Medusas Head – Heartscore
Dirk Radloff is back yet again with his project of Heartscore, which is very much a project where the music is written on the staff before a note has been played hence the name he gave to his project. Medusas Head is his 9th studio album to date and 3rd album to feature Giacomo Rossi on vocals. One of the good things is that at least we have some newly written material this time around unlike the previous album he put out last year which was a remake of his 2002 debut album Sculptures.
According to Radloff Medusas Head is an album that runs along with the likes of bands such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Manowar and so on and that sort of melodic power or heavy metal he intended to make for this new album so to speak. I personally would not say this new album contains the metal power we saw on his previous albums Black Rider’s (Parts One & Two). However, I do feel that more of a rock or heavy rock approach that’s been given to the new material that fits more in line with Rossi’s voice and in some ways it may very well have been moulded or shaped that way intentionally.
One thing I will say is that Rossi’s rock voice is well suited here and to be perfectly honest since having him onboard over the last few years I’ve expected to see a rise in new listeners and in the popularity stakes. However, for some reason, things do appear to be on the decline and for the life of me, I cannot see why simply because I do feel that Heartscore is much stronger now with Rossi’s GREAT! voice and it’s the perfect accompaniment to Radloff’s music.
Radloff has always paid particular attention to the marketing side and the various ways of getting his music out there to a wider audience despite the more recent decline. Over the last year, one of the ways of trying to attract more attention is with the use of his Youtube channel in which he’s tried to keep things on the go by doing the odd video here and there on more of a regular basis.
There seems to be no end to his creativeness as you can see by this video he created on the spare of the moment using a new Moog Subharmonicon and DFam he purchased earlier this year.
“Self Optimization” is a far cry from anything Radloff does regarding his Heartscore project and is more of a modern-day pop song sort of thing. But nevertheless it shows just how creative he can be in any genre just as the many other videos he made on the spare of the moment with the use of the Moog Subharmonicon, DFAM vocals, guitar, violin and other percussion.
One of the other ways that Radloff is particular about marketing his music is in the formats he releases his albums. To be perfectly honest the way he can go about things often has me worried half the time simply because I don’t believe music should be for free especially when you have put a lot of time, effort and money into making it. So let’s now take a look at how he’s gone about putting this latest album out.
Packaging & Artwork…
The CD comes in a gatefold cardboard DigSleeve with a Die-Cut pocket to hold the CD in place. It does not come with a booklet or any additional information but it does contain all the lyrics to which have been printed on the inside of the gatefold sleeve. The linear notes and credits are printed on the back and overall it’s a very tidy and neat quality package.
I purchased my copy from Bandcamp for €9 plus €3.70 p+p making a total of €12.70. £11.37 here in the UK which is quite a bargain considering it was from Germany. Even more amazing is that it only took 2 days to arrive. and it has to be the fastest anything has arrived here from Germany.
The graphic design and layout were done by Radloff himself and the actual artwork was done by Atelier Sommerland who is a German Graphic designer and artist who mostly does work for Authors as seen in the publication below.
Although he has also done artwork for several album covers in the past and no doubt his work is quite eyecatching. I can see what Radloff saw in this artwork of his and it’s very well detailed. I quite like not only the album cover but the green colour layout which I feel works very well in a contrasting way.
In the past, Radloff as always perhaps gone a bit over the top in the way he puts out his music. For any artist who is not in the limelight or does not sell music in any great quantities, the Digital Download is the best and cheapest way of getting your music out there plus you’re not going to be left with copies cluttering up your garage if they do not sell as you would with a physical product.
However, physical media is an expensive game and unless you are selling your music in large quantities and are having 100 to 300 copies pressed. That is really the only viable way to keep the cost down and the more you have made the less expensive it will cost per unit.
In the past sometimes Radloff has shunned away from CD’s for this reason. However, he has tried his hand at almost all formats and even gone as far as Cassettes, Vinyl and even tried selling a Deluxe package that comes with a book besides. The one thing he is not bothered about is making a profit and to him getting his music out there is more important. Though it would be nice if he could break even every now and then though I honestly cannot see him doing that especially when it comes to having smaller amounts of CD’s and Vinyl pressed which is more of an expensive game.
You can purchase the album for €7 (Euro) or £5.96 (UK) and that is quite a respectable price and in my opinion perhaps the only format he should have used to release the album. The CD is priced at only a couple of Euro more at €9 (Euro) or £7.69 (UK). The very fact that he only had a short run of 25 pressed means that he will be lucky to make his money back.
