Written by: TL on 28/09/2016 18:59:38

From Copenhagen comes the not so inspiredly named H.E.R.O, a new constellation which, fresh off supporting both national rock heroes Dizzy Mizz Lizzy and our local BFF's Siamese, has released a debut EP, also titled "H.E.R.O", which is an interesting, yet also quite divisive listen. Because on one hand, the band showcases such professional levels of production, and such expert sense of direction with the songwriting, that if you're a music industry person, at first listen to this you will probably instantly put down your espresso and start shuffling through the promo material for an email or phone number to get in touch. Yet if you're a web-crawling, obscure-band-discovering, integrity-concerned rock dork, your first takeaway is probably going to be something along the lines of "huh? Sounds like rock music for folks who aren't actually interested in rock music".

The EP fits six songs in a snug twenty minutes, with the bits of electronic flourishes and vocal dubs befitting of a radio-ready production, yet also with riffs and vocal expressions here and there that have an oddly modernised classic rock feeling to them. And after some listening sessions, the verdict is that two of the tracks are alright, two of the tracks are aaaalmost great, and two are indicative of a direction that H.E.R.O should probably reconsider what they're doing with.

Starting with the good, the opening track "Dangerous", which is also the most recently available single at the moment, is a fine, uplifting, mid-tempo rocker. The lame "hey!" responses in the background are unnecessary in their Timbalandishness, but otherwise, both the main riff, the prechorus and the chorus itself are sticky and instantly recognisable in the way that points back to that songwriting deftness already alluded to. A bit later on, there's "Break You Down", a track that honestly sounds like what you imagine rock music would sound like if made by Swedish House Mafia (check out those synths cascading in the back of the chorus) but that's no great matter, because the riff/vocal exchange of the verse is perfect, and especially the drop in the melody on the third vocal line is a hook that infects you instantly. There's a sense of sexiness and danceability to the track that sort of alleviates the overall drawbacks with the band, which we're getting to, and the song doesn't even cop out in the bridge section, instead building up a high pitched belted refrain and a tempo change that's hook-worthy in its own right.

So, good job on those tracks. Then there's "Fall And Fade" and the band's 'breakthrough' single "Superpowers". The former is a by the numbers rock ballad. A completely typical chart song, that could maybe pass for a OneRepublic tune or be sold to Kelly Clarkson or something. It's catchy, flows along nicely, but it has less edge than a sofa cushion. As for "Superpowers", it can make you imagine high school girls front row at a concert, whipping hair back and forth and completely convinced they're at a hard rock concert, and at the same time parents of theirs tapping the steering wheel and humming along as the song comes on the radio during their drive home from work. But really listening to it brings about a sort of suspicion that it actually tricks you into listening via those surging, strategical strikes of backing vocals, the first of which lift it immediately on the first notes.

Finally, there's "All In White" and "Disco Death", both of which on one hand bring about some unquestionably rock guitar parts, yet also sort of lean into cock rock country in the not so flattering way. The band's promo material namedrops Soundgarden, yet especially the former leads the mind more to 'poodle rock' and to why people lost interest in it in the 90's, wanting to listen to something 'real' like grunge instead. So yeah, taking hints from classic and 80's rock is not a bad idea at its offset, but the execution isn't really elegant here, and you might wonder if the vocals wouldn't need more personality to fully bring songs like that home.

Really, though, regardless of the song quality and the grade given here, the question listeners will probably ask themselves is: "Are H.E.R.O for real?" The group consists of members who have already had success in the Danish music business: Singer Christoffer Stjerne has been on The Voice and has written songs for established radio acts, drummer Anders Kirkegaard is in pop star Joey Moe's touring band and guitarist Søren Itenov also plays in domestically famous pop-rock group Johnny Deluxe. But is H.E.R.O a free, creative outlet for the guys, or is it a plan B in case their other engagements should cease activities? Depending on your degree of purist-ness, you may find sufficient evidence to call that already on this EP, but to be fair, the obvious qualities in the musicianship itself should buy some benefit of the doubt. Whether the band wants to develop their sound into an artistic force, or just line up hooks to be pop-stars that play guitars for novelty, that's going to be an interesting question for listener's to keep in mind when listening to future material. For now, though, there's no reason to cheat yourself out of some solid, oomphy pop-rock for what it's worth.


Download: Break You Down, Dangerous, Fall And Fade
For The Fans Of: Carpark North, Normandie, There For Tomorrow
Listen: facebook.com/heromusicdk

Release date 09.09.2016
Mermaid / Sony Music Denmark

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