11/01/2021