Like he has done in the past with a couple of releases he is also intending to release a vinyl release though they will be extremely limited and only about 3 copies will be up for sale with him only having around 5 copies pressed. As you can imagine they will also be well expensive to purchase as well which means his chances of selling any are very slim.
Regarding making any sort of profit I think it’s plain to see that Radloff is fighting a losing battle but as I mentioned that is not important to him and what is more important is getting his music heard. The fact that his popularity is also on the decline does not really help and to be perfectly honest it should not be the case because his music speaks much better than that and should appeal to many. So let’s now take a look at the album and see how it all shapes up.
The Album In Review…
Medusas Head by Heartscore was released on the 1st of December 2021. The album itself contains 8 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 33 minutes, 47 seconds and is the shortest album in the Heartscore CAMP! Although I am pretty sure the reason for this was to fit it onto vinyl and even though I feel he could have squeezed in another track or two my guess is that the reason he stuck with 8 tracks was down to cost. However, shorter time slots like this I have no problem with and I prefer the old album time slot of 30 – 40 minutes as it was back in the 60’s and 70’s.
I am pretty sure that Radloff would have come up with the idea for the new album back in March earlier this year (it could have been sooner) and started writing the new material up until around September (or even October). I do know he originally intended it for a November release, but down to the delay on the physical media side of things, he decided to put the release date a month further down the line.
We’ve already seen what Radloff has been doing over the past few months so what of Giacomo Rossi? Well, he’s been a bit busy with his band P.O.E. (Philosophy Of Evil) and they put out a new single a couple of months back entitled “Bury A Pink Elephant” which is a bit of a mishmash of a cover and tribute to Billie Eilish (“Bury A Friend“) and the Disney movie Dumbo (“Pink Elephants On Parade“).
As you can see by the quality of the video this is a band that has not only studied the musical side of things but also the acting side with the THEATRICS! P.O.E. really are a GREAT! band and I highly recommend and suggest you check out their debut album Of Humanity And Other Odd Things. You can check out my review of the album here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2020/02/06/lee-speaks-about-music-142/
Medusas Head is an album that is built up of equal strength regarding the vocal and musical side of things and both Radloff and Rossi have their own techniques when it comes to delivering the power that is necessary to pull off an album such as this. It’s also an album that Radloff in particular makes heavy use of his Schecter KM-6 MK III electric guitar.
Radloff’s main instruments are violin and guitar and on this album, his violin has taken a back seat. More recently he has also taken up the drums but they are very much programmed on this album though he may have included a few of his own fills from his drum kit along the way.
Musicians & Credits…
All songs and lyrics were written, composed and arranged by Dirk Radloff. Recorded in Germany and Italy sometime between March – September 2021. Mixed & Mastered by Dirk Radloff. Cover Design by Dirk Radloff. Cover Art by Atelier Sommerland (Licensed with Shutterstock).
Dirk Radloff: All Instruments.
Giacomo Rossi: Vocals.
The Album Tracks In Review…
I am sure for those who have followed Radloff’s project of Heartscore over the years they will be well aware that has a rule he sets his music to the words of the 20th Century or even later American Poets such as the likes of Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, E.A. Robinson, Stephen Crane and so on. For this latest album, he’s decided to write his own lyrics and for the biggest majority of the songs, he’s sort of gone about injecting some of the evil that could be found in Crane’s poems.
To be perfectly honest I thought Stephen Crane’s poetry was well suited to the genre of Metal and they worked very well with Heartscore’s sixth and seventh albums Black Rider’s (Part One & Two). This is not the first time Radloff has written his own lyrics and back in 2009 he also penned the lyrics to his fourth studio album Touch Me.
However, Touch Me is an album that Radloff himself chooses not to feature in his own discography and tends to shun away from it. To be honest I have only ever heard a couple of tracks off it that he posted on Soundcloud a good few years ago and it did not appeal to me and it is the only album I do not have from his discography.
From what I can gather it’s more of a personal or sentimental album of love songs that he wrote for his other half and is more along the lines of pop music which is most likely why he shuns it away from his discography and he has done for some time now.
The lyrics Radloff has written for this latest album are a different kettle of fish. Although there are a couple of love songs amongst the album tracks the words are perhaps not as LOVEY-DOVEY! sort of thing. Most of the album is based on historical themes and one of the songs was also inspired by the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
It all sounds quite interesting and should give me something to talk about. So let’s now take a closer look at the album and see how it all turns out as I take you through all 8 tracks.
Track 1. Medusa’s Head.
The album kicks off with its self-titled album track and it’s certainly off to a well good rocking start. It’s very much a metal driven stomping song that’s structured around a metal guitar riff and Radloff’s own description of it being resounding to bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Manowar I would go along with and it’s quite a powerful track and GREAT! way to open up the album.
