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Bloody Heels - Ignite the Sky Award winner

Bloody Heels
Ignite the Sky
by Kira Schlechter at 14 September 2020, 9:23 AM

Round two of this worldwide wave of glam/pop/hair metal is, in some ways, almost better than the first – there’s no pressure to live up to, bands can relax and focus on the music rather than trying to craft an image that’s bigger, brighter, flashier than the last guy. And these are millennials, so they are usually more mature songwriters in terms of subject matter. From Latvia, of all places, comes BLOODY HEELS in this second wave, and their latest, “Ignite the Sky,” is as good a representation of modern glam metal as it gets. It follows their EP “Summer Nights” in 2014 and their full-length debut, “Through Mystery.” in 2017.

The title track starts quietly with gentle electric before it gets cranking – it’s lively and spirited pop metal as of old (think MOTLEY CRUE or WARRANT sonically), but much smarter. The chorus is short and sweet and catchy as hell, about being yourself despite the naysayers, and going out and grabbing what you want no matter how long it takes to get it (“All or nothing, one day it’ll mean something”). The solo is brisk and concise before it goes back into that contemplative melody that it started with for the bridge. Vicky has his wail firmly in place, although he never overuses it, and makes the most of his gravely tenor the rest of the way.

“Criminal Masterminds” starts with Nixon’s voice, but it could be referring to anyone from the current administration to the one in Latvia’s neighbor, Russia (“We’re living next door/To a criminal mastermind”). With its badass guitar melody, it’s tough and super timely – the lead-in to the chorus enumerates what’s going on in just a few words (“Blood spilling calls/Innocent falls/Don't care about the soul/Need that power and gold”) and also makes some pointed observations along the way (“Hypocrites and holy men/Are all the same in the end”). Gus’ drumming is very POISON-esque in many ways (that’s a compliment) and is just excellent in general, with plenty of low end to add to the sinister feel. This track is the best of what this subgenre can be when it looks to the world at large.

The twinkling guitar that leads into the first verse of “No Matter” is clever and different; they do it again at the end with Gunnar’s tasty bass added to it and it’s even more terrific. The verses are punchy, the group backing vocals throughout are classic, and Vicky’s wail on the word “go” before the last chorus is a kick in the pants. It’s the usual one-that-got-away song, but it’s not sappy or overdone. Similarly, “Sugar & Spice” is raunchy and naughty and as dirty-sounding as you’d expect from the title alone (and when Vicky says, “oh lady heartbreak,” in that deadpan tongue-in-cheek drawl, it’s killer). With lines like “You’re my Bonnie, I’m your Clyde” and a sexy solo from Harry (and more Gunnar bass) it’s tons of fun.

Gunnar’s slap bass is the perfect kickoff to “Farewell To Yesterday” and establishes the song’s grinding, funky, stop-start rhythm. Here’s another one where they look outward, and it’s clearly examining where many people are at right now (“Daydreaming of a better future/While scrolling on computer/Blaming everyone else” – I mean, yeah), and they acknowledge, “It’s okay to fail/’Cause life’s not a fairytale.” Later, they point out, quite wisely and maturely, “It’s not about roses or thorns/It’s about the path you choose to stay on.” The singalong chorus is bright and optimistic (the shimmering backing vocals help with that), and the lead-in lines are a great set-up to it (“You paint the world in colours/But you live in black and white”). It too poses some sharp questions: “Do we want to live or do we wanna exist?” and “There comes a time and place for a change/Are you willing to take it before it's too late?” This is the sweetness of pop metal with a decidedly 21st-century sharpness.

“Black Swan” is dark and harrowing, and its sinewy groove quiets into the verse to let the lyric shine. Vicky’s voice is a wistful croon (he’s desperate, at the end of his rope, as he sings, “Can't escape this labyrinth”). The section before the chorus is so effective, the tension and frustration is clear, and the actual chorus is an allegory – the “black swan” is a metaphor for addiction and a unique one at that. The second verse is stronger vocally, not as hopeless-sounding, like he’s starting to come out of it. A moody, almost exasperated bridge, punctuated by more of Gunner’s bass and a flowing, bluesy solo, builds toward the end to a resolution – “When the night is gone and the daylight is come/I know I’ll be alright,” sung like a mantra, and then later, he vows, “I just don't care anymore/About the black swan.” This is the longest track at 6 minutes plus, but it’s so compelling and interesting that your interest never wavers.

While pretty self-explanatory in its message – be brave, you’ve got something to offer here (“You got more tricks than them under your sleeve”) – “Stand Your Ground” is really notable for its music – another great signature riff, another great prechorus and chorus, more of the muscle and drive of the rhythm section (can’t say enough about Gunnar and Gus), and a genuinely pretty bridge, for lack of a better word – the modulation and the guitar line is just so pleasant to the ear. From the beginning, the sound of “Thin Line” will have you reminiscing about classics like “Livin’ On A Prayer” or “When You Close Your Eyes” – not just sonically, but in its sentiment about the old days, the relationship that started out great but the magic is fading. The chorus is simple but completely irresistible – you won’t be able to help but sing along. It’s such a little treasure, it’s almost like hearing it for the first time. It takes you right back to your youth if you grew up in the first wave of this stuff. And the little shamble at the end is a treat – when it could have ended big, it all backs off and gets intimate instead.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the darkly dramatic “Silhouette,” a cross between DOKKEN’S “Into the Fire” and “Alone Again.” Its chorus is dreamy and hushed, the words and Vicky’s fed-up growl and the music pairing perfectly, and the fact that it’s treated this way only heightens the impact. The bridge is terrific – the inevitable return of this toxic person and the frustration and inability to resist (“Who’s gonna teach me/Not to return your call” and then, damn, here she comes again, “Now it’s twelve o’clock/Twelve o’clock, knock knock,” he screams). The final chorus is bigger, but it needs to be, and the fadeout is the best, with the backing vocals leaving everything hanging as they sing, “Your silhouette.”

In the day, something like “Healing Waters” could have been about getting away in a fast car or partying, but here and now, it’s about searching out nature as a healer (“Breathe/The nature’s air/The medicine/To ease the disease/We’re all living in” and “Into the ocean’s blue/A parade to my breakthrough/reincarnate/Into better me, myself and I”). It’s soaring and uplifting, with a thoughtful, soulful, bridge – even the brief sax solo in it is natural and unforced. “Streets Of Misery” is a series of rapid-fire images about the hells of the city (“Liquid dreams with dose of evil” and “Trapped within this toxic town/Playing Russian roulette with no stakes at all”) and all its temptations, but then realizing at the same time, “Have no regrets/’Cause it made me/The one who I am today”), In a way it’s not a happy ending to the album, but in a way it is at the same time.

This is really a first-class effort that proves that in the right hands, glam can rise above the excesses of its past and offer something current and thoughtful.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

5 Star Rating

1. Ignite The Sky
2. Criminal Masterminds
3. No Matter
4. Sugar & Spice
5. Farewell to Yesterday
6. Black Swan
7. Stand Your Ground
8. Thin Line
9. Silhouette
10. Healing Waters
11. Streets Of Misery
Vicky White - Vocals
Harry Rivers - Guitar
Gunner Everett - Bass
Gus Hawk - Drums
Record Label: Frontiers Music


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Edited 07 February 2023

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