Album Review :
House of Heroes - Cold Hard Want

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Artist: House of Heroes
Title: Cold Hard Want
Label: Gotee
Release Date: 07/10/12
Reviewer: Josh Hamm

Tracklisting:

  1. A Man Who’s Not Afraid
  2. Out My Way
  3. Dance (Blow It All Away)
  4. Remember The Empire
  5. We Were Giants
  6. The Cop
  7. Comfort Trap
  8. Touch This Light
  9. Angels of Night
  10. Stay
  11. Suspect
  12. Curtains
  13. I Am A Symbol

House of Heroes exploded onto the scene with their acclaimed album The End Is Not the End. The four Ohio boys already had a small but dedicated following due to their previous work, but The End… is what propelled them to new heights. Unfortunately, it was so good that everything released after is inevitably compared to it. Much like Switchfoot’s Beautiful Letdown or Anberlin’s Cities, there’s a general feeling among the fans that they won’t top their previous best effort.  I found the follow up Suburba to be pure summer fun, an album to be blasted in the car with the windows down. It didn’t measure up to The End Is Not The End, but it didn’t try to. Instead of trying to replicate their sound, House of Heroes experiments, keeping the same classic rock infused pop-punk sound while adding various elements to keep the fans guessing.

Cold Hard Want is much the same, fans may be disappointed that it’s not superior to The End is Not The End, but this album holds its own. It’s their heaviest and catchiest album; I think they must have set the amps to 11. Unlike their last two releases, it’s not a concept album, but it is loosely tied to the theme of standing up for your beliefs.Though I love a good concept album as much as the next guy, this one certainly benefits from not being one because the songs are allowed lives of their own rather than being tied down to the album overall. The End Is Not The End held a grand morose WWII theme and Suburba captured the summer years of an American teenager in the suburbs, Cold Hard Want is just an amazing collection of infectious pop and rock songs.

From the amazing harmonies of “A Man Who’s Not Afraid,” to the epic closing song of “I Am A Symbol,” Cold Hard Want delivers one hard hitting punch after another. This is not a light hearted album, but it’s not entirely serious either. It’s a combination of the poppy songs of Suburba and the grave severity of The End Is Not The End. The biggest issue with this release is that while House of Heroes has crafted a slew of terrific pop songs, rock songs and moving ballads, lyrically they are lacking some of the fun and tongue in cheek attitudes they’ve had in the past, such as on songs like “Baby’s A Red” or “She Mighty Mighty”. It’s not necessarily a bad thing in the long run, as everyone needs to grow and mature, but it is missing a little here.

Admittedly, I was initially disappointed by some of the songs, but my mind was changed by the end of each song. Songs like the urgent “Dance(Blow It All Away),” and anthemic “Remember the Empire” start off weak, but House of Heroes has always been able to add a touch of exceptional musicianship to what would otherwise be a slightly above average pop song. They have some excellent guitar solos, interesting hooks, and killer bass which make me rewind the song thirty seconds just to hear a single brilliant bit. . Every time when I have the slightest doubt, House of Heroes is able to rise to occasion exceed my expectations.

As always there are some great ballads between the heavy hitting rockers. “The Cop” is a great sad story in the same vein as previous gems  “Ghost” and “By Your Side” and it features some great lyrics such as “I love you more/than I love myself/And I’m scared to death/that you love me less.” However, “We Were Giants” falls a little short, it feels uninspired and a little generic. “Angels of Night” is good, but like a lot of songs, the verses are far superior to the chorus. Still they provide an enjoyable and necessary break from the intensity of the rest of the album.

What’s great about the album is that it just gets better as is it goes on. All of my highlights were after the halfway mark. “Comfort Trap” features one of the best verses I’ve heard from them, here’s a taste: “I lost my dream in the comfort trap.I told my God his will could wait,/I’ve got one foot in a rich man’s grave,/I heard it calling in my sleep at night,/ So I killed my dream with a butcher knife,” the lyrics combined with the muffled vocals and guitar hook mesmerizes me, and then the chorus explodes out of nowhere. “Stay” sounds just like a typical House of Heroes song, which means it’s anything but typical.  “Suspect” is a musical cousin of “Voices” from The End Is Not The End and features great falsetto singing with killer guitar. Then after another brilliant little acappella in “Curtains”, the album ends with “I Am A Symbol,” easily the best song on the album. It manages to build  from a soft synthesizer intro and slowly build with a soft but thunderous percussion, then guitar, introducing instruments until it crescendos into a spine tingling chorus of gang vocals; you’ll want to play this again and again.

Overall: Cold Hard Want is another classic House of Heroes album that feels like an old favourite but still manages to show how their diversity and ability to create great music within their genre while experimenting and being true to themselves. The combination of top notch production, catchy melodies, beautiful harmonies, breathtaking musicianship and the amazing voice of Tim Skipper is more than enough to impress anyone from an old fan to a first time listener. This will stand as one of the best albums of 2012.

RIYL: The Classic Crime, Relient K, The Beatles, Muse, Music

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon

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