The Edge Of Times – Heartscore
For the past four years and around the last couple of months of the year, we have seen a new release from Dirk Radloff’s project Heartscore and sure enough, things followed suit at the end of last year. The Edge Of Times is the 9th studio album to appear in the Heartscore discography and the 4th album to feature Giacomo Rossi on vocals. It’s very much Rossi’s powerful voice that has very much put the harder edge into Radloff’s music and steered it along with more of a METAL! aspect in relation to the PROGMATIC! side of things that was applied to his earlier albums such as Straight To The Brain and Many Directions. Being more of a PROGHEAD! myself, those particular albums are the ones that still appeal to me the most though I’ve always been partial to rock and the heavier side of rock music.
Having Rossi onboard puts me in mind of when Ritchie Blackmore had Ronnie James Dio onboard with him for the first three Rainbow albums. It was also Dio’s voice that gave the harder edge to Blackmore’s music something that I felt that was truly missed when he left the band. The good thing is that Rossi is still around for a fourth Heartscore album and even though Radloff’s music is more influenced by Heavy and Thrash Metal these days his voice fits perfectly with his project.
Like the previous album, Medusas Head Radlloff chose to write his own lyrics for the new set of songs rather than go along with his previous format of using the words from latter-day American poets such as the likes of Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, E.A. Robinson, Stephen Crane for example. To be perfectly honest since having Rossi on board I would have expected it to attract more interest to the music of Heartscore and that album I certainly felt delivered the goods. Though I will say these days the popularity tends to be waning although it’s always going to be difficult to get your music about without going out there and performing it live. It’s also a challenge when you take in the vast amount of music that is out there.
The latest album The Edge Of Times has more of a straightforward heavy rock/metal approach however whether it will gather more attention and listeners to the Haertscore camp remains to be seen. But before I dig any deeper into the album let’s take a look at how it arrives.
The Packaging & Artwork…
The album is more or less geared up as a Digital Download however there is a physical CD release of the album though it is extremely LIMITED! and only 25 copies have been made available. As you can see by my copy above it comes very neatly presented in a 3-panel cardboard Digisleeve/Digifile with a Die-Cut pocket to hold the disc firmly in place. Although it does not come with a booklet or any informative information, the inside panels of the sleeve have been very well utilised to contain all the lyrics and the usual liner/credit notes are printed on the back. Both the CD and Digital Download can be obtained on Bandcamp priced at €12 (Euro) and €7 (Euro) respectively from the link right here: https://heartscore.bandcamp.com/album/the-edge-of-times
The artwork and design for the CD of the album were done by Radloff himself with the use of a photograph that was snapped through the use of a space telescope that was created by James Webb and launched into space via NASA. One of the galaxies Webb saw emerged from a fledgling universe, only 235 million years after the Big Bang, making it the oldest galaxy we’ve ever laid eyes on.
The background colouring of the image puts me in mind of John Martyn’s 7th studio album Inside Out, it also has me thinking along the lines of Deep Purple’s 5th studio album Fireball and there is obviously something explosive going on here. However, this was not the first idea that Radloff had in mind for the album’s title and artwork as you can see from the picture below.
To be perfectly honest I actually prefer his original idea and the title of Highway Killer and the artwork puts me more in mind with Judas Priest. Though it may have been too close on that score which is most likely why he decided to change it. It may also have been down to the chap on the bike having more of a Godly characteristic about his face and being more like a gentle giant in relation to somebody who is going to mow you down, so I guess he made the right decision in the end.
The Album In Review…
The Edge Of Times by Heartscore was released on the 15th of December 2022. The album comes with a total of 10 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 34 minutes and 44 seconds which is perhaps more fitting for vinyl purposes and also a very comfortable timeslot for one to easily digest. Though I do have to admit that much of the material on the album took me a couple of spins to get more accustomed to it and for it to sink in a bit more. To be honest I was quite surprised, especially seeing how the material is made up of short tracks with not even one of the songs on the album clocking in at 5 minutes so to speak.
All the material Radloff wrote this year and as with all material he writes, it’s very much written on the musical staff first before he’s played a note hence the name of his project being called Heartscore. I guess he started work on the material more or less in the spring of this year and it was in May that he released this single release from the album to perhaps showcase or give you an example of what was to come.
Looking at the cover art that final hug was some hug and perhaps squeezed the life out of that person though he’s a bit like myself on that score and likes the dark sinister or the shock horror side of things and it fits in well with the metal genre that is associated with his music. There is actually a lot more to the lyrical content behind “The Final Hug” which I will reveal later on in the track section of my review.
