Album: Love Don't Live Here
Label: Beatdown Hardwear Records
Pressing: First press, clear red & black marble /200
Lionheart have returned to the fold with their first album since 2012’s heavy hitting ‘Undisputed’. Four years is a long time in Hardcore, and this is also their fourth album - a feat many Hardcore bands don’t accomplish. So what has happened in the course of those four years?! Well, they weren’t entirely absent. They gave us an EP; 2014’s ‘Welcome To The West Coast’, and they toured extensively. The EP denoted a cleaner production, and a step in the direction of more steady paced, heavy hitting Hardcore anthems. New album ‘Love Don’t Live Here’ is a continuing progression of this style. Essentially, Lionheart have sonically trimmed all the fat, and tightened everything up about their music. The production is crystal clear, and you can hear absolutely everything. Kick drums are deep and well defined, snares snap, cymbals rattle, guitars crunch, and the vocals are rasped and growled with expert clarity. However, don’t mistake this cleanliness of production for a softening of style. This is Lionheart at their most uncensored, unashamed, unapologetic and unforgiving…
Lionheart continue to blend influences both historical and contemporary into their melting pot, creating a sound that stands firmly on the foundations of the Hardcore veterans, but showing that they have a knack for keeping their sound current. Cues are taken from Madball, Death Before Dishonour, Sworn Enemy and Born From Pain, fusing them with more modern acts such as Deez Nuts and even Desolated. Things chug low and hit hard, first track ‘Pain’ being a perfect example of this with it’s steady, simplistic, marching guitar riff throughout the verse before the heavy haymaker of a chorus. Oddly, their influences ring true the most through Rob Watson’s vocals rather than the musicianship. Watson has developed a middle ground of Freddie Cricien’s talent for weaving together well known phrasing and merged it with JJ Peters talent for using a Rappers lexicon. He has tried to make his own stamp on these styles, taking cues from Desolated/Stray From The Path by adding vocal sound effects throughout the album.
All of this is most evident on single ‘Keep Talkin’, an unrelenting barrage of double kick-drums and crunching powerful guitars. Lyrically, it's an unapologetic ‘Fuck you’ to any and all detractors of their work. As such, it isn’t particularly ‘deep’, something that Watson has held his hand up and admitted when discussing the album. However, you can recognise that every track on this album has been written with very specific goals in mind. It’s an album to take on tour; written to play live, ignite mosh pits, and for the cathartic release that comes from the ‘bedroom mosh’ after you have had a shitty day at your shitty job. The first time I heard the lyric in the breakdown “Stop swinging from my nuts” I cringed a little bit. But listen to that track after you’ve had a bad day - you will spit along to that song at the top of your voice with a smile on your face.
This street wise, heavy hitting attitude rears its head a couple of more times throughout the album on tracks ‘Bury Me’ ‘Still’ as well as the brash and metallic ‘Lockjaw’, but there is also some depth to the album. ‘Witness’, ‘Love Don’t Live Here’ and the fantastic ‘New Enemies’ all take a much darker tone. The latter has a steady two-stepping drum rhythm, rumbling bass and stabbing guitars, and is essentially a collection of bridges and breakdowns rolled into a vicious, snarling, proud admission of their roots - being born and raised in the gutters. The tracks are all relatively simple, but they are personal, cathartic and heartfelt. They close out the album with ‘Dead Wrong’, which is an antagonistic swipe at the music industry, in particular the business minded fraternity which leech of the creative talent they sign. It is crushing and metallic, having a vibe very reminiscent of Sworn Enemy, and with some fantastic guest vocals from Richard Matthews (Murderlicious). The closing track is ‘Going Back To The Bay’, a loud and proud outro that simultaneously celebrates Hardcore, their homeland, and fallen friends. A very fitting footnote…
Taken at face value, ‘Love Don’t Live Here’ is an album inspired by each members environment and past. It’s unapologetic ‘everyman’ Hardcore, and it’s as honest as it is crushing. That’s what makes Lionheart stand out, and to that end this album is definitely some of their better work. I personally miss the Lionheart that brutalized our ears in 2007 with ‘The Will To Survive’. It was so pissed off and uncompromising, it had an attitude that was undeniable. That attitude is still there in essence, I just don’t feel it packs as much of a punch when it is this well polished. I miss the ‘rough around the edges’ element. However, this is personal preference. Their evolution has been a steady trajectory, so if you have been with them since the early days, this is their logical next step and you won’t be disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed, it’s a great record. It may not change the face of Hardcore, and it may not challenge you intellectually. But it is honest, heavy hitting Hardcore and it manages to be both fun and cathartic, a rare skill in itself. It’s easy to listen to, and it craves to be played loud and live. And some days, that is enough from a Hardcore record. Vocalist Rob Watson perhaps sums up the whole thing better than I can “I write about shit that’s relevant to me, and I don’t try to be fancy about it either… End of story”