Review Summary: Uriah Heep are getting old, but the song remains the same.
Uriah Heep doesn't get tired of playing, touring and recording. At least, that's what history tells us. They've been around since 1969, that's a career made of 45 years, 24 studio albums, 18 live albums and 18 line-up changes! Mick Box, who is the founding member of the band, is the only musician who has never left UH. It's 2014, it's been 45 years since Uriah Heep's inception, and they're back with Outsider
, the band's 24th studio effort. After Trevor Bolder's passing in May 2013 (he had been UH's bassist for 35 years, since he had joined in 1976) fans doubted Uriah Heep would ever release any new album again. They were wrong, though. After a hiatus that lasted for 2 years, Mick Box and Co. recruited bassist Dave Rimmer, while writing and recording sessions for Outsider
took place. Now, even the most avid of Uriah Heep fans shouldn't expect much from a band who is way past its prime. Sure, Rush keeps touring and recording since 1974 and they're still very good at it, but UH is no Rush. But there's always that little bit of hope that they can surprise people. Outsider
may not be very surprising, due to its predictability and some flagrant hints of repetitiveness, but that doesn't mean that it's all bad.
What can we expect from a band who has reached its prime about 35 years ago? Plus, how can this particular band surprise us at this point in their careers? In order for that band to raise any eyebrows, they'd have to make a radical change in their style and sound. In Outsider
, Uriah Heep didn't do that at all. In fact, they might have played it all a little bit too safe. Mick Box said it himself once in an interview: "It's a straight ahead rock album. We didn't try to reinvent rock or even our style, for that matter. We just wanted to make some straightforward, fist-pounding rock music, and I think we achieved that"
. Well, it's true that, with this sort of music that Uriah Heep keeps putting out, they certainly aren't bound to lose or displease the fans they conquered along the years. However, that doesn't mean that they'll ultimately gain any new fans with this type of approach. That being said, there's probably only one way to describe Outsider
: it's a typical Uriah Heep album. Fans know what they'll get when they buy this, and they can certainly invest in it without any fear or doubt. But Outsider
is hardly the type of album that will gain UH some new fans, especially at this stage in their longstanding career. However, at this point, they're probably not too worried about that; they just want to make music the way they know how, and they still remain good at that.
Right from the start of the energetic, fast-paced opener Speed Of Sound
, who is more or less familiar with Uriah Heep's career and style is bound to figure out what Outsider
is going to be all about. If that's good or bad, it depends. Obviously, on the one hand, it becomes clear that the typical Uriah Heep sound is present, alive and kicking. On the other hand, though, it would be nice to see Uriah Heep branching out a little bit, even at this advanced point in their careers. Be that as it may, any fan of the band should enjoy Outsider
without any problems, since it does contain some really good tunes. What's perhaps the biggest highlight of the album is the lead single One Minute
. A track strongly reminiscent of Heep's style found in Wonderworld
and Return To Fantasy
, it builds from a beautiful piano climax set by Phil Lanzon to an edgy hard rock number, featuring some fantastic guitar work and some great drumming from Mick Box and Russell Gilbrook, respectively, and quite catchy, spot-on vocal melodies from Bernie Shaw. One Minute
features one of Outsider
's catchiest choruses and it's probably the best track overall. Besides One Minute
, though, most of Outsider
's tracks are basically hit or miss, sadly.
What's underwhelming about Outsider
is the fact that, when it's listened to in its entirety, it starts sounding a bit redundant: it gets a little bit too repetitive and there aren't many distinctive factors about the tracks to make 'em special. What's even worse is that some tracks don't even have any
redeeming factors at all, making you wonder how they could make it to the final cut. A strong example of that is Rock The Foundation
. It has a chorus so awful that it just ruins any potential it might had. Some tracks such as Jessie
and Can't Take That Away
just don't seem appealing or interesting enough to make people want to listen to them. They do present some great guitar work but they sound a little bit repetitive to be considered good. The saddest case is Is Anybody Gonna Help Me
, since it starts off with some potential but it has an underwhelming chorus. It does present a great musical moment, though, a nice interlude resemblant of The Who's style found in Quadrophenia
. Great moments come up when Heep decides to change things up just a little bit. That's what happens in Looking At You
, for example. It's probably the album's most punk rock moment and it carries a lot of energy. Some tracks in Outsider
, such as the title track and The Law
, are actually quite interesting rock numbers to listen to, they're good tracks in their own right, but they probably lack that extra factor that'd make them distinctive. That's probably the biggest problem felt throughout Outsider
Uriah Heep is way past their heyday. The days of classic albums such as Look at Yourself
and Demons and Wizards
are long gone. So, whoever wants to listen to Outsider
obviously has to understand that the material found here is no match to the one found in those classic albums. It's material coming from a band who has been around for 45 years. Considering that, Outsider
is actually a good album to listen to. It doesn't come without its fair share of misfortune and clear hints of filler, but it also comes with some quite interesting material, especially considering that it's coming from a 45 year old band. Any fan of Uriah Heep can certainly buy it and he's bound to enjoy it. I'm just not sure if other listeners, who aren't too familiar with the band, will feel the same way. Similar to Wake the Sleeper
and Into the Wild
in this aspect, Outsider
focuses more on Heep's blues-based rock influences than on their progressive rock ones. They show that, at this stage in their careers, they're not willing to take many risks, musically. But they still remain good at what they do.
Speed Of Sound
Looking At You