Review by Peter Coates – www.facebook.com/InsideEdgePhotography
HEROES & MONSTERS
Heroes & Monsters
Released – 20th Jan 2023
There is a significant volume of hard and melodic rock released under the Frontiers label, and a fair share of it leaves me unmoved, lacking any real spark of originality, and often seeing inter-changeable players and producers involved.
However, I am in no position to criticise the intent and dedication to releasing music, so can only comment on what resonates with me.
Every so often, something pops up that appears outside the normal Frontiers genre and the Heroes and Monsters project, formed by three rock n’ roll lifers and friends, bassist/vocalist Todd Kerns, guitarist Stef Burns, and drummer Will Hunt, seems to be one of these gems.
Todd Kerns is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and producer. He is most noted for being the bass player and back-up singer in Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, and for being the frontman of gold-record selling Canadian band The Age Of Electric.
Guitarist Stef Burns has a fantastic and varied history in rock music. He has spent time playing with pop acts like Sheila E., Berlin, and Huey Lewis & The News as well as rock acts like Y&T, whom he recorded four albums with, and Alice Cooper, playing on the albums Hey Stoopid and The Last Temptation. Drummer Will Hunt currently resides on the drum throne for Evanescence, whom he first started playing with in 2007. Over the years, the in-demand skinsman has played with Dark New Day, Black Label Society, Staind, Vasco Rossi, Vince Neil, Tommy Lee, Slaughter, and more.
Locked And Loaded kicks off the album in style, with a rock solid beat, crushing riff, and rock god vocals from Kerns, with some effective backing harmonies and a sizzling couple of solos from Burns, all of which bodes very well for the rest of the record. Rock trios that are really tight often punch above their weight, and these guys certainly deliver! Second track Raw Power builds on the opener, and includes a super-catchy hook in the chorus. The solo is a ripper – and while you would think the band would benefit from a second guitarist when playing live, Burns is clearly a highly competent player, and the off-beat segment towards the end shows he is right up there with the Nuno’s and Kotzen’s off the world.
A slight change of feel come with Let’s Ride It, which has a Harem Scarem / Rubber feel and a radio-friendly melodic chorus, and a much cleaner vocal delivery that suits the style more than the classic rock sounds of the first two tracks. The mid-section here has some space and accents, and hints of My Chemical Romance from the Black Parade era, all of which melds together very effectively. Angels Never Sleep opens up with a melancholy acoustic melody and vocals, which transforms into a blinder of a full-on pre-chorus and chorus, before a killer solo, and a reprise of the hard-driving chorus – another Canadian reference to Von Groove as another one of those hard-rocking trios who provided something a little different to the standard rock sound.
A more technical tempo and rhythm sees the band hit Winery Dogs territory with I Knew You Were The Devil – all frenetic drums and swirling bass lines, while Burns provides the powerchords and the monster riffage. I really like the closing 45 seconds with the solid riff under another slick solo that takes us to the fade out. Nothing fancy about the intro to Break Me (I’m Yours) which could be AC/DC or Airbourne through the verse, and then more like Kansas for the chorus which provides a real contrast. The harmony vocals here are again really good, and the band has a bit of fun with the stadium rock ending!
Another thunderous riff and a rumbling beat underpins the edgy Blame, with a lower-register vocal in the verse, and another multi-layered set of harmonies in the chorus, all the while with the dirty guitars beneath. Will Hunt is on point through the whole record but excels here with the slightly off-beat timings and accents. The opening minute of Don’t Tell Me I’m Wrong is all acapella and broken chords with the band chiming in for the first chorus with chugging guitars and a deliberate beat – backing vocals echoing the lead line. This is a track that you could see Evanescence doing, albeit with a very different vocal sound, and has plenty of variety through the guitar break, with some tight snare-drum work from Hunt.
Set Me Free has a ripper of an intro, with lots of quirky beats and drumming, although it is not clear where the song is going to head until the band absolutely rips into the breakneck riff, and they set the place on fire with bass, drums and guitars going nuts – Judas Priest meets Burn-era Deep Purple. Track of the album for me – and destined to be a live favourite that could feature solos spots for bass, drums and lead guitars!
The album comes to a gentler close with And You’ll Remain, which is a slow-burning hard rock ballad, full of intensity and atmosphere, and with a searing lead solo. Not the strongest track to end the record on, but worthy of multiple listens at volume to really hear all of the stuff going on with the layers of guitars and vocals.
There is a lot to like about Heroes And Monsters debut record, and it is to be hoped that they stick around as a band and actually tour the record – and record a follow-up!
Todd Kerns – Lead Vocal, Bass
Stef Burns – Guitar
Will Hunt – Drums
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