We all remember Uriah Heep. I cut my prog and melodic rock teeth on the 'Magician's Birthday' and 'Live' back in the 1970's. But when was the last time you seriously considered what they were doing lately? I must admit, I haven't. I know they haven't had the same lineup for years. Musicians have come and gone like pedestrians through a revolving door. These days, Uriah Heep is held together by founding member and guitarist Mick Box and later member bassist Trevor Bolder (David Bowie, Wishbone Ash; appearing in 1976 replacing John Wetton). 'Wake The Sleeper' is Heep's first studio album in ten years, since 'Sonic Origami.' So what's going on now?
There are several things you can expect to hear on 'Wake The Sleeper.' The first is the layers of keyboards for which Heep was known for in the early days. Phil Lanzon does a speculator job capturing the Uriah Heep style with his expert keyboards. The second notable characteristic is Mick Box's distinctive guitar; frankly, he's still got it and performs well. Whether it's a distinguishing characteristic or not, but Bernie Shaw's (since 1986, the longest serving vocalist) vocals may rival David Bryon's distinctive class. However, Mr. Shaw seems more stable and consistent than Byron ever was; he's controlled and clear. Obviously, Heep has some stability and major talent. So what about the music?
Generally, 'Wake The Sleeper' is a solid, better than average, work. To classify, this is mostly melodic rock with some progressive elements. Looking at the whole, 'Wake The Sleeper' starts strong, but ends miserably. The album begins with the mostly instrumental title track where Shaw's vocals are more than subdued. It rock and makes you eager to hear what's ahead. Following is 'Overload,' a basic melodic rocker with good vocals, vocal harmonies and some ripping guitar work from Mr. Box. 'Tears Of The World' has a great groove; it's blessed with a catchy chorus and more great guitar work tempered by some fine keys. 'Light Of A Thousand Stars' is definitely melodic rock. There's a significant bass presence from Bolder, rich keyboards, and again, more smooth vocals. 'Heaven's Rain' gives you a blues feel, but it's hard to define. At times it's slow and prodding. Is it a ballad? I'm not sure. But there are some similarities to early Uriah Heep. Moving on, consider 'Book Of Lies' where the keyboards form an elemental foundation and again Box's guitar solo thrills.
As you move towards the end, 'What Kind Of God,' Ghost Of The Ocean,' and 'Angels Walk With You' add some subtle progressive elements to the mix. 'What Kind Of God' is important because it tells a story in song. It builds in progression and the keyboards and bass line are significant. 'Angels Walk With You' returns us to some more blues based melodic rock. In this song, the keyboards take the lead. As you finish the album, the last two track are simply horrid; they're dull and uninspired. Ignore them.
Uriah Heep's 'Wake The Sleeper' gives you a vision of Heep for a new millennium. They draw on early roots, particularly in the keyboard emphasis. Yet they have definitely progressed and become modestly innovative. I was hopefully pleased with this work and found it mostly enjoyable. - Craig Hartranft
Uriah Heep, those words will give most fans of rock a severe case of deja vu. They've been around but generally missing in action for years. 'Wake The Sleeper' is their first studio album in ten years. Its filled with classic Heep style, but with some new innovation. If you're not afraid of living in your past, the new Uriah Heep album is worth a listen.