For the latter part of the year, he must have been extremely busy with other things and working on the rest of the album as his Youtube channel does appear to have taken a back seat more recently. As a norm, he generally liked to keep it flowing with some of the other projects he works on such as Led Zeppelin covers and other sorts. Speaking of sorts it appears that “Shorts” are becoming the IN-THING! on the Tube these days and it was indeed a short clip that he put out last back in August.
As a musician, Radloff is quite an accomplished violinist and guitarist and has studied music right from the offset in that it is written first on the musical stave. He is also a very good arranger as you can hear for yourself in this string quartet arrangement of “Voice Of The Soul” by the death metal band Death that featured on the bands 1998 final album The Sound of Perseverance.
Things are not moving that much quicker with the other band Rossi is part of either and since the release of Philosophy Of Evil’s debut album Of Humanity And Other Odd Things back in 2019, no new material has surfaced. Granted they have released an acoustic version of one of the album tracks from their debut album and a cover song was put out last year. This year they are back with another cover song and what’s even more confusing is that Rossi is not even on it.
The bands latest video premiered on the 23rd of December and is a cover of “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” from the Tim Burton movie The Nightmare Before Christmas which was penned by Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara and Paul Reubens. Taking care of the lead vocal duties is Vanessa Saliman and the bands bass player Francis Gebirge also contributes vocals to the song.
As you can see they have totally ROCKED! up their version of the song and not only did a TOP JOB! on the song but also with the video, it also fits in with the name of the band as well. I am pretty sure that it might be the case that Rossi was not required for this particular song rather than him no longer being part of the band. However, I do think it’s about time they wrote some new material of their own and put out another album.
Just as much as Rossi’s voice fits in with P.O.E. it also does the same job for Radloff’s music and musically they both have that metallic structure that provides the right amount of power for Rossi’s voice to fit in comfortably.
Musicians & Credits…
All songs and lyrics were written, composed and arranged by Dirk Radloff. Recorded in Germany and Italy sometime between March – November 2022. Mixed & Mastered by Dirk Radloff. Cover Design & layout by Dirk Radloff. Space Telescope Photograph by James Webb.
Dirk Radloff: All Instruments.
Giacomo Rossi: Vocals.
The Album Tracks In Review…
The Edge Of Times is very much an album that is stripped back musically to the basic elements that are required for rock music such as guitar, bass and drums and no other instrumentation has been used. Although it mentions in the credits that all instruments are credited to Radloff the drums are pretty much programmed. I expect some of the bass lines may also be programmed and even though he does play drums and bass he’s perhaps not an accomplished player of those particular instruments as he is with the guitar and violin. To be perfectly honest I am pretty sure the bass was hardly utilised at all on this album and to what extent it has been used I certainly don’t hear any bass lines that stand out as I have done with previous albums of his in the past.
If anything the album is more metal guitar riff based with the odd burst of lead guitar now and then and is more like a collection of rock songs in relation to there being any concept behind it and it tackles different subject matter regarding the lyrical content. It’s perhaps more along the lines of commercial 80’s rock music so let’s now dive into it and take a closer look and see how it all pans out.
Track 1. The Final Hug.
The album kicks off in GREAT! style and this song pretty much follows the same suit as the previous album in that musically it is not only power chord driven but contains a bit of a blistering lead break on the guitar. One of the key points I picked up regarding the subject matter behind the lyrical content is that although Radloff wrote the lyrics he’s still gone back to latter-day American history to source the material only instead of the poet society he’s now turned his attention to serial killers. To be honest I am not sure he is actually aware of it but it does look as if this period of American history fascinates him enough to take a particular interest in it.
The serial killer in question here is Jane Toppan perhaps better known by her nickname of “Jolly Jane” who used to give her victims a final hug before administering them a lethal injection. She worked as a nurse from around 1885 to 1902 and her victims consisted of her patients and their family members. Although she confessed to 31 murders only 12 were ever confirmed and she spent the rest of he life in a lunatic asylum even though she claimed she knew what she was doing she was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
To coincide with the single release back in May Radloff also made an animated video presentation of the song that was released at the same time. I personally feel that “The Final Hug” is the standout track on the album and should appeal to most listeners’ tastes, it’s also my personal favourite track on the album and merits the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 2. Highway Killer.
This is a track that really motors along at a heavy speed much faster than the robber of the highway Dick Turpin and more like the killing machine that Judas Priest would have preferred to use along the highway. There have been many serial killers on the highways and freeways over the years and I am not really sure if Radloff’s inspiration for the lyrics came from one of those. They may have been inspired by a movie or even a song and there have been enough of them put out over the years too.
It’s a song that is straight to the point and wastes no time in putting it all across with its blistering pace. In some respects, it is perhaps too familiar with the commercial rock/metal that Priest was churning out in the early 80’s or even late 70’s for that matter with that particular band. As with most songs Giacomo Rossi handles the vocal side of things with ease and I quite like the way his voice ends off this song which has me thinking more along the lines of the opening of “Highway Star” by Deep Purple.
