This fifth album from this outfit (featuring Stuart Smith (known for playing with glam band Sweet) and the originator of this project back in 1999) is an accomplished beast. Heaven and Earth knows why this band is not better known based on this excellent classic rock output. Retaining faultless antenna for the super addictive melody, excellent production and a modern approach takes that stomping heritage and couples it with drive and finesse of a veteran album maker.
‘Hard to Kill’ gets down to business with a racing intro and into an accomplished rich bluesy vocal from Joe Retta keeping the momentum of say ‘Speed King’ with matching organ flourishes galore until we break out into that anthem ‘whoah’ which taps right into all that infectious 70s glam history. There’s a fighting spirit about this album, dripping with experience the lyrics speak to a life well lived and problems we can all relate to, but relates how the human spirit can conquer all. The super expressive vocals are genuine and authentically heart felt. ‘Walk Away’ is straight into an anthem refrain. Somehow they seem to take the heart of Deep Purple, but make it far more commercial crossed with pop sensibilities Purple never had. This combination of the credibility and heritage of Purple means there’s no trace of the superficiality sometimes associated with pop rock of the more glam kind, but we get a knockout when it comes to a melody that drills into the brain. ‘The Game Has Changed’ is a stompalong with real impetus and live potential with social comment marking classic rock as a place for expression and release.
‘Anthem’ as it says on the tin has another mammoth very British chorus and is a call to arms appeal to the crowd in keeping with the metal spirit and positioning H&E as a working man’s band in the spirit of Slade. ‘Hellfire’ reminds of ‘Laughing in Heaven’ from Gillan’s solo period in its storytelling approach and taps the same way into 50s rock n roll.
‘Monster’ and ‘Beautiful Monsters’ remind of 90s hard rock band Skin with its slightly funky approach and vocal with that Jimmy Barnes feel, although the latter breaks into a organ passage at one point which is pure Purple. Bad Man has a real statement bluesy guitar start conjuring up a gunslinger and with a great atmospheric sound with vocals dripping with RNB heritage ( but somehow they still pack that Hammond in).
‘LA Blues’ reminds us that this band are LA based despite the British roots of Stuart Smith remaining indelibly on the sound and taps into Chicago blues for some swagger and roll. There’s also some honky tonk on ‘Till it’s over’ and elements of a Skid Row type ballad on ‘Bleed Me Dry’.
It’s tempting to say ‘Heaven and Earth’ wouldn’t exist without Deep Purple such is the influence of that band on the sound. It’s well known how Purple took Stuart Smith under their wing. But coupled with an unerring commercial sensibility and a crowd singalong chant never present in Purple’s sound ‘Heaven and Earth’ are cutting their own hybrid sound and mass appeal approach and have produced a really memorable album which combined with other influences is by no means a repeat of anything others did.