Album Review – Heartwork, Whatever Comes After It

This is an album I have been excited to listen to for a long time. Ever since I first met Dan I’ve been in awe at his musical talent and ability, and I’ve been hopeful that this album would be no different.

The album was showcased over 10 days, with each track getting announced one day after the next. As much as I wanted to join into the hype, I had to restrain myself from listening as I wanted this album review to be representative of my actual first listen.

Before we get into any tracks, I have to give a mention to the title. It shows a feeling of helplessness, despair and confusion, but mostly just not giving a shit anymore, and letting things be how they are going to be. Kind of reminds me of Tigers Jaw’s “I Won’t Care How You Remember Me”. Same energy. Anyway, more to come with all of that later.

Track 1 – Chaos > Order.

The track, and album, opens in a strange way, like an audio recording in a place that is really windy. All I manage to make out is the words “good luck with that”. I think this is a good president for both the album and how we are all feeling, let’s be honest.

But very soon we go into a classic Heartwork heavy guitar riff, with a slower style vocal. Soon the rolling drumbeat starts to come in, giving it an almost tribal like sound. This, combined with Dan’s long, drawn out syllables, create some awesome hooks.

The second half of the song takes a more pop-punk sound, really bringing it to life, but still with that rolling, ever-there drum beat. Then the last lyrics come together with some crowd chants (that I’m part of), to bring the song to one unified close. Ongoing drum beat and unified close – could this be a metaphor for the last 18 months? Maybe it is, or maybe I’m just reading too much into this. Who knows?

Track 2 – Apatures.

This one goes straight into a heavier sounding full band style, almost sounds like a Menzingers’ song (I know Dan is a big fan of these guys, so might be the inspiration). This song is loud and brash, a real headbanger and mosh-pit-er. I really like the radio style voice over the drum fills, before going into a full on blazing guitar shred. In three words – Heavy, Angry, Fun.

Track 3 – John Goodman.

Can I first of all start off with who is John Goodman. I didn’t hear any mention of his name, or anything about him in the whole track. If Dan could shed some light on this person that would be amazing.

Just like the previous track, this one opens in a similar, heavy style, but with a weird vocal effect, a bit like a radio. Maybe a public broadcast, panic message?

Although I can still hear the American rock band influences, this one goes back to that pop-punk style we saw in the second half of track 1. Almost to the point of reminding me of the band Microwave – I don’t know if they are an influence to Dan.

The song itself has this message of disassociation and confusion, from a mix of drink and drugs. Mixed with the call and response, a tripped guitar solo and another rolling, almost heartbeat like drum, give this song a proper high feeling. Coming back to that strange vocal effect shows to me that this is a never ending cycle, maybe for whoever this John Goodman is.

Track 4 – You & Yours

Track 4 is a much softer, acoustic track (well, to start with at least), one that really brings out Dan’s incredible guitar skills. This track, like the album title, really does remind me of Tigers Jaws’ “I Won’t Care How You Remember Me” – starting off softly before going into a classic rock sound.

This song also features some awesome big build ups, followed by quiet patches, a very emotional track, one that comes from the heart. Combine this with the guitar squeaks that haven’t been editied out, make this one raw and close track.

Although I’m not too sure of the meaning behind this one, really is confusing to work out. Something about regrets maybe?

Track 5 – Silver

Straight away this is another Midwestern rock style guitar opening – so much so I could have sworn this song was already in one of my playlists. But quickly this comes to change, as we get into the mid section it sounds nothing like anything else so far.

The heavier rock style of this one would absolutely kill a live show! I can almost imagine the mosh pits and crowd surfing now.

Like track 4, I’m struggling to understand quite what is going on in this track – what are the 16 years of struggle? Maybe something about settling for second place? Who knows? I really like the ending though.

Track 6 – Disco_Beat_2020.mp3

OK, so firstly, what is up with the name of the track? I was expecting some proper techno, 80s disco beat. I have to say I’m disappointed it wasn’t.

Instead this is another acoustic-rock style track, big Frank Turner vibes going on here. A feel like this is Dan’s lockdown song (come on, everyone has to do at least one…).

For me, this song is Dan taking himself apart, while showing the craziness and never-endingness that was 2020, with the drums and guitars almost looping, showing everything else just looping, over and over again.

But at least, come the end, we get that classic disco beat, but almost more of a punk disco beat. Something to get you moving while also getting you angry.

Track 7 – Fire

This one certainly has more of a country feel to it, but also one I can see a crowd clapping along to at a gig kind-of-song. Soon into the track, it turns more pop-y, taking a bit of a different direction to the rest of the tracks on the album so far, but one I really like though, especially the use of synths in the song.

Unlike the last two, I kind of understood the meaning of this one. It’s a song about selfishness, and the need to look out for others. But also about looking out for yourself, and not caring what others think. But also not being an arsehole. Well, maybe I understand it.

However, I do really like the longer, drawn out acoustic ending.

Track 8 – Me & Mine

Another acoustic track, this one coming in a bit shorter than the rest. Me & Mine features just a single voice and guitar, with what sounds like mostly open, strummed chords. Mix this with the smoother, slower vocals from Dan and it’s a nice track, one I think would be awesome solo live.

Again, no real meaning I can gather from it, but one I really enjoyed listening to.

Track 9 – Everything, all at once

Well it’s safe to say the song opens with everything, all at once – a massive, loud and heavy intro. As a song, it harks back to the more metal influences on Dan’s work, but still jumps between styles across the whole, high tempo track.

The only real thing I can say from this song is the way it just straight up hits you in the face, and does not apologise for it one bit.

Track 10 – Bad Luck To Say Goodbye In The Dark

First, I have to say this one does have a clear meaning to it, and it’s definitely my favourite from this album. The real mix of styles, all blended together make this one that I can listen to on repeat for ages.

The song starts with open chord strumming, a quiet before the storm feeling, and along with the slow, low vocals gives this song some real soul to it.

Then at that 1 minute marker. BANG. Back into that heavy sound, all the way through to the end of the track and album. A real punk-metal combination, getting those fast and angry bits, mixed with the slower recess throughout.

I get the feeling of being done, of having had enough, from this one. It’s the end of the album, end of an era. Getting old, can’t hack it anymore (sorry Dan).

The slow guitar picking parts really help break up the mid sections of the song, helping build up to one more in your face moment near the end.

The latter half has more of a begging feel, of almost mercy for something? But also some hope, some good in looking forward, maybe even a bit of a love message in there somewhere. And with one more final guitar shredding solo, and a fade out to just the drums, it feels like it ends on a positive, maybe life isn’t so dark.

In conclusion

Dan’s second (proper) album has been an absolute blast to be a part of, from the build-up and help with crowd chants, to the final finished product.

If you are looking for an album that is going to open up your soul with some deeper, hidden meaning, or looking for that song that’s going to pull you out of those hard times, maybe this one isn’t for you. But if you are looking to rock out and spend 40 minutes listening to some good tracks, maybe this one actually is.

Review by Ted Stargatt for TrueStyleMusic

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