Track 3. The Coastline.
This next song actually starts off with the bass and is perhaps one of the songs where the bass is actually utilised to my ears I would also say that it is not programmed either and played though I could be wrong. Musically the song is driven along like a march into battle sort of thing only instead of marching into battle they are fleeing from it though quite often is the case that their road to freedom can also be their demise as far as the subject matter behind the lyrical content is concerned.
“The Coastline” is a song that tackles or criticises the refugees-policy of the European Union and even right now in this very day in my own country, it is being closely watched to control the number of illegal immigrants and refugees that flee countries to their so-called promised land so to speak. Radloff’s lyrics are quite often short but always straight to the point as they are here, I think he may have also given a little nod to Brian May with the TASTY! lead break too.
Track 4. Spit It Out.
Next up we have the shortest track on the album at 2 minutes and 37 seconds, there are hardly any lyrics at all to this song and they are perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, though Rossi has no problem spitting the words out so to speak. The song is upbeat from the off and has quite a bounce to it, musically it perhaps says more than the actual words though you can’t help but notice them, it also contains another short BLISTERING! lead break and it sort of puts me in mind of something Alice Cooper would do though I am sure he would have written more lyrics.
Track 5. My Name Is Nobody.
It’s time to get on your Trojan horse and ROCK! things out a bit more and musically this song has a Rainbow feel about it and has the same sort of drive and adrenalin as songs such as “Man On The Silver Mountain” and “Kill The King“. The title of the song put me in mind of the spaghetti western film of the same title starring Terence Hill and Henry Fonda, the music to that film was also scored by Ennio Morricone who Radloff has been inspired by in the past although it does appear that he’s gone down the road of Greek Mythology to come up with the subject matter behind the lyrical content we have here.
Like Ronnie James Dio and other rock singers who can belt it out, Rossi’s voice has all the right attributes and requirements to deliver the goods here and this song has to be a very strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 6. Stay In The Dark.
The metal engine is still well-oiled and firing on all cylinders for this song and the crunching metallic grinding riff we have here puts me in mind of the Jake E Lee period when he played for Ozzy Osbourne on albums such as Bark At The Moon and Ultimate Sin albums. To be honest I am not sure what the inspiration was behind the lyrical content but it has the same dark evil presence that fits in with Osbourne’s music and could pertain to vampires, or some evil crime along the lines of Jack The Ripper, Jekyll & Hyde sort of thing and this is another of the better songs on the album and another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!
Track 7. Expendable Civilians.
This is perhaps the KILLER! track on the album and the lyrical content spares no mercy in that regard as often in war everyone is expendable including your grandmother and although “The Evil That Men Do” by Iron Maiden springs to mind it is only the evil pretence that bares any relation and not that particular song. The lyrical content we have here is perhaps more common with Rap and the way the words are delivered is perhaps something more along the lines of the Beastie Boys or rap artists in the way that the words are answering back. To put it in a nutshell the words are some serious well offensive heavy shit that would not sit very well with your grandmother so to speak.
Musically this song has a very powerful solid technical structure, that much so that it might even make that Iron Maiden song seems like a doddle to play in some respects. It’s also another song where the bass is utilised and it perhaps plays more of a role in this song however it is the guitar structure that impresses me the most particularly with how the chords change shape the lead lines are quite TASTY!
This could easily be my favourite track on the album down to how it is structured you really do get the sense of war here and not only is it marching along but the guitars are like heavy machine guns pumping out bullets. It has to be another strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT! and is well worthy of giving it a BLAST!
Track 8. It’s Raining Insects.
Another song that motors its way along and this is like an express train, it also must have been extremely difficult and quite a challenge to get all of the words out properly with how it is sung at this high speed, I have to say that Rossi does exceptionally well and does not miss a single word. The song’s title could easily be associated with climate change however the subject matter behind these lyrics is a product known as Glyphosate that the chemist Monsanto brought to market for agricultural use back in the early seventies that farmers quickly adopted for agricultural weed control.
Monsanto’s product “Roundup” was widely used in the United States and was sold in boxes that look like washing powder only it’s a weed killer and like all herbicides and insecticides, there is a certain amount of risk and effectively can be harmful to not only animals but humans. In 2018 the German company Bayer acquired the product which is now mostly sold in the form of a spray. Glyphosate is still used worldwide today even though it was meant to be phased out, in some countries such as France it’s banned because of its high risk of cancer.
As with many products that are put onto the market safety measures are not always met and the dollar will always take preference before life itself, especially in the pharmaceutical industry where there is a killer of a profit to be made. This is another of the shorter tracks on the album and the use of illicit words fits the bill here for sure.
