Formed in 1983, Dark Heart was another band in the long list of acts associated with the moniker of "NWOBHM," or "New Wave of British Heavy Metal." Rising from the ashes of heavy metal outfit Tokyo Rose and led by guitarist Alan Clark, the group's debut album Shadows of the Night arrived on the music scene in autumn 1984, providing listeners with driving Diamond Head-influenced metal that was fun, aggressive, and consistently straightforward. Widespread acceptance in various metal circles proved elusive and the boys from England called it a day shortly afterwards, leaving Shadows of the Night as the lone piece of work that represents their time together as a band.
Listening to this record is a bit like rummaging through the sounds of all the other lesser-known bands from the New Wave Heavy Metal movement. Dark Heart's music is founded upon the same foundations… sharp riffs, highly melodic vocals, heavy drumming, and so forth. With those sorts of ingredients, what you get as a metal fan is a plate of music that is ultimately fun to chew on for 40 minutes, but not satisfying in the end. Sure, the melodic vocals help shape the music, letting the album revolve around moderately successful hooks, but there's nothing fancy going on that's going to make you perk up and say, "Wow! Where have these guys been in my collection all this time?" More than likely you'll credit the band for playing with some gusto and maintaining a nice degree of metal accessibility in the process, but shrug your shoulders when it's over and contemplate giving it a repeated listen.
There are a few shimmering gems within the nine song track list of Shadows of the Night. The first is "Dangerous Games," a gritty rocker with a riff very similar to "Use It or Lose It" by Motley Crue, just slowed down. Alan Clark's guitar work is especially tasty while Phil Brown's lead vocals are restrained, yet menacing. He maintains a degree of toughness in his delivery without squealing or overusing his high range. "Don't Break the Circle" is hokey, but features a wonderful Maiden-esque guitar solo and has everything from chant-style background vocals to a spooky, demonic voice delivering spoken word. "Shout It Out," the album's longest track, clocks in at over seven minutes and features an instrumental introduction that's closer to blues-rock than metal, a refreshing change of pace and a sign that the band weren't afraid to deviate from the norm every so often to create sparks. "Teaser" is a shuffling instrumental piece that allows Clark and second guitarist Steve Small to cut loose a little while containing a fairly memorable guitar line. The closest thing to a ballad is the album's closer, "Turn of the Tide," which unfortunately suffers from any real melodic hook and breaks into fairly generic metal at its halfway point. Drummer Ian Thompson does lay down a nice triplet groove on the bass drum though during the guitar solo which helps give the track some thump and thunder.
Overall, this album contains a few nice ideas and deviations from the norm, but really it's a paint-by-numbers metal exercise that is hindered by a dull production. The drums and bass sound muffled and there's not a lot of cohesiveness in the mix. I wouldn't go as far as to say the music sounds stiff, but it certainly doesn't jump out of the speakers at you. Shadows of the Night is a respectable effort by a band that essentially never took off, so if you're looking to digest as much old-school NWOBHM metal as possible then you'll enjoy giving this album a spin. Just don't expect anything new or revolutionary in the process.
1) Shadows of the Night
2) Dangerous Games
3) No Time For Turning
5) Don't Break The Circle
6) Shout It Out
7) Giving It All For Love
8) Coming Home
9) Turn Of The Tide