“What the hell were we thinking?,” exclaims Dan Taylor, guitarist for U.K. indie soul-rock titans The Heavy, of the band’s audacious new album, The Glorious Dead, to be released on Counter/Ninja Tune on August 21. “We wanted to make a bold statement – it’s not shy.” “It’s over the top, in a good way,” adds Heavy frontman Kelvin Swaby. “We went pretty cinematic, setting out to score a film that hasn’t been written.” As such, The Glorious Dead proves The Heavy’s most ambitious effort: Frankensteining swampy voodoo and b-movie zombies with garage rock and Gospel-soaked soul, it’s unlike anything you’ll hear this year.
The Glorious Dead builds off momentum from The Heavy’s international smash single “How You Like Me Now?,” off acclaimed 2009 album, The House That Dirt Built. “How You Like Me Now?” became the first song David Letterman’s ever requested an encore for when The Heavy played the “Late Show,” and appeared everywhere from “Entourage,” Academy Award-nominated film The Fighter, and the trailer for the new Mark Wahlberg comedy Ted – and was even performed by contestant Tony Lucca on NBC’s hit show “The Voice.” “It’s become such a big tune, people ask, ‘How are you going to top that?’,” Swaby says. The Glorious Dead provides the answer with supernatural force. Album opener “Can’t Play Dead” thunders as if Jack White remixed “Ghost Town” by The Specials; “Curse Me Good,” meanwhile, balances sweet whistled hooks and acoustic strum with heartbreaking vocals. “It’s good to have a bit of light and shade,” Taylor explains. As such, the album’s soaring centerpiece “What Makes A Good Man?” contrasts Swaby’s gritty soul searching with girl-group backgrounds and epic strings. “Think vintage, but keep it contemporary – that’s our approach,” Swaby explains. “…Good Man?” proved the album’s breakthrough. Searching for inspiration, The Heavy traveled from their Bath, England hometown to Columbus, Georgia, hooking up with local church-trained singers and players for some Southern Gothic sublimity. Taking the material to yet another level was Gabriel “Bosco Mann” Roth of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, who added string and horn parts to four songs. “He’s such a talent,” Swaby enthuses.
The Glorious Dead also represents the first time The Heavy’s members – which in addition to Taylor and Swaby include Spencer Page (bass) and Chris Ellul (drums) – chose to produce themselves. To mix the results, the band first worked with longtime associate Jim Abbiss (Adele, Arctic Monkeys) at Peter Gabriel’s famed Real World complex, then finished up with Paul Corkett (The Cure, Nick Cave, Björk). “Self-producing was all about being self-sufficient in realizing our vision,” Taylor says. “It’s our third record, which is when you’re judged if you’re here to stay, or sliding off the face of the earth. We want to stick around, so we took our balls out and went for it.” “I love what we’ve done,” adds Swaby. “We got our deadpan heartbreak down. This record suggests how we continue to walk among the dead – now just in a few more places, and with more of a swagger.”