Personnel: Kelvin Swaby (vocals); Dan Taylor (guitar); Chris Ellul (drums).
Audio Mixer: Andrew Scheps.
Bath, England outfit the Heavy have built a career out of making insanely raw and soulful music that blends shoot-from-the-hip garage rock intensity with an ear for tuneful, '60s R&B melodicism. The group's fourth studio album, 2016's Hurt & the Merciless, finds the band digging even deeper into its bloodshot-eyed aesthetic. Still showcasing the throaty renegade vocals of frontman Kelvin Swaby, the Heavy churn through track after track of aggressive, ball-busting anthems. Following up 2012's The Glorious Dead, Hurt & the Merciless is yet another self-produced effort that purportedly found the bandmembers revisiting their early demos for inspiration. If getting a live, rough demo energy was the goal, then the Heavy have succeeded. While the album never sounds lo-fi, the production nonetheless has the taut, confrontational energy of a basement punk show or old-school juke-joint performance. Cuts like "Since You Been Gone," "The Apology," and "Turn Up" hum with crispy, fuzzed-out electric guitars, diamond-tipped backing vocals, and horns that blare as if pumped out of blown-out car speakers. Similarly, cuts like the frenetic "What Happened to the Love?" and "Slave to Your Love" sound something like the MC5 doing Little Richard covers. Elsewhere, the Heavy rein things in somewhat on the yearning, acoustic guitar-heavy "Nobody's Hero" and weave orchestral strings into the minor-keyed "Last Confession." Of course, no album from the Heavy would be complete without a '50s monster movie-inspired number and here we get "Miss California," a cheeky anthem about a former beauty queen and heartbreaker who "spends your money as she spits your bones." The song, as with much of Hurt & the Merciless, showcases the Heavy's distinctive ability to channel both Cee Lo Green and Screamin' Jay Hawkins at the same time. ~ Matt Collar