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Sacred Heart: Darkness Falls
The Sacred Heart story starts proper with 2003's live demo releases A New Dawn, before following that up with Lay It On The Line a year later. The band released their first album proper in 2007, Shake, which like those first two recordings was full of very listenable melodic rock with an 80's bent. With three members remaining from the Shake line up, guitarist, vocalist and main songwriter Paul Stead, Alex Burke who handles keyboards and adds drums to his resume this time round and Mark Stephenson on guitars (Nathan J Lark rounds out the line up on bass), Sacred Heart have headed in a slightly different direction with fourth release Darkness Falls. Whilst the 80's flavour does still make an appearance, this is a more mature, dare I say modern, set of songs that are more straight ahead rock in their outlook and to be honest all the better for it.
There are nine completely new compositions contained on Darkness Falls, with four updated and re-recorded tracks from the band's debut demos interspersed between them. If you get a CD version of the album the original versions of the four songs in question ("Lay It On The Line", "What It Takes", "Forever" and "Rock 'N' Roll Away") are also added as bonus tracks.
"Down" is a strong slab of staccato riffing to kick things off, mixed with an almost glam/punk attitude and some processed vocals, it really wasn't what I expecting, however it is a fast, incisive rocker and as a statement of intent, very effective indeed. Whilst it's a perky introduction to Darkness Falls, it isn't really indicative of what is contained elsewhere, "Best In Me" has a stomping Dokken meets Ozzy feel that avoids sounding retro and already, two tracks in, Paul Stead's vocals and guitar work are mightily impressive. The added keyboards bolster the sound and Mark Stephenson's guitar blends with Stead's seamlessly. "No One Knows (War)" however ups the ante, with a moving, poignant lyric inspired by a documentary series on Afghanistan, the musical backdrop also tugs at the heart strings and the combination is quite powerful. Following that up with the instantly uplifting "TV Movie" is an inspired move as the meaty rhythm provided by Burke and Lark allows the guitars to hit home and another insightful lyric, while not necessarily reflecting the bouncy feel, ensure that this not another throwaway boy meets girl inspired album and the mature, captivating stories are an interesting comment on the world today.
"Top Of The Class" is a gently mid tempo rocker that is slightly let down by a tinny drum sound, however its well put together and in the right circumstances could make an impact on the singles chart. "Everybody" reminds me of a heavier Cutting Crew, with the atmospheric keyboards and sharp guitars, it's an excellent understated track that is perfectly weighted between rock and pop. "On My Way", "Music Man" and "Little Miss Sunshine" add to the grown up sense of maturity with tasteful gentle strings, some tremendously poised guitar work and wonderful vocals and the three tracks together pack a real emotional punch.
That leaves the four reworked tracks and it has to be said that having the opportunity to compare the originals with new versions is fascinating and revealing. "What It Takes" and "Forever" fit so well with the new songs on show that it would be impossible to know they weren't from the same writing sessions, however "Lay It On The Line" and "Rock 'N' Roll Away" are far more in your face and uncompromising, with their intricate guitars and bombastic vocals. Like opener "Down" they may not fit stylistically with their surroundings, however the album as a whole as far stronger for the blasts of metal between the more introspective tracks. It's only when you listen to original versions of the four songs that you realise just how reworked the 2009 takes are, as the originals sound more like sessions from Coney Hatch or Dokken. However a good song is a good song and as bonuses go they are worthy additions here.
To hear music that has obviously come from the heart and been so expertly put together is just a joy and all the more surprising given that UK bands tend not to do this style of music so well. If you are interested in honest, moving and heartfelt rock music with style and bight, I can't recommend this highly enough.
2. Best In Me
3. Lay It On The Line
4. No-one Knows (War)
5. TV Movie
6. What It Takes
7. Top Of The Class
10. On My Way
11. Music Man
12. Little Miss Sunshine
13. Rock 'n' Roll Away
14. Lay It On The Line (2004 demo)
15. What It Takes (2004 demo)
16. Forever (acoustic)(2004 demo)
17. Rock 'N' Roll Away (2004 demo)
Added: January 13th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Band's Web Site
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