Back in 2019, I reviewed Lionheart’s “Valley Of Death” album.
The last line was this: “A stunning collection, this isn’t so much an album as 24 minutes 40 seconds of brutal catharsis.” That was 2019. It makes 2022 look like a walk in the park. Imagine how pissed off this thing is!
“Life is a death sentence. No one ever makes it out of this…..” There’s your answer. That’s the chorus on “Death Comes In Threes” and is an insight into the world of brutality here.
“Welcome to The West Coast III” begins with Rob Watson yelling “oh shit, back again!” It’s unclear whether this is an exclamation of surprise or a threat. Maybe both.
Lionheart’s music comes from a place (both literally and metaphorically) that I don’t empathise with, which I am glad about. My life is not “Hell On Earth” I’m not in the trenches on a daily basis. But my goodness I can recognise and engage with the anger, the rage and the nihilism.
Unremittingly heavy – think a more muscular Madball or Terror if they’d discovered thrash earlier – this gets you by the throat and keeps its foot there. The grooves are huge, the special guests match. Jamey Jasta has already been on “…3s” and reappears with Ice-T for “Live By The Gun”, which comes with a warning: “hungry dogs bite back.”
These songs (and I use the word in the more liberal sense) just keep coming, bringing their beatdown. There’s a lead break on “Cold Water Farewell” but only so the breakdown after hits harder.
You could enjoy these as a pure visceral rage, but the whole package is more important, surely. This is for the people that have been left behind, the people that don’t give a shit whether Elon Musk is running Twitter into the ground. They are just trying to get through a day without dying. But as “Stories From The Gutter Pt II” points out, this world is “bringing terror to your living room”, before it rather plaintively adds: “you can call the police but they ain’t even showing up.”
Richard Mathews’ bass groove on “New Money. Old Pain” hits hard. Like a gut punch, “Deathbed Confession” continues the vibe and is truly nightmarish. The loud/quiet dynamic it does somehow makes it more unsettling, and actually “unsettling” is a good word for all of it, but “At War With The Gods” is just another one that even if it descends down a terrifying rabbit hole (“blood on my wall with a suicide note”) is compelling.
“Bonnie And Clyde 05” is another where the drumming of Jay Scott stands out. The whole band is on top form but he’s the MVP. He makes this album thunder. He makes it the maelstrom of stoicism that it is. It has a unbreakable bond too, “it was always me and you from the start” offers Norman, and the brotherhood is important.
The starkly brutal “Exit Wounds” (which features a guest slot from Malevolence) deals with depression in an incredible way: “I facing my demons and this time I am letting them in” it goes before it seems to succumb to them, before the gang vocals scream “life is hell, so this must be heaven”. It’s fitting, perhaps that there is nothing even close to a happy ending to the trilogy.
Listening to this album on Spotify as I am, it’s noticeable that the tracks are formatted in capital letters, as if even here they are screaming at you to listen, to understand, to feel the pain. You do. Throughout. If the last one was catharsis, then I am not sure what “Welcome To The West Coast III” is. Painful, brutal, scary? Like the life it reflects, maybe?
File under uneasy listening, but do not ignore.