While many 75-year-olds enjoy a nice cup of tea and the warmth of a pair of slippers,guitarist Mick Box has just completed a 25th studio album with the hard ’n’ heavy band he formed back in 1969. Uriah Heep may always miss out on the mainstream recognition and respect enjoyed by Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath, but Box’s boys have recorded more truly great albums than any of their more celebrated peers, if only through sheer persistence and enthusiasm.
Notably, the last four Heep albums have all been of laudably high quality. On 2008’s Wake The Sleeper they rose like a Hammond-drenched phoenix, after a decade of studio silence, and with a renewed delight in their own musical identity. Since then everything the band have released has been a joy, with the perfect balance of retro bombast and strident, soulful songcraft, and latest record Chaos And Colour is no exception.
Still centred on that enduring core of Mick Box, singer Bernie Shaw and singer/keyboard player Phil Lanzon, Uriah Heep are one big ball of hard-rock energy here. The progressive flourishes and sumptuous arrangements that defined early classics like Look At Yourself and Salisbury are present and correct at various points, but at heart this is an album of vigorous, punchy anthems, with Box’s riffs and Shaw’s ageless croon leading the charge.
Chaos And Colour is book-ended by two gleaming gems of pure, unadulterated Heepness: opener Save Me Tonight clatters along at multiple tempos, armed with a giant chorus, cascading waves of Hammond and some joyously indulgent vocal harmonies; grand finale Closer To Your Dreams is an infectious high-velocity shuffle with an inspirational message and acres of swing. Both attest to the fact that Uriah Heep are still fully in touch with what made them great 50 years ago, and with youthful energy levels, somewhat eerily, still in evidence.
In between those succinct anthems, the rest of the album is a non-stop barrage of big melodies and cunning, crafted songwriting. Whether it’s the poetic pomp of Hail The Sunrise, the rampaging, proto-metal cautionary tale of Hurricane, or the symphonic melodrama of the eight-minute You’ll Never Be Alone, every one of these tracks has charm and substance to spare.
More importantly, it all sounds exactly as one would hope some of hard rock’s greatest architects to sound, 50 years in: committed, passionate, bursting with ideas and absolutely not interested in stopping any time soon.