First impressions count. The impact made by Heaven's Basement's debut album on first play is not unlike standing on the runway as a fighter jet screams off the tarmac and into the air: you're left breathless by the rush, by the roar, by the energy and the neck-snap dynamics of their ferocious rock n' roll. The second play is much the same, though you'll find yourself helplessly playing along on air-guitar this time round.
Third, fourth, fifth plays, the details start to emerge from the melee, and the bigger picture falls into place: that behind their face-melting attack, the sure-footed and sharp-eyed strafing of killer, classic rock moves, lay songs of fine craftsmanship; choruses that ring out like football chants and live for heavy radio rotation, guitar gallantry super-heroic enough to goad a generation into dropping their smartphones and picking up an axe, a rhythm section that powers on like a bullet train, and a singer whose rough-house wail will convince you he is ten foot tall and breathes fire. Impressive work, for a debut album no less.
Like their sound, Heaven's Basement's line-up was honed on the road. Original members Chris Rivers on drums, and guitarist Sid Glover, led the charge. The road was hectic and unforgiving, and its toll could be measured in the members who fell by the wayside; singers, bassists and guitarists who couldn't match their pace, who weren't the perfect fit. But the result was a stronger, leaner line-up, following the arrival of bassist Rob Ellershaw and vocalist Aaron Buchanon.
The band worked hard and played harder, touring as support to megastars like Bon Jovi, Papa Roach and Buckcherry, and winning notice at festivals like Sonisphere, Download, Bloodstock and Hard Rock Hell."We live in each other's pockets, we see each other more than we see anyone else in our lives," says Glover. "When you haven't slept or eaten, and you've been hungover for a few weeks on end, and then the van breaks down in Iceland, how are you gonna react to that? Are you gonna lose it? Or are you gonna laugh your head off and go, 'This is hilarious, let's go to the pub!' Cos that decision makes or breaks a band. If you're one of the 'stressers', it just won't work."
With this in mind, when singer Aaron Buchanan - the final piece of the Heaven's Basement puzzle - joined the group, his audition was followed by a bizarre hazing ritual to test his mettle for what lay ahead. "He came up to live in Sid's house," remembers Ellershaw. "We lived with him, wrote music with him, got him smashed to see if he was mental...". "We'd get him as drunk as we could, see what he would do if pushed, and what would happen when he got to a certain state," laughs Glover. "To see if any demons would come out. Because when you're on the road, you're pushed to various extremes..."
Having passed this test, Buchanan went to ground with the rest of his new bandmates and began work on the group's debut album, Filthy Empire. The material came easy, which isn't to say they didn't work hard. Ellershaw estimates the group wrote a hundred songs for the album, before going back and taking the best parts and fusing them together to make the twelve songs contained therein. Next stop was a trip to Los Angeles to work with Producer John Feldmann. "Initially we planned on doing it the UK but we hit it off with John Feldmann when we were over for a week so decided to get in a room together and make the album," says Rivers. "We knew we were ready...chomping at the bit for sure!"
The choice of Feldmann as producer, whose credits include work with titans like The Used, Good Charlotte and Papa Roach, came down to "Vibe, mentality and friction" explains Buchanan. "Feldy was good at turning ideas upside down and trying anything and everything - which is exactly what we do, and Feldy wasn't afraid of letting us go wild with ideas. It caused friction at times, but all in the name of what we feel is now a great album. An album that we can all listen to and take it in like some kind of unfound fantastic drug."
Their standards were high, which explains the album's dynamic, full-blooded assault. From the devil-driving dash of "Welcome Home," through the boldly melodic anthemicism of "Lights Out In London." From the frenetic, speaker-shredding, strobe-lit thrash of "I Am Electric," the Jagger-baiting swagger of "Heartbreaking Son Of A Bitch," to the bridge-burning, harmony-lashed closer "Executioner's Day," there's nary a hook wasted, not a chorus that doesn't connect, not one audacious flourish of rock n' roll daring that doesn't thrill like tongue-kissing a power socket.
The group wear their influences on their sleeves, but in their own style. The album conjures the greats - the high-wire swagger of Led Zeppelin and the outlaw chaos of Guns n' Roses - without ever copying their moves. "Don't be like your heroes, be as good as them" seems to be Heaven's Basement's motto. "We wanted to take the ambition of all the great rock n' roll that came before us, the essence, but make it sound completely modern and relevant," explains Glover. "I want people to say, 'Fuck man, I haven't heard an album that's made me feel this pumped up in ages. I haven't seen a band with this much energy and 'Go fuck yourself' attitude...'"
It's hard to imagine the album stirring any other kind of reaction, to be honest, and for Heaven's Basement, this is clearly only the beginning. They're itching for it to happen, desperate to get back on the road and make it happen. "We're really confident," says Rivers. "We wanna go to as many places as we can, play to as many new faces as we can, and put ourselves into situations we've never been before. We want to give ourselves as many challenges as we can."