Saturday, July 7, 2012

House of Heroes: Cold Hard Want Review

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Just about two years ago, Gotee Record’s polished rock band, House of Heroes, released their third album, Suburba, with the label. Featuring the singles “Elevator” and “Constant,” this Dove-nominated album drew me into the hard rock this band had to offer. Other songs, including “God Save the Foolish Kings” and “Independence Day for A Petty Thief” were inviting with their haunting, somewhat futuristic effects.

Now, two years later, House of Heroes is back with their fourth Gotee Records’ project, Cold Hard Want. Though the band admits the project is more simple than previous efforts musically and more definitive lyrically, Cold Hard Want simply is, in all ways, a step up from their previous album. The album title reflects going through the fire and coming out gold. Through the tough times economically, the band decided who they were and what their goal was with their music, and they are clearly unafraid to show it through this album.

The album-opener “A Man Who’s Not Afraid” is rather surprising. An acepella track only about a minute long, the harmonies are breathtaking, but surprising for a rock band like House of Heroes. The outcome, however, is absolutely fantastic.

The rock n’ roll kicks off with “Out My Way,” beginning the roll of tracks that speak of going out to battle and being determined: “If you’ve got shots you wanna take, better hope it buries me, hey hey hey/ if I go out then so it be/ you know I’m going out my way.” Tim Skipper’s vocals, and the choirs for the fill-in parts, sound better than ever, especially when Tim’s vocals reflect urgency. “Dance (Blow it All Away)” has a sentiment similar to “God Save the Foolish Kings” from their previous album, and the predominant lead guitar is superb. And never underestimate House of Heroes, because as this song says, “Dance, we can dance, we can rage or blow it all away! We war, we are a catastrophe!” “Remember the Empire” follows on this same note of battle anthems, only this comes a little more upbeat with more fill-ins. Surely this song will be a favorite to hear the band play live!

“We Were Giants” begins with a synthetic drumbeat and is composed mostly of light acoustic guitar, for the first of slower tracks off the Cold Hard Want album. This track is very solid, and definitely one of my personal favorites off the album, as it contemplates what we used to be and a desire to get back to that place. “The Cop” surprisingly is even slower, with only relaxed acoustic guitar that makes walkups and helps sing a depressing love-song of sorts. Although I did find this track a bit hard to follow, it does have some Biblical elements to it, especially the line: “The rain falls on the blessed ones and the damned.”

“Comfort Trap” begins the road back up to the rock anthems we love from House of Heroes. Personally, I found the vocals to be a bit irritating in this track, as they were muffled as if the singer were putting his mouth right up to the microphone and not speaking clearly. It does get better when he begins screaming the lyrics of the trappings of the American dream, or of wanting to stay within your comfort zone, even if it means better things can be had by stepping outside of it.

The single that House of Heroes already released a music video for, “Touch This Light” follows next, and is still my personal favorite off Cold Hard Want, speaking of wanting to reach out and touch the light of God’s love: “I can see You there in a rain of fire, reaching out for me/ I can touch it/ I can hear Your voice calling out my name/ I wanna touch this light.”

“Angels of Night” appropriately has a country feel to it, with it’s descriptive lyrics of driving through a country village. Mixed in with Tim’s higher vocals in this song, we hear of the hardships of  choosing to love again after feeling the rejection of a broken relationship. The track builds as it goes, but escalading guitars help the listener to imagine the things being described, which is beautiful! Very melodic and half-upbeat, “Stay With Me” keeps the relationship aspect going on: “Stay, stay, stay/ or don’t come back if you walk away/ I can’t go on like it’s all the same/ so stay…” I really enjoy the inviting sing-along feel that many of House of Heroes’ songs have, such as this one.

Rather hard to describe for its many awesome elements, “Suspect” is accurately titled, a detective track of sorts (”It’s suspect/ the truth hides in the lies/ I expect it all to be denied/ I’m left to sirens singing ooooh”). It has electronic effects when it’s not rocking the lead guitar or Tim’s flexible vocals throughout.

House of Heroes again experiments with the acapella tracks as they did with the opening track. “Curtains” is the second to last track on the album, again only a minute long as it simply states “Shine it on, shine it on/ we can still get home/ everybody pull the curtains to the window of your soul.” The album pulls itself to a close through “I Am A Symbol,” an, at-first, mellow track, but one that explodes into strong guitars as it goes along. It speaks of choosing to raise your voice and not be silent. At one point, it mentions: “One voice in the crowd is small, but if he speaks the truth, then he speaks for all…” and then later, “I will sing for truth/ I will sing for light/ when I’m gone the flame keeps burning…”

Cold Hard Want is, no doubt, a step up from House of Heroes’ Suburba album. Though there are a few tracks that are hard to follow or a few elements that are hard to appreciate, the band presents a strong message of fighting with all your might for what you believe in and refusing to give up, even if that means death. With several extreme rock tracks, a few mellow and downbeat tracks, and two Queen-like acapella tracks, Cold Hard Want is a solid album, and is definitely House of Heroes’ best project to date!

Rating: 4/5
Release date: July 10, 2012

Track listing:
1. A Man Who’s Not Afraid
2. Out My Way
3. Dance (Blow It All Away)
4. Remember the Empire
5. We Were Giants
6. The Cop
7. Comfort Trap
8. Touch This Light
9. Angels of Night
10. Stay
11. Suspect
12. Curtains
13. I Am A Symbol

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