By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
HEAVEN’S EDGE – HEAVEN’S EDGE (1990)
I’ve come to realize that despite being a proud child of the 80’s metal years, there are a number of bands that I completely missed out on. While that sometimes meant I might’ve heard of the band and never listened to them, there are other instances where I can’t rightly recall ever so much as hearing the band’s name before. Obviously that also means I’ve never listened to their music either.
Such is the case with the band Heaven’s Edge. The Philadelphia based rockers are a band that was a total mystery to me before I got around to listening to their self-titled debut album for this article.
After finishing the album, I can only say that I’m more than a little saddened to have missed out on them back in the day. While the album isn’t perfect, there is a surprising amount of vim and vigor to the material on the album.
Admittedly, the album started off a bit slow with the “Intro” track which was a total waste of time. However, once the REAL songs started I was rather hooked into the band’s sound. The combination of aggressively fast, yet quite real sense of melodic immediacy from the band (particularly the blazing guitar work) and the vocals from singer Mark Evans made it seem that Heaven’s Edge had everything going for it, musically speaking.
The first side of the album was lively and energetically paced. The song “Play Dirty” was quite memorable from the first note to the last. It moved quite fast and the guitar work helped elevate the song. There’s a great rhythmic vibe to the vocal performance from Evans on “Skin To Skin”, which is probably the best known song for the band. It was their big video song when this album was released.
While the band’s lyrics might not make it into the songwriting hall of fame, I have to say that for the time, they were pretty well crafted. You could find the typical girls, guitars, sex and fun type of lyrics but they also had a couple of songs that felt as if the lyrics went deeper.
As I wrote that, however, I was also thinking of the song “Up Against The Wall” which was a bit more problematic for me. While the chorus of the song is rather weak, the main lyrical verses are both strong and a bit of a freakout for me. The music is great, but those lyrical verses are troubling as they seem to hint at some sort of a sexual situation with someone below statutory limits. It might not have been so troubling back in 1990 given the popularity of songs like Winger’s “Seventeen” and others of that ilk, but these days such blatant lyrics do tend to give one pause. Of course, I could be reading more into it than was ever intended by the songwriters (Evans and guitarist Reggie Wu wrote the majority of the songs for this album), but I read the lyrics in the liner notes as the songs played, so again I say that the lyrical content was somewhat troubling.
The power ballad “Hold On To Tonight” was fine for what it was, but the only thing that really held my interest was the guitar solo in the middle of the song. Side One closes out with a completely balls out rocker called “Can’t Catch Me” that leaves the listener breathless in anticipation for flipping over the cassette and starting on Side Two.
Unfortunately, the tempo changes in the opening song on the second half of the album, “Bad Reputation” made the track come off as a little too overly dramatic and over the top for my tastes.
There’s a slightly more gritty feel to the rocker “Daddy’s Little Girl”. The lyrics also serve as a cautionary tale, which is part of that deeper feel to the lyrics I mentioned previously.
Strangely enough for a debut album, one of the songs was actually a live recording from a club show the band did in Philadelphia. The track is called “Is That All You Want?” and it opens with a far more bluesy sound in the intro before the song explodes into more of a full on rocker. I’m not sure how popular the band was on a local level back in 1989 when the live track was recorded, but they must’ve had some kind of loyal following because during the live recording you can hear the audience singing along quite loudly to the chorus of the song.
The multiple tempo changes within a single song format comes back on “Come Play The Game”. It starts out with an anthemic vocal delivery before the more balladry driven singing during the opening portion of the lyrics. The gas pedal is then pushed to the floor later in the song.
By the time the eminently rocking “Don’t Stop, Don’t Go” brought the Heaven’s Edge album to a rousing finish, I was convinced that, despite missing out on the majority of metal’s golden years, Heaven’s Edge had a real solid grasp on how to craft decent songs (my qualms about “Up Against The Wall” notwithstanding) and could also turn in top notch performances in the studio with the material.
As always when I find out I missed the boat on an act or an album, I’m a bit upset with myself. But Heaven’s Edge sure was the real deal on their debut album and while they might not have gotten the golden ticket for multiplatinum success, this is a band and album that should not be forgotten.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The band only released one other album, 1999’s Some Other Place, Some Other Time. Both albums were produced by Neil Kernon who has worked with everyone from Neil Diamond to Queensryche to Cannibal Corpse and any number of rock, pop, metal and jazz acts in between. Rock Candy Records reissued Heaven’s Edge in 2010 with 3 bonus tracks.
While they did break up, the original lineup of Heaven’s Edge has gotten back together for occasional shows since 2013.