The title and lyrical content are based on Greek mythology and Medusa also known as “Gorgo” was one of the three monstrous Gorgons, generally described as winged human females with living venomous snakes in place of hair. It’s said that the slayer of monsters Perseus chopped off Medusa’s head and used it as a weapon to turn people to stone until he gave it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield. Looking at Radloff’s lyrics I would say that he’s put them very well into context to the mythical story and Rossi has the right VENOM! to deliver the words.
Radloff put together quite a good video of the song way back in April this year and made a single release of it. Although personally I would have waited much later and put it out more near the release of the album in a way of promoting it.
I have to admit singles are not really my bag and when I look at how Abba released their last couple of singles from their new album on vinyl with no B-Sides. I would honestly say it was a waste of vinyl and those who brought it were well ripped off.
“Medusas Head” if anything is a song that is short, razor-sharp and straight to the point over its 3 minutes. It’s perhaps not the song I would have chosen for a single release but I do feel it fits into that niche market as well. It has a nice little guitar solo and along with Rossi’s voice, those elements give it that rock presence that works particularly well with its metal rhythm.
Track 2. King George Will Fall.
Judging by the lyrical content of this next song it appears that Radloff as quite a bit of fetish regarding decapitation and to be honest although there are many George’s in the English Royal Monarchy I have no idea which one he is referring to here. Mind you having collaborated with him in the past I know that he likes a good bit of horror and GORE! like myself and these lyrics certainly have that.
Musically this gives Rossi a chance to stretch his vocal cords especially in the chorus which is in the higher screaming regions. The very TASTY! lead break puts me in mind of Rainbow with songs like “The Gates Of Babylon” whilst the rhythm is also very interesting with how it drives the song along and it’s like a car engine that switches gear every now and then.
Track 3. How I Should Make Love To You.
Next up we have the first of a couple of love songs and although this has more of a commercial rock sound about it, it is one of my personal favourite tracks on the album. I also think this song would have been the better choice for the single release from the album simply because it has more of a hook to it. To be perfectly honest I am not usually one for commercial sounding rock songs but this is one of the better ones methinks.
It’s a song where the vocal line makes up part of its melodic structure and besides its rhythmic chord structure on the guitar, the bass plays a pivotal part of driving it along and its as if its spring-loaded or the strings are made of rubber with how it reverberates and pulsates its way along.
I don’t know what it is about this song but for some reason it has me thinking of the chorus of Black Sabbath’s “Megalomania” and Judas Priest’s “Better By You, Better Than Me” even though its nothing remotely like those two songs. Whatever it is it certainly jointly merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! for my liking and is a really GREAT! song and well worth checking out.
Track 4. Geronimo.
This is perhaps the oddball track on the album however I am certainly not complaining and I like a bit of history from the wild west and especially regarding how in reality the Cowboys were the bad guys for stealing the land from the Red Indians. One of my personal favourite songs on the subject appeared on Elton John’s Madman Across The Water album back in 1971 with a song entitled “Indian Sunset” and his lyric writer Bernie Taupin loved to write about the wild west.
However, perhaps one of the most prolific composers of western theme music for movies was without doubt Ennio Morricone and has he only passed away last year Radloff thought he would pay homage to him by including this song in a way of a tribute to the GREAT! man.
The musical structure of this song is quite simple and with the drumbeat and the single downstrokes played on the acoustic guitar it puts me in mind of the opening of “Apache” by The Shadows minus the lead guitar. What makes this song work so well is the lyrical story and the way that Rossi expresses the vocal line which is taking on the lead role and I quite like it.
Track 5. Kill All The Danes.
The lyrical content behind this next song is about a little known event in English history known as the St Brice’s Day massacre. It happened during the reign of King Aethelred back in the 11th Century a king who was given the nickname of Aethelred the Unready (or ill-advised). The actual event of the massacre took place on the 13th of November 1002 and was brought on by the repeated Viking raids that had savaged the lands of England since the first attack in 792AD.
Although little was known about the event it is quite a significant event and it was on that day that King Aethelred had basically had enough and decided to massacre all the Danes to put an end to it all. Nobody is sure how many Danes perished in the St Brice’s Day massacre. However, it is clear that Gunhilde, the sister of the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard perished in the attack.
To accompany the event Radloff has come up with a very powerful song that thunders its way along at quite a pace with hammering power chords of metallic structure, hard-hit marching drums and he even unleashes a razor-sharp attack lead break that bursts into the action. The adrenalin is quite high here and Rossi really delivers the song with his GREAT! voice.
