Uriah Heep's 23rd studio effort, Into the Wild, hit shelves in the USA this Tuesday, May 3. The first record of new compositions since 2008's Wake the Sleeper, Into the Wild starts off with a bang courtesy of the fast-paced, irresistible "Nail on the Head." A swaggering, riff-fueled rocker, it's no surprise "Nail on the Head" is also the first single released from the record.
"I Can See you" follows, another uptempo number, this one organ-driven with a nice, big vocal melodic chorus. A trademark Mick Box solo jumps in at 2:30 and the listener knows that this album is going to be a winner - and then it gets better. The title track, "Into the Wild," brings back the old Heep chills with Phil Lanzon and organ up front and dominant. Bernie Shaw plants the flag as the vocalist (as if, with 25 years as the "new guy," there was any question by now). "Money Talk" follows in the same vein, featuring a more aggressive vocal and organ riff to match. At this point, the listener should really be taken aback by the upbeat tempo Into the Wild maintains. These guys are by no means taking it easy.
"I'm Ready" stands at the center of the record and is easily ranked with "Nail on the Head" as one of the album's prime offerings. The entire band clicks - and rocks - and the guitar/organ interplay at 1:45 are absolutely incendiary. Trevor Bolder reminds everyone why he's one of classic rock's legendary bassists as he provides galloping lines punctuated by Russell Gilbrook's drums. "Trail of Diamonds" follows and, at over six and one-half minutes, serves as the album's epic. A multi-tempo number starting with two minutes of pastoral balladry, it explodes into a modern prog anthem and stands up against prime Heep from any era - plus it has Trevor Bolder taking the lead vocal.
"Southern Star" follows and falters. It is immediately reminiscent of classic Dio-era Rainbow or Sabbath. Too much so as it ventures damn near "Country Girl" rip-off territory. I highly doubt this was intentional but I would guess most listeners are fans of both bands and will make the connection. "Southern Star" is certainly a lighter, slightly faster facsimile but only succeeds in reminding one of the superior Sabbath number. "Believe" gets the album back on track and picks up the pace and features some great vocal harmonies. "Lost" serves as a rock-solid bridge to the album's only other bummer, "T-Bird Angel." A lame, forgettable love song to an automobile (or girl with an automobile?), this immediately dates and dumbs down the band's accomplishment with Into the Wild.
Thankfully, Uriah Heep closes strong. "Kiss of Freedom" provides a companion to "Trail of Diamonds" with Shaw and Lanzon building momentum toward a great Mick Box solo at 2:20 and the anthemic number closes out with the entire band enjoying a jam for two solid minutes.
Into the Wild is a good album. It's a great Uriah Heep album. It isn't going to break any records and it may not be heard outside of fans of the band or classic hard rock of its kind. That said, for a fan, it's an incredible statement from a band who has been around in various incarnations since the late '60s (and with their current line-up virtually unchanged since 1986 with only Lee Kerslake exiting the drums). These guys aren't sitting back and replaying yesterday's classics - they're writing and recording tomorrow's classics - and for that I love them.