Track 9. Daily Heroes.
The longest track on the album weighing in at just under 5 minutes and like many songs on the album they tend to fly straight into the action, it’s very much a song that gives praise to the emergency services such as firemen, nurses, doctors and policemen who are underpaid and those are the heroes in question here. It’s very much a song that has a strong chorus like the first track on the album and in a way the musical direction is perhaps like a cross between Iron Maiden and Rainbow.
Track 10. The Edge Of Times.
The pace is brought down a few notches for the closing track on the album which happens to be the album’s self-titled track, it drives itself along at a steady pace that has more of a dramatic approach which was most likely done in this way to tie in with the subject matter of the lyrical content. The way the song opens up puts me in the mind of “In The Flesh” by Pink Floyd though it’s nothing like that song and I only get that from the very first chord which is also how that song of theirs opens up. The bass also supports this song very well even if it does not really stand out, I am pretty sure it’s not programmed either.
The lyrical content could pertain to a dozen or more things though they all tend to point to one direction so to speak and the word “Oblivian” certainly springs to mind. In this present day with how things are with the rise of food and energy prices many could be living on the edge of times and it would not surprise me if suicide has also risen, wars and even climate change could easily apply just as those who gaze into space through telescopes to what other threats can bring an end to it all as the album cover suggests. It might lack the adrenalin in relation to the other tracks on the album but nevertheless puts the album to bed very well.
Summary & Conclusion…
To sum up and conclude my review of The Edge Of Times by Heartscore. I would say that the album is very much on par with the previous album Medusas Head and if anything it is driven along with more power and at high speed, especially how the first 9 tracks run along. The tracks on this album really fly out of the gate with no real time-to-stop sort of thing, it’s very much an album that continuously ROCKS YOUR SOCKS OFF! in particular with the placement of the tracks which has been very well thought out. Both musically and lyrically it’s quite a strong body of work and for those who like their music to rock hard, I can see no reason why this album would not appeal to them.
Like most albums, you are bound to hear many influences fly out of the woodwork and this album has no exception on that score. However, what makes Dirk Radloff’s music stand out differently from the rest is the way he can be quite articulate with his lead lines and even though the solos on a rock/metal album such as this are only really short bursts in relation to his previous work in the PROGMATIC! field they still provide the dividing line in many respects.
The production standards are as good as ever though you will hear a humming noise throughout most of the tracks caused by a new plugin that Radloff had used. However, it does not impede or hinder enough to take away ones listening pleasure or enjoyment of the album. I did confront him over this issue and he did explain to me why he left it in, he actually quite liked that bit of noise being there and I suppose with him being more of a vinyl collector and down to the fact that he is used to surface noise that comes with vinyl records it was not really an issue.
However, the humming noise even though it was nowhere near the intensity took me back to my very first HiFi stereo amplifier made by Wharfedale back in the seventies which would produce a far greater humming noise when the two phono cables plugged into the back of the amp touched each other. To be honest it was the only amp I ever had that issue with and it was most likely down to the company not putting the inputs on the back of the amp far enough apart from each other. I had to roll up a piece of cardboard to wedge in between the two phono cables to prevent it from happening.
Those were the days and I do have some fond memories of that particular amplifier, one would be that I have still to this day never heard the triple live album YESSONGS by Yes sound as good. The reason for that is over the years amplification has been cleaned up like the rest of technology and the fact that live concert was never very well recorded in the first place the cleansing process has not really done it any favours over the years and it shows that concert really needed a better production.
It was the noise on this album that took me down memory lane and that is a good thing in my book although The Edge Of Times is perhaps an album that will musically take you down that route in a good way too. It is an album I would personally highly recommend and well worth giving it the time of day so to speak. My personal highlights are as follows: “The Final Hug“, “My Name Is Nobody“, “Stay In The Dark” and “Expendable Civilians“.
As to if the popularity of the Heartscore camp does pick back up still remains to be seen though I certainly do not see it being put down to the change of musical direction and in many respects, Radloff & Rossi are quite a dynamic duo and everything they have thrown into this project I personally feel works 100%.
After the release of this album, it is good to see Radloff continuing on with his other projects as well and I can see why much of his time was taken up with what has been put into this new album. My advice is to SUCK IT AND SEE! You never know like myself, it might have you coming back for more.
Something To Rock Your Sock Off Too…
The album tracklisting is as follows:
01. The Final Hug. 4:14.
02. Highway Killer. 2:46.
03. The Coastline. 3:26.
04. Spit It Out. 2:47.
05. My Name Is Nobody. 3:36.
06. Stay In The Dark. 3:52.
07. Expendable Civilians. 3:41.
08. It’s Raining Insects. 2:37.
09. Daily Heroes. 4:53.
10. The Edge Of Times. 3:02.