They say that form is temporary, class is permanent. Never was a quote better suited to fit the might of UK heavy rockers Uriah Heep, who are not so much easing into their 51st year as storming it with the energy of a toddler fuelled by Haribo.
It may be their 25th album, but the band, led as ever by Mick Box, show no signs of anything other than improvement. Indeed, I would go so far as to state that Chaos & Colour ranks alongside their best work for many a year.
Uriah Heep – Chaos & Colour (Silver Lining Music)
Release Date: 27 January 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
There’s something reassuringly comforting about a Uriah Heep album. It oozes quality, whether it be the thick and lush keyboards of Phil Lanzon, the soaring vocals of Bernie Shaw, the reliable and rock-solid combination of drummer Russell Gilbrook and bassist Dave Rimmer or Box’s spellbinding guitar magic.
It’s a compendium of classic hard rock, which on many occasions here steps across the Metal line before pulling back with the sweet melodies that the band has always demanded surge through their releases.
It’s a quality production from start to finish, with Jay Ruston and engineer Pieter Rietkerk delivering the finishing touches to an album that is likely to feature highly in my end-of-year listings. Recorded at Chapel Studios in London in 2021 as restrictions slowly lifted, Box is in no doubt of the part that Ruston played. “We’re a band that has a fantastic heritage, and to carry on that tradition, it was vitally important that the band recorded in the studio, all playing at the same time. Jay understood that, and he pulled out the best of us as a band, as well as individual players while getting us some amazing sounds.”
Chaos & Colour opens in bombastic style, with the melodic power of Save Me Tonight, a track destined for rock radio worldwide. Lanzon’s been an integral part of the band for many years, and his interplay with Box is explosive. Box’s first solo on the track simply rips. It’s a track that is a certainty for the band’s setlist in 2023, as it thunders along to a thumping crescendo.
Heep bring the shorter songs early. There’s the earworm of Silver Sunlight, which contains a better hook than Mike Tyson ever threw, the joy of Hail The Sunrise and the upbeat tempo of Age Of Changes. All are superbly crafted, with Shaw’s vocals flying with an ease that few can get close to. They are truly timeless, the icing that graces the phenomenal musical fluidity and artistry that flows through each song.
Few bands can use those keyboards like Lanzon, and they once more provide the breadth and depth that the band have made their own over half a century.
Whilst Chaos & Colour is very much a classic rock album, there’s a genuine vigour and enthusiasm that should appeal to new fans as well as delight those who have been with the band for years.
So, why Chaos & Colour? Mick Box explains. “The album title reflects that we were in chaotic times with being locked down, tours being cancelled, businesses folding, and all the chaos that was thrown into the world, and as far as I could see it, the only colour people had was through music. It helped so many people get through those difficult years, using that strength and power which music has, to make those bad times not quite so bad.”
The first part of the album makes way for several longer tracks, songs that allow Uriah Heep to open the emotion and even throw in a ballad. One Nation, One Sun sees a stellar performance from Shaw, providing the opportunity for reflection as it slowly increases in tempo, with a musical cohesion like velvet. Themes of love, light and positivity have often been at the heart of Uriah Heep’s music, and it’s evident that this is the case once more throughout the 11 songs on Chaos & Colour.
As well as One Nation, One Sun, there is the opportunity for mediation on Fly Like An Eagle, whilst You’ll Never Be Alone is another that sits in the simply epic camp. A story told in true Heep style, it’s impossible not to feel your heart pulse just a little faster and harder as it unfolds.
If you want classic, though, it’s the double whammy that brings Chaos & Colour to a fantastic finale which really hit the spot. The majestic Freedom To Be Free is an anthem which captivates for the entire eight minutes before Closer To Your Dreams tips a nod to the immortal song Easy Livin’ with its battle cry for all rockers. “So many have tried but slipped away, now it’s time for you to have your say,” sings Shaw as the band rock out one last time.
Having been thrilled by the band’s recent UK performances that I saw [Steelhouse, Saxon and their own headline tour last autumn], the opportunity to dive deep into new music from one of the most seminal bands was well timed. The experience is fantastic and one that I’ve repeated many times already.
As I said at the start, class is permanent, and in Chaos & Colour, Uriah Heep show once more that they are the classiest of acts.