Having impressed and thrilled with their debut album Living on a Fast Lane, German rockers Hard Riot return with its successor The Blackened Heart, a release which immediately shows how much the band has grown in songwriting, craft, and sound. It is fair to say that like its predecessor the new album is not worrying the inventive boundaries of heavy and voracious rock ‘n’ roll, but like the debut it is a thoroughly captivating and mouthwatering blaze of sinewed riffs, feverish adrenaline, and ferocious passion.
Hailing from Heilbronn, Hard Riot began in 2006 and was soon casting a potent web of rock and metal, its spices first showing on The Hidden Truth EP of 2009. Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Michael Gildner, guitarist Andreas Rockrohr, bassist Mario Kleindienst, and drummer Carmine Jaucci, the band showed their emerging strength and sound, with its essences of AC/DC, Def, Aerosmith, and Staind, three years later on Living on a Fast Lane which they recorded with producer Vagelis Maranis before unleashing it as the new one through Pitch Black Records. The Blackened Heart, also created with Maranis and with Heiko Härle the newest member of the band on bass and backing vocals replacing Kleindienst, is the next big step in the ascent of the band, a release easy to expect bringing fresh eager attention upon the band.
The album starts as it means to go on with a fiery storm in the shape of Blackout. Riffs and rhythms instantly assault and excite ears as it takes its first breath before welcoming the excellent vocals of Gildner, who right away seems as the music to have even greater power and confidence in his delivery. The guitars and bass almost stalk the senses as the feisty narrative, musically and lyrically, of the track entrenches its infectiousness into the imagination. There is a real anthemic feel to the song without pandering to easy hooks and though it is not the most inventive track around, the thought and precise alignment of sounds is open to see and devour greedily.
It is a great start matched by the following Suicide Blues, its entrance less forceful but just as dynamic after the first caress of chords. Holding stronger old school metal seeds in its belly and a groove metal hunger in its breath, the track swaggers and surges with a contagiousness which is irresistible. Scorched riffs and pungent rhythms persist on the senses as the track romps with relish for three minutes plus of irrepressible rock ‘n’ roll. It is song made for feet and neck muscles, which get a sort of breather with the next up Devils BBQ, a riveting roar of southern rock based enterprise with a great country/Cajun twang in its veining. Like its predecessors, there is nothing spectacularly new to it but it plays like an old friend with a fresh colour to its creative clothing which simply captivates for a tantalising treat which leaves a smile on face and emotions.
The End strides purposefully into view next, swipes of riffs and tempered rhythms courting expressive vocals before combining for a rich flame of melodic hard rock up to and around a potently catchy chorus. It is not as immediate as certainly the first two songs on the album but once bodies are bouncing around rooms and bums on chairs you realise it has hit the sweet spot just as accurately as any other track on the album. From that Nickelback like canter, the emotive ballad Count On Me croons in the ear with melodic seduction and vocal angst, again recalling spices of the Canadian band. The song is soon under the skin and teasing thoughts and emotions, it’s perfectly crafted body not surprising in any way but certainly lingering with German persuasion.
The pair of Not Alone and The Enemy Within leaves imagination and appetite busy though not matching the strength of the album up to this point. The first builds an evocative flame of melodies and emotive vocals around choppy riffs and crisp beats which binds attention whilst the second teases with another countrified twang before its bluesy heart wraps imaginatively around the ears. Both songs reveal more of the improved skill and adventurous exploits within the thinking of the band whilst pleasing ears with immensely accomplished designs.
Dirty Games steps up next to growl provocatively, its riffs and rhythms a predatory lure over which Gildner again deeply impresses. Crowding around ears with incendiary hues and patterns, the guitars cast a potent enticement which dares to flourish but never exceed the core boundaries of the vivaciously driven track. It is a strong asset of the album, the restraint to the individual’s skill which other bands might fail to rein in, but Hard Riot know when enough is enough to impress and enhance but not overload a song.
Second ballad Last Goodbye with its great violin call is an enjoyably decent companion before the bold wanton sounds of High Society Bitch ignite in ears and imagination. It is a tremendous snarl of dirty rock ‘n roll with a raucous edge to its infection which is surpassed by the closing brawl of Hit The Ground, a thumping stomp of a song which again has nothing truly new to show but all the virulent contagiousness and quality you could wish for in a heavy rock song.
The CD version of The Blackened Heart comes with an additional track, a reworked version of The End featuring Richard Sjunnesson of The Unguided which to be honest we preferred to the original just because of the great union of the two vocalists. The album itself is another impressive and exciting encounter from Hard Riot, a release showing the band yet to find its distinctive voice is certainly on the way to being a potent force and attraction; already they have a thrilling and appealing presence sorted.
The Blackened Heart is available via Pitch Black Records now in Europe and North America from July 8th.
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