Sound — 8
Uriah Heep have been delivering their unique blend of hard rock for well more than four decades, and yet the band have always been able to pull off the seemingly undefeatable challenge of remaining relevant yet unique. With their two dozenth studio album, "Outsider," the members of the veteran rock band once again find a way to reach the high standards not only expected from their admiring fan base comprised of several generations of followers, but also of themselves.
Even though there will always be an audience who scoffs at the fact that Uriah Heep only has one original member, it's difficult to argue with the performance here from a lineup which has maintained it's pivotal center for nearly three decades, and whose newest members have already established a strong reputation for themselves. The band never takes their foot off of the gas pedal throughout the eleven new songs, all of which boast the signature combination of energetic synthesizers, engaging lead vocals, remarkable guitar work, and a surplus of melody bound to leave a memorable impression. Songs such as "Speed of Sound" could instrumentally find a comfortable home on a new Deep Purple album, or such previous releases as 1991's "Different World" or 1995's "Sea of Light," however the distinctive singing style of Bernie Shaw quickly gives away the artist's identity.
In the rare instance where an established classic rock band releases a new album whose lead single is not only standout but also highly representative of the rest of the piece, "One Minute" begins as a delicate piano power ballad decorated with warm vocals, before transitioning into a hard hitting anthem bracketed by complex organ work and key harmonies during the chorus. Such later selections as "Is Anybody Gonna Help Me?" and "Can't Take That Away" are blues-accented, rhythm guitar-fueled compositions which keep the listener fully engaged amongst the engaging six strings and atmospheric synthesizers. This trend is continued throughout "Kiss the Rainbow," which places slightly more emphasis on the guitar work of original member Mick Box. There are no reflective or emotional moments throughout "Outsider," further proven by the closing number "Say Goodbye" which almost has the listener anticipating a radio friendly light rocker, before flipping the switch and introducing adrenalized guitar and full fledged vocal melodies.
Lyrics — 8
Lead vocalist Bernie Shaw has maintained his position as the Uriah Heep ringmaster since 1986. His performance throughout "Outsider" hardly varies from that of his premier album with the band, 1989's "Raging Silence," in that it's largely centered around impressive feats of range and power. When you're dealing with bands of Uriah Heep's caliber, meaning artists who have made a noticeable impact on the genre and despite all reasonable expectations continue to create new albums, it's always noteworthy when this same band's seasoned singer provides a solid job throughout the effort. "Looking at You" is perhaps Shaw's most standout vocal performance on the album, during which he emits some truly memorable high notes during the song's climactic chorus.
Overall Impression — 8
The fact that Uriah Heep deliver another engaging collection of material on their twenty-fourth album should not be surprising to those fans who have remained with "the loop" of the band's most recent efforts. "Outsider" features a lack of any dramatic revitalization or change in sound, instead focusing on the signature Uriah Heep approach which made them unique in the first place, while also introducing a modern production quality to the outcome. Longtime listeners and familiar fans should have little difficulty enjoying the album as much as this listener did.