Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Hero - Immortal
Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal Produced By: Hero
Record Label: Retroactive Country Of Origin: Sweden
Year Released: 2009 Artist Website: Hero
Tracks: 10 Rating: 80%
Running Time: 43:12
Hero - Immortal

Swedish vocalist and guitarist Michael Hero (formerly Michael Hjelte) got his start in the late nineties as a member of Sons Of Thunder.  Recording a four song demo entitled Metal Praise in 1998, Sons Of Thunder followed up with the full length efforts Load, Aim, Fire (2000) and Circus Of Power (2003).  After Sons Of Thunder had run its course, the artist formed Hero and released the full length debut Bless This Nation in 2006 before returning with Immortal three years later.

Now, to fully appreciate Hero – particularly its latest release Immortal – one has to first take a close look at Sons Of Thunder.  Combining elements of power metal and thrash, Sons Of Thunder, when at its best, bordered on the Deliverance-like in capacity.  Songs such as “Atomic Power Praise” and “Exalt Him” (off Load, Aim, Fire) and “Rescue Me” and “Fighting” (from Circus Of Power) are nothing less than incredible.  That said, the group proved inconsistent in that for every mind blowing moment there was one reflecting a lack of maturity and focus.  The cheesy “Psalm 23” (perhaps the worst song in the history of Christian rock) and rap based “Flames Of Fire” (no, not a cover of the Leviticus classic), for example, cannot help but leave you scratching your head.

The same lack of constancy found its way onto Bless This Nation.  With its joining of hard rock, groove, funk and blues, the album – while quite the contrast to Sons Of Thunder – failed to hold up musically in that I ended up liking only four of its songs.  Hero, at the same time, maintained the penchant for the offbeat, reflected in the distracting narration found throughout Bless This Nation.

And this leads us to Immortal, a standout release which finds the artist “growing up” in that it showcases the maturity, consistency and musical depth Michael Hero hinted at in the past but could not quite deliver.  Gone are the bizarre “scratch your head moments” (you will find no rap vocals here) and cheesy narration; in its place we are offered ten quality songs – no filler – backed by front to back continuity.

Musically, Immortal heads in a heavier territory than Bless This Nation in combining touches of power metal and melodic metal with occasional Gothic overtones.  The albums symphonic title track and melodic sounds of “Blood Red Roses”, “Funeral Of Death” and “Gasoline” – all essential pieces – reflect this best.  “R.I.P.” features moments of the melodic and the extreme while “Rock The World” is an anthem-like rocker and “Punch In The Face” a well done semi-ballad.  

I have complained in the past about Michael Hero’s baritone vocal approach.  Well, folks, I am going to have to eat my words here because Michael performs flawlessly throughout the project.  It is obvious that the artist has worked extremely hard to refine and smooth out his approach.  The main difference this time is that Immortal, unlike Bless This Nation, is more of a guitar based album that better complements Michael’s style.  Still, on ballads such as “Imagine This” and “When November Falls”, when it is the artist backed by keyboards and/or acoustic guitar, he nails things perfectly.  (On a side note – and while we are on the subject – the lone complaint I have about Immortal is that it might have included one ballad too many).

Production values – featuring a balanced mix of rhythm guitar and vocals – also deliver the goods.  That said, the kick drum could have come across a bit cleaner in places.

The albums symphonic title track begins to a keyboard based introduction that gives way to a cascade of resounding riffs and double bass.  Briefly decelerating back to keyboards at the start of its first verse, “Immortal” quickly regains the momentum prior to powering ahead to its worshipful chorus:

Wooah!  Immortal
Wooah!  Immortal we are

A faint hint of female backing vocals adds an angelic touch.  Again, I might describe this as a metal worship song:

Take a look at the rainbow
How it’s rising in the sky
Take a look at the ocean
It’s a living proof of life

Death is not a dead end
And life, life is extended

“Blood Red Roses” delivers one of the albums strongest melodies.  With a piano decorating the backdrop, the song maneuvers its verses – ranging from the subdued to the guitar driven – prior to achieving a catchy chorus that almost borders on the commercial in capacity.  Yes, the hook here is that pronounced- as is the forward mix of rhythm guitar.  “Blood Red Roses” talks about the blood of Christ:

Like a thief or criminal
Was executed on that hill
Where the flowers grew white as snow

Blood red roses
It means death, but are bringers of life
Blood red roses
They are all covered by blood
Blood red roses, yeah

“R.I.P.” brings elements of the melodic and the extreme: melodic in terms of its gripping chorus – backed by smooth vocal harmonies – and extreme in terms of the “growled” vocals that occasionally make their presence felt.  A compelling contrast (that adds to the songs versatility) is established in the process.  “R.I.P.” is a song about the evil one:

You fooled me once, you fooled me twice
You’ve fooled me all my life
I realize, you’re a devil in disguise
I say to you, bye bye!

