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Heartless Bastards – Restless Ones

Review by Jonathan Levitt

Restless Ones, The latest record by the Heartless Bastards shows a sonic evolution for this road-tested crew. Erika Wennerstrom’s voice is like a friend calling you after years of losing contact. Picking up the telephone ‘Wind Up Bird’ begins the conversation with the bastards trademark heaviness. I also really dig the atmospheric electronic bleeps in the background. Erika then proceeds to tell us to “set ourselves free”. This is the kind of heavy opener that attracted me to the band in the first place.

Next up ‘Gates of Dawn’ is one of the finest tunes the band has ever committed to tape. Erika’s voice is deep and brimming with emotion. “I have awoken, the footsteps sound of thunder, I’m such a heavy load, seven years of slumber”, she sings as the song slashes and burns its way hurtling the protagonist towards the sun. ‘Pocket full of Thirst’ is a song that is one of those songs that feels as if it was written on a tour bus. You know the kind of tour bus Kris Kristofferson would ride on back in the 70’s with blacked out windows covered in western motifs.

The band here show that even when they forgo the brutal heaviness of some of their songs, that they are true balladeers at their core. Bands like the Heartless Bastards remind me of the 360’s from 20 years ago possessing a gritty earthiness to their music. My personal preference is for the songs that exhibit a determined sonic ferocity about them. Maybe given the fact that they toured with Bob Seeger earlier this year, the band seem to have made a concerted effort to widen the scope and sonic palette of their songs to appeal to a greater cross section of the audience. Take for example the track ‘The Fool’ it’s the one track on the record I found that doesn’t live up to the lofty standards the band have constantly been able to meet if not surpass. The one thing The Heartless Bastards do exceedingly well and I hope they keep doing on into the future is make records that sound very similar to what they’re like live. That visceral intensity of the playing cut by Erika’s simmering vocals is a winning combination. In the end Restless Ones is an album that seems to lose focus in parts. It gets tripped up in trying to stretch its appeal. That said it does have enough stellar moments to keep the band in the good graces of its fans for now.

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