To be honest when looking at the lyrics without listening to the song they look as if they were written from a book and it’s like reading a book or an article in a newspaper. It’s not until you hear Rossi deliver them that you get to see that they were put into context to make the song we have here.
Track 6. Bodo League.
The adrenalin is still pumping and this next song has quite a catchy chorus that’s perhaps almost sung in the way of an anthem, it even has me singing along to it. Although this is a league that you would not want to join or support unless you are some sort of masochist that is. Once again the subject matter that Radloff has chosen for the lyrical content is about another massacre and one that was on much of a bigger scale and took place at a different time back in 1950 during the Korean war.
The Bodo League was a group of activists that was set out to fight against Communism and was set up by South Korean President Syngman Rhee who organised a National Rehabilitation and Guidance League to try and re-educate people. Though his methods of rehabilitation turned out to be quite barbaric which resulted in him and a few other cronies from Japan and America executing the alleged communist prisoners, along with many of the Bodo League members. It’s estimated that 60,000 – 200,000 people were killed including women and children.
The “Bodo League” is a very powerful song and although it’s being delivered like an anthem or even in the sense of black comedy to fit in with the metal genre. It’s also there to remind us about such tragic historical events and how such evil still exists today. Much of the words here are very well put into context and they depict some of the truth that went behind the scenes that they tried to hide. Most of the truth has come out and many of those responsible were done for war crimes.
Track 7. Greta.
The shortest track on the album is quite a bouncy and heavy metal chugging little number that was inspired by the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Thunberg caused quite a stir in her youth about the need to take heed of climate change and appeared on many International news channels in 2019 voicing her concern for the planet. Her sudden rise to world fame made her both a leader in the activist community and a target for critics, especially due to her youth. She received numerous honours and awards, including an honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.
She was included in the Times 100 most influential people, being the youngest Time Person of the Year, and also included in the Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women (2019), and nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, 2020, and 2021.
It’s very much a song that hammers itself along at quite a fast pace and Rossi delivers the words with quite an attitude that is perhaps along the lines of punk Rock and well apt to it all. For such a short song it has a lot to say and no doubt Radloff has done very well with the lyrics and got straight to the point with how he’s put them into context.
The world is sinking deep and deeper
The climate’s still waiting for a keeper
Greta points to the human stain, but all her attempts are in vain
The thing is with many protests (including songs) such as this, is that it really is all in vain as the lyrics point out above in the song’s chorus. Both Radloff and Rossi have done quite a STELLA! job on this one and it really is a GREAT! song that has RAW POWER!
Track 8. Your Tell-Tale Eyes.
The final song happens to be the longest track and the second love song on the album. Though I will say this is more of a PROGMATIC! affair or treat and strangely enough just like the other love song it jointly merits the TOP SPOT AWARD! It’s very much a powerful ballad that gives Rossi the chance for some of the sweeter refinements of his voice to reflect. Being both acoustic and electric it also has the power for him to raise the game as well.
Personally, for me, this is more of a welcoming return to PROG! from Radloff and he really has well crafted the music here. The one thing I have always loved about the acoustic is when it’s utilised with a fine melody line and oddly enough this one reminds me of the last collaborative song I ever did with Radloff entitled “In Love With A Rotting Corpse“.
Besides the acoustic side of the song, it also has the power to rock and the electric guitar is not only utilised very well for the powerful rhythm section but he also incorporates a very TASTY! lead break into the song. This video shows you, Radloff, demonstrating the lead break on his Schecter KM-6 MK III.
The guitar solo as you can see from the video is far from anything easy and has been very well structured and the video really captures his fingers doing the business. “Your Tell-Tale Eyes” is truly a great GREAT! album track and the perfect way to wrap up what can only be a very good album indeed.
Summary & Conclusion…
To sum up and conclude my review of Medusas Head by Heartscore. I would say as an album it has the power to deliver and it’s a very well put together bunch of songs that make it up. The material is quite strong and even though it’s leaning towards the metal genre personally it comes across to me as more of a heavy rock album which is more suited to Giacomo Rossi’s voice. It is also an album that has a certain amount of variety too and that works very well and so too does the track placement in making it feel like a good album that one can put on and enjoy.
Looking at some of the subject matter that Dirk Radloff chose to write about. It would not surprise me if some of the inspiration to write about historical massacres came from Gordon Midgley of Napier’s Bones. Especially from the bands 6th album The Fields that was released earlier this year. Though I will say considering Radloff does not as a rule write lyrics he’s done a very good job of them and put them well into context. But then again he as always came across to me as a person who is very well educated and quite intelligent.
