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From EUTK.net

It’s been 10 years since the last Uriah Heep studio album, “Sonic Origami”. From 1998 on, the band kept on doin’ live shows and releasing several live albums and DVDs, some of which were excellent (“Acoustically Driver” and “The Magician’s Birthday Party”, for example), while others were honestly a bit superfluous.

At some point, fans started to fear that the five piece, led by veteran guitarist Mick Box (the only original member left), had lost its inspiration. To make things even worse, a year and a half ago the band had to face long standing drummer Lee Kerslake’s departure, after some 33 years spent together with Box, from 1972 to 1980 and from 1982 to 2007. In short, we feared the end had come.

But the miracle happened, and as the title of this monumental album suggests, the sleeper is awake: Uriah Heep are back, and I’m happy to tell you that they’re in wonderful shape. Let’s say this straight away, “Wake The Sleeper” is, along with the great “Sea Of Light” (1995), perhaps the best Heep record since 1977’s “Firefly”.

As soon as you have put the CD in your player, most of you won’t believe their ears, when hearing the sonic assault of the title track: there’s double bass drumming (!), wah-wah, Hammond organ and the classic, legendary vocal harmonies, always a trademark for the band. All tremendously vintage, yet with a tremendously modern sound. This mostly instrumental first track strikes hard, takes no prisoners and leads us to the first proper song, “Overload”.

If any of you is still having any kind of doubt about the band’s health status, “Overload” wipes the floor clean and shows that things are going fine indeed: it’s a solid, enthralling seventies oriented hard rock, in which vocalist Bernie Shaw proves to still have some fantastic pipes. The excellent middle and ending sections showcase a very welcome guitar / organ battle, just like it was in the old times. “Tears Of The World” takes us to the most recent Uriah Heep style, that of the last two / three albums, with an elegant song, always with good energy in the background.

On with track 4, “Light Of 1000 Stars”, another very good mid tempo reminiscent of none other than 1972’s “Sweet Lorraine”, thanks to both melodies and pace, while “Heavens Rain” is more groovy, with several atmospheric sections.

The rocky “Book Of Lies” is an ideal bridge to get to one of the best songs, “What Kind Of God”: a wonderful tune, starting slowly and solemn, courtesy of Phil Lanzon’s organ, then building up and ending with a lovely crescendo. A truly beautiful chapter, nothing else to say except that the Box / Lanzon writing team is working perfectly.

Double bass again on “Ghost Of The Ocean”, a song reminding of the best mid 70s Heep, thanks to a powerful pace, a syncopated organ and the usual, always perfect chorus. In the following “Angel Walk With You” we can find an intro full of pathos, quickly giving way to a pounding mid tempo with the right amount of melody. Shaw is shining on this one, while the organ solo at the end is hands down great.

“Shadow” ‘s seventies vibe is dominated by a guitar riff that would have fit well on albums like “Sweet Freedom”. And again, another very effective chorus is to be enjoyed.
The majestic “War Child” opens with emotional singing and a lovely guitar and organ background, that transforms itself into another heavy number with a strong riff and an astounding refrain.

What remains after having listened to “Wake The Sleeper” is an extremely positive feeling. It’s knowing that this band still has a lot so say, despite almost 4 decades of career. What’s most amazing about this album, is the freshness, the power and the energy spreading from these 11 songs. It really feels like listening to 30 years old musicians, who have enough experience, but are still young. Instead, save the 42 years old Gilbrook, the guys playing here are all into their fifties. Many young bands, although technically skilled, can get nowhere near Uriah Heep’s musicianship, elegance and impact. That should really make the younger generations think.

A few words about the new drummer Russell Gilbrook, a renowned drum teacher who played with several great musicians, including Van Morrison and Tony Iommi: replacing a respected, beloved and unique artist like Lee Kerslake isn’t easy for anyone, but the well trained Gilbrook did a terrific job, adding new power to the rhythm section and making a good working team with bass player Trevor Bolder.

The rest of the band is no surprise: Bernie Shaw is still a Singer with capital “S”, while both Mick Box and Phil Lanzon prove themselves as fine songwriters and very respectable players.

In short, if you ever liked Uriah Heep in the past, this album will make you love them even more. It is true that the golden period of “Demons And Wizards”, Ken Hensley and David Byron will be no more, but “Wake The Sleeper” is the best album that any fan could hope to hear after such a long time.

The Sleeper is wide awake and ready to conquer your hearts again.
Now you should wake up too and rush for a record store to buy this CD, it’ll be worth every single coin!

Michele Marando

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