You’re calling me, calling me
I don’t want you any more, bye bye!

“Punch In The Face” presents with some interesting contrasts as well.  Best described as a semi-ballad, the song flows through its verses to a tranquil joining of piano and acoustic guitar, not gaining initiative until the rhythm guitar steps forward and leads the way to its resounding chorus.  Lead guitar and keyboards sustain its instrumental moments.  The message here revolves around being true to yourself:

The key to happiness, is the key to life itself
The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence
I am who I am, and you will never be like me
And you are who you are and I will
Never be like you

Don’t have to be no one else but me
Don’t have to be jealous, I am me

The ballad “Imagine This” proves a swarthy piece with its joining of keyboards, piano and orchestration.  Periodic traces of acoustic guitar and emotional guitar solo help lighten the atmosphere.  Very fine vocal performance from Michael Hero as well.  “Imagine This” is a song of faith:

If you are crying
Know there’s one more who’s crying
If you are broken
You’re not alone
If you feel like dying
Know there’s one more who’s dying
If you are screaming
You’re not alone
Imagine this

“Gasoline” represents as powerful a track as you will find.  As brazen guitars and pulsating drums lead the way, the song gradually builds intensity until breaking out for a chorus that has tenacious written all over it.  Heavy, melodic and tough as nails- this one brings everything that works well on Immortal.  The albums best stretch of lead guitar and heartfelt lyrics top things off:

I don’t need no tattoos
I got scars on my soul
I am pierced through my heart
It’s a bleeding wound

I am marked by my life
Like a tattoo on my skin
Been through hell and fire
I was lost and now I’m found

“Funeral Of Death” begins to a cinematic keyboard opening prior to a storm of rhythm guitar kicking in.  The song maintains the tempestuous fury as it moves ahead, placating somewhat for its verses – in which a piano highlights the backdrop – prior to picking up in pace for its refined chorus.  Another stretch of radiant lead guitar.  This one is aptly entitled:

No gravedigger dug no hole
They say he’s on the dole
No wet handkerchief
Cause there’s no one who grieves

No grave, no crypt, no tomb
Where sorrows an empty room
I heard no widow weeping
To no sermon no one sleeping

Oooh at the funeral of death

“When November Falls”, the albums second ballad, is upheld acoustically with accentuating traces of piano and orchestration.  Similar to “Imagine This” a very fine number, but two classic ballads in four songs can be a bit much for my taste.  I might have gone with another hard rocker instead.  Lyrically, “When November Falls” focuses on the “change of seasons”:

When November falls
And the rain is pouring down
Then I see no light
Cause the darkness calls
But the spring will come
And the light’s walking in
Then I feel alive
And the sun will rise again
Will rise again

The up-tempo “Rock The World” delivers the goods.  Anthem-like in capacity, this serves as an energetic piece with its lively impetus and non-stop hook of its chorus.  Near perfect production of rhythm guitar and lyrical direction in which the artist talks about sticking to his dream and mission:

As I grew up I’ve seen it over and over again
That no one really follows their heart
But I will stick to my dream and my mission
My visions changed but I’m still dreaming

Closing things out is “Immortal We Are (Outro)”, a short keyboard based instrumental.

The best way to summarize would be to state that Hero deserves full credit for the growth and maturity it displays on Immortal.  Gone are the gimmicky effects and narration; in their place we have ten well constructed songs backed by solid production values and musicianship.  If you were disappointed in Michael Hero’s previous efforts then by all means give this a chance.  You will not be disappointed.

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Immortal” (4:45), “Blood Red Roses” (4:48), “R.I.P.” (4:50), “Punch In The Face” (5:57), “Imagine This” (4:20), “Gasoline” (3:47), “Funeral Of Death” (5:45), “When November Falls” (3:57), “Rock The World” (3:43), “Immortal We Are (Outro)” (1:20)

Michael Hero – Guitars & Lead Vocals
Bjorn Sundstrom – Guitars
Mauritz Vetterud – Bass & Scream Vocals
Dannie Boy – Drums

Guest Musicians
Hilda Ruden - Vocals
Johan Adler – Keyboards & Growl Vocals
Marcus Lannfjall – Bass


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