There was a time when the prospect of no more Lionheart was a very real prospect. They were going to call it quits and they played a final show… But it’s a challenge to give up something you love when it’s in your blood. Returning with “Welcome To The West Coast II” which features a guest appearance from JJ Peters of Deez Nuts fame, they told some War stories from the road and expressed their rekindled desire. When we saw them at the Tufnel Park Dome in London on that tour run, one thing that struck us is how much they love to play the shows. So with a new label home in Arising Empire and a wealth of music videos released before the album, how does “Valley Of Death” compare?
The title track is a 100 seconds of feedback with Rob Watson laying down a spoken word rap about the challenge of life while the music builds up around him. It’s an introduction piece that creates a euphoric atmosphere, despite the hardship in the lyrics before bursting into “Burn”. Form the last out, the guitar tones pack more of a punch with Evan Krejci and Nik Warner doing a stirling job as Watson keeps the catchy sing-a-long choruses coming “Every bridge I built, I just burn it to the ground” is about right. As the track plays out there is something in the vocals that holds the tracks together, a kind of warped effect on some of the backing vocals that distorts it in behind the main lines. This continues into “For The Record” which calls out all the naysayers and back stabbers as Watson tells us he’s been reading all that we say about his band. We’ve heard the sentiment from them before but really, they’ve got nothing to worry about. JJ Peters should listen to this, it’s what the fans want Deez Nuts to sound like.
The first of the album guest appearances comes from Jesse Barnett of Stick To Your Guns and continues the aforementioned vocal effect in the hard hitting “Rock Bottom”. Hammer down, Lionheart keep the sing-a-longs going with phrases like “Drag the lake. Then fade away“. Barnett only gets a couple of lines but it’s the hardest vocal we’ve heard from him in some time. A sprinkling of Gold Dust. “When I Get Out” sees Watson in fine storytelling mode talking about how he almost lost a decade to a snitch and his mother had to see him in chained up. The lyrics name check “Born Feet First” which continues a chronological order as the driven energetic flow is maintained with additions of gang chants and bass bleeds from Richard Mathews. Little funky bursts are really good fun while the whammy bar moments add a little out of Powertrip to the vibe. “Stories From The Gutter” keeps that whammy bar drop in it and makes it sound like a warped Police siren as Watson brings back the tale of the house being broken into and the living hell they endured. The regular mention of his mother in the lyrics is a an endearing touch.
The second guest appearance sees rapper Mr Jet Black join the game with some big pounding rhythmic grooves and bass only parts allowing for the vocals to come to life on “Before I Wake”. The calls to God who doesn’t answer and blaming ones self is a theme we’ve heard elsewhere and comes back around to the talk of anxiety and depression that litters the album. “In My Skin” takes that up a notch talking about wanting to feel the fire with solid riffs and a depth of feeling second to none. Closer “Dragging Heaven” slams the cage firmly shut and to give it its full title “Dragging Heaven to Hell“. Some demonic possession vocals and a battering of pummelling rhythms and riffs are the order of the day and Lionheart are at their finest. A radio shift to “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers… Just go listen to it. The sign of a great record is when you reach the end and want to push play and listen to it again immediately. “Valley Of Death” had that feeling about it. [8.5/10]
Valley Of Death
For The Record
Rock Bottom ft. Jesse Barnett of Stick To Your Guns
When I Get Out
Born Feet First
Stories From The Gutter
Before I Wake ft. Mr. Jet Black
In My Skin
“Valley Of Death” by Lionheart is out now via Arising Empire