Filthy Empire is the long awaited debut album from British hard rockers Heaven’s Basement, formed in 2008. It is produced by famed producer John Feldmann, who has worked with many of the most successful modern rock bands such as Good Charlotte, Papa Roach and Black Veil Brides. During the long gestation period of this album the band have toured all over the world with heavy hitters including Papa Roach, Bon Jovi, Theory of a Deadman, Shinedown and many others, they’ve recorded 2 EPs and been through a couple of serious line-up changes. Perhaps due to this, Filthy Empire doesn’t sound like a debut album; it’s a polished, professional sounding punch of hard rock, with none of the amateurishness that often dogs first time albums of young rock bands.
The album starts with a bang, as opening track ‘Welcome Home’ immediately grabs the listener’s attention. The intoxicating combination of Aaron Buchanan’s powerful vocals and lead guitarist Sid Glover’s fast, furious guitar playing gives a real punk rock feel to the verses, which lead perfectly to a massive, stadium-sized chorus, containing suitably grandiose lyrical themes. Devils, angels, sin and various other rock music standbys are all mentioned, but the song manages to avoid sounding hackneyed or clichéd and instead is a bombastic statement of intent. This is a band that wears their 80s influences very much on their leather sleeves, but updates the sound with a shot of punk rock energy. In short, ‘Welcome Home’ is a very promising start to Filthy Empire.
The energy level is kept up with ‘Fire, Fire’, one of the singles from the album and yet another blast of breathless but polished hard rock. It’s structurally very similar to ‘Welcome Home’, with the combination of fast, punk inspired verses and a massive, sing-along inducing chorus, however a formula is no bad thing when it sounds this good, and ‘Fire, Fire’ is a catchy and infectious delight of a song.
Directly after this comes ‘Nothing Left to Lose’. This was the lead single from Filthy Empire, and it’s easy to see why. It marks the moment where Heaven’s Basement really let loose, temporarily get rid of the punk inspired touches, and show off all the stadium rock potential they have. ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ is the kind of soaring anthem that seems tailor made to fill an arena. Everything about this song really is arena-rock perfection, from the stomping verses that build to a stunning crescendo of a chorus to the battle-ready lyrics exhorting the listener to “burn it all, and be left alone in silence”. It’s the best song on an album packed full of great rock songs and if anyone can listen to it without wanting to put their fist in the air and sing along in full voice, they should probably be declared legally dead. It’s that good.
‘I Am Electric’ is the other end of the spectrum. It shows Heaven’s Basement disposing of their more bombastic tendencies entirely, and is the closest the album gets to a straight punk song. It lacks the professional polish that the other tracks on the album exhibit and captures a rawer, leaner side of Heaven’s Basement. While it makes an interesting change of pace, it lacks the anthemic quality that makes the rest of the album such a joy to listen to and as such, is one of the weakest tracks on the album.
The other stand-out track on Filthy Empire is ‘Lights Out in London’, a fantastic modern take on the great rock album staple that is the power ballad. It starts low key, with a bitter, growled vocal over a simple thumping drumbeat before developing into the sort of magnificent, grandiose song into which an orchestral section could happily be inserted without sounding out of place. It demonstrates again that although Heaven’s Basement have clearly been inspired by 80s great such as Bon Jovi and Guns n’ Roses, they put their own modern take on their songs and never sound like a tribute act.
Overall, Filthy Empire is a stand out album that every rock fan should own. It goes from hard edged, fast paced songs to stomping sing-along rock anthems and that combination of punk energy with 80s glam metal polish and high production values makes it a real joy to listen to and a truly modern rock album.