Lionheart – “The Reality of Miracles” (Metalville)
Battle Helm Rating
A super group going right back to 1980, Lionheart featured the cream of British hard rock and heavy metal talent in singer Jess Cox (ex-Tygers of Pan Tang), guitarist Dennis Stratton (ex-Iron Maiden), guitarist Steve Mann (ex-Liar, later with MSG, Michael Schenker and Eloy), bassist/vocalist Rocky Newton (ex-The Next Band, Wildfire) and drummer Frank Noon (ex-The Next Band, Def Leppard), who was later replaced by Clive Edwards (ex-UFO and Wild Horses). Snapped up by CBS in 1984 and enlisting new vocalist Chad Brown and Leo Sayer’s drummer Bob Jenkins, the band proceeded to record their debut album, “Hot Tonight”, a slick AOR-styled effort that failed however, to retain old fans’ interest nor garner any from their new target audience in the United States. The band continued with former Grand Prix members, drummer Andy Bierne and keyboardist Phil Lanzon, but failing to make any headway, split up in 1986. Over a decade would pass before “Unearthed – Raiders of the Lost Archives”, a 30-song collection of Lionheart demos, was issued in 1999 by Pony Canyon in Japan to much interest, proving the cult status of the band, although it would be another 17 years before they re-emerged to play the Rockingham Festival in Nottingham, England. With the spark lit, Lionheart, now completed by former Shy singer Lee Small, recorded their 3rd release “Second Nature” in 2017. Keeping the momentum of this line up, “The Reality of Miracles” is the new full-length album featuring 13 new tracks spanning British hard rock, NWOBHM metal, AOR and also, newer epic styles commendably evidencing a by no means stagnant talent pool! With hard crunching riffs from Stratton propelled by Edwards’ double bass drumming on ‘Five Tribes’, Mann’s harmonic keys bring the melodies topped off brilliantly by Small’s high, soulful singing in classic hard rock style, completed by plenty of fast fiery guitar breaks honed from those Iron Maiden days. Immediately shifting into the power ballad of ‘Behind The Wall’, the hugely passionate mix of Mann’s atmospheric keys and Newton’s deep bass lines are backed by Stratton’s thick riffing and an incredibly classy soulful solo all capped off by Small’s vocals that can only be summed up by one word: beautiful. One for their loyal fans in Japan, ‘Kingdom Of The East’, with its eastern tones and power rock equally bountiful in soul, Small’s soaring vocals and Stratton’s matching guitar melodies really take it back to those Pony Canyon days in pretty much every regard except time. Likewise, ‘Overdrive’ with its dual guitar melody and Small’s clean singing really brings a shine to the power AOR chorus, making you wonder – besides the authentic 80s sound courtesy of Mann’s production, mixing and mastering – how the band couldn’t have been anything but a hit in the United States! Bringing it altogether in ‘The First Man’ with its heavy dual riffing from Stratton and Mann along with Edwards’ thumping drums brilliantly contrasted by prog harmonies and classical piano, Small’s vocal passion tops off this incredibly stirring mix of Riot meets Maiden in a truly epic finale – wow. True to its title, “The Reality of Miracles” couldn’t have been any closer to the truth.