After spinning “In The Blood,” the 2011 album from The Heavy Guilt, I had one primary reaction: How exactly had I not heard of these guys before? But more importantly, I wondered how they hadn’t blown up to the point where I was forced to hear about them. Because you see, The Heavy Guilt demonstrate with their newest material a sound that is capable of grabbing both a large audience and a favorable critical response, a combination only a few bands in the rock and roll scene are able to accomplish. To put it bluntly, go listen to “In The Blood.” Right now.
The album kicks off with the folksy “It’s Time,” a track which introduces the unique voice of Erik Canzona behind a simple instrumental arrangement. Within seconds, you’re taken aback by the pure soul that exists in his voice, again a rarity in today’s scene. And by the time the track works its way into the chorus, Canzona is joined by Jenny Merullo, creating a vocal combination which is bound to keep the song in your rotation for the coming weeks. Short bursts of electric aggression also work to foreshadow some straight forward rock songs that exist later on in the album.
With “The Cost,” The Heavy Guilt move into a garage-rock type of sound, not far from the quality of material that stadium rockers The Black Keys have been producing for the past couple of years. Canzona and Sean Martin provide a gritty electric guitar section, culminating in almost a psychedelic-style outro, which gets the entire band involved. In “Wyoming” and “Through The Tangles,” the band really produces one long epic, building up for nearly 9 minutes, until a boiling point is reached in the final stages. Canzona sings, “Don’t ask me why, you caught my eye, opened it wide, and then changed my life,” amidst what feels like an army of musicians screaming out.
The band creates their catchiest track in “Alibi,” a song that’s the only one which falls below a 4-minute running time. Each instrument is given room to breathe, including Canzona’s voice, and the simplicity is a refreshing change, considering the heavy instrumentation the previous tracks included. Listening to both “Alibi” and previously discussed opener “It’s Time” will make you realize that sometimes, less is more for The Heavy Guilt.
“When It Comes Down” is another standout which utilizes a simpler arrangement, again allowing the lyrics written by Alfred Howard, and vocal delivery to take center stage. Again, the band reminds you of some of the rock scene heavyweights in this track, making it harder and harder to understand why they’re not being heard on your local radio station quite yet. The album finishes with “Fallen,” a rather subdued song which eases you out of the record. Canzona finishes his vocal duties with a heartfelt delivery of the lines, “I’ve fallen down before I fell in love; And I fell in war, and I haven’t had enough; Only love can lift you up.”
Sound Quality: The record’s sound quality, much like the music itself, seems to shine brighter in the slower and less frantic moments. Hearing those opening vocals in “It’s Time” is one of those musical moments that nearly gave me the chills, while the conclusion of “Wyoming,” in which Canzona really stretches out his voice stands as another excellent moment. In the busier moments of the record, especially in a few of the extended arrangements, the sound suffers slightly. The layers of instrumentation aren’t quite given the amount of breathing room they need to truly take this vinyl record to the next level.
Packaging: The packaging includes two records in a standard single LP jacket, which was a slight disappointment, but I’m certainly willing to cut the band some slack since the release was independent. The lyrics come on an insert, but are a little jammed together for my liking, as well. Would I have liked a gatefold jacket with the lyrics printed on the inside? Of course. But I also understand the finances of an independent band and what they have to work with. The lack of packaging just gives you another reason to support these guys, so that they can give their record the proper amount of attention the next time around.
Extras: The album comes with a digital download, which for the record, sounded excellent. The files aren’t your standard compressed digital versions.
Summary: With The Heavy Guilt’s 2011 album, “In The Blood,” I’ve discovered a band that’s sure to remain on my watch list for the coming years. With excellent vocals and a group of six extremely talented musicians, this San Diego-based group deserves as much attention as they can garner for their excellent work. The vinyl record sounds great for the majority of the experience and you can be sure that with increased exposure, things like packaging will improve, as well.
Make Sure To Spin: “It’s Time,” “When It Comes Down” and “Wyoming/Through The Tangles”
You can order “In The Blood” over the band’s webstore. You can check out a song from the album below.