I personally don’t think Medusas Head offers anything new on the musical side of things but if like myself you are into metal and heavy rock and are into bands like Judas Priest, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and many more GREAT! rock bands. This is very much an album that should appeal to your taste and is quite a solid body of work. It’s also been very well produced and is an album I would certainly recommend and my personal highlights from it are as follows: “Your Tell-Tale Eyes“. “How I Should Make Love To You“. and “Medusas Head“.
You can listen to Medusas Head for free or purchase the album from Bandcamp from the following link: https://heartscore.bandcamp.com/
Get It On & Rock It Out…
The album tracklisting is as follows:
01. Medusas Head. 3:06.
02. King George Will Fall. 4:35.
03. How I Should Make Love To You. 5:46.
04. Geronimo. 4:01.
05. Kill All The Danes. 4:18.
06. Bodo League. 3:15.
07. Greta. 2:25.
08. Your Tell-Tale Eyes. 6:21.
2 thoughts on “Lee Speaks About Music… #198”
I agree very much, that Giacomo is the perfect choice for my actual style of music. I would not say, that the popularity of Heartscore is declining since Giacomo joined, it’s more a stagnation 🙂 however I hope, that I can reach one or two listeners more with this new album, because I think it might be the most accessible I have ever made. The lyrics are printed on the inside of the Digisleeve, because I wanted to save the costs for a booklet. Good, that I have not written one sentence more, because it was hard to squeeze all lyrics in. Regarding the artwork I am also happy with my selection and design-work. In the past I made some big mistakes with artworks, just think on my self-painted pinkish artwork for „Straight to the brain“. Nobody would presume, that it is a progressive rock album. You are totally right, that the album length was influenced by the thought on a vinyl-edition and also the song-order is influenced by it. The tracks are selected and grouped as an A and B side with „Geronimo“ being the last track on Side A.
„King George“ is really not referring to one particular King George, I just imagined an attack of riders to fit with the galloping rhythm of the guitars. In my opinion „How I should make love to you“ does not sound like Metal, but more like Hard Rock. It reminds me more on Led Zeppelin and AC/DC than Judas Priest and that was the reason not to feature it as the single, because I felt, that it would not be a good representation of the album as a whole. But I am glad, that it gets your TOP SPOT AWARD! „Geronimo“ means indeed a sidestep from the Metal-approach. I would not call myself the biggest fan of Morricone, but I really love his classic work with Sergio Leone and the boyfriend of my sister is his biggest fan, so I was affected by his death.
The lyrics of the next two songs „Kill all the Danes“ and „Bodo League“ were inspired by Wikipedia-articles. Sometimes I like to read articles there and jump from one historical event to another. And every time I read about historic facts and events in Wikipedia I think, that the reality is much more brutal than any horror-movie I have ever seen. „Greta„ is my homage to Greta Thunberg and the foreseeable climate-crisis. This song is another side-step, because it enters the Thrash-Metal area of bands like early Metallica or Megadeth with the typical „chugging“ guitars and the final „Your tell-tale eyes“ is reflecting the decay of a relationship surrounded by contemporary problems and you are right again, that this is the only song, which contains some Prog-Rock. It looks back on the early Heartscore. I admire your good ears, because you have recognized the connection to our last collaboration „In love with a rotting corpse“. I have used the same chord-structure and picking-pattern there for the verse.
Thanks again for this meticulous review, which let me reflect agin about my own work.
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Regarding the decline that is really down to how things were up with both Heartscore (2016) and Black Riders (Part 1) (2018) and I honestly believed things would be even more on the up since Giacomo came onboard in 2019 for Black Riders (Part 2). By rights, they should be up and attracting way more listeners in my opinion and it’s unfortunate it’s not the case. He is, without doubt, the best thing that has happened to Heartscore.
Regarding the best song to use for the single, I would always go for the one with the best hook to draw people in it does not matter even if it’s a pop song but quite often those are the kind of songs that make people buy albums in the first place. Even though I am an albums man I have brought tons of albums in the past by hearing the single on the radio first.
I don’t know if you saw Sting a few weeks back being interviewed by Rick Beato. But he purposely wrote songs like that to attract people to his albums even if the rest of the songs on the album were nothing like it and it always worked for him. He has a word for them as well but I cannot remember what it was.
By the way, the very first part of the intro on the acoustic that you play on “Your Tell-Tale Eyes” which is not part of the Rotting Corpse melody is one of those that would be very difficult to play right all the time and I have heard many of those on albums where they do not play live either because of how difficult it is to get right all the time.