Century Media
Release date: August 18, 2003

Guitars & Bass: B+
Percussion: B+
Vocals: B
Recording Quality: B+
Originality: B
Overall Rating: B

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Creating tribute albums is a tricky endeavor. Let’s be realistic…many things can go wrong with a tribute album from the get-go, causing the listener to wonder if the album was really intended to honor the tribute band or artist in the first place! To start, nobody creates a tribute album for a “no-name” band or artist…the band or artist is typically a household name (as is Uriah Heep) and the songs are known well by their fans. Adding to the challenge, the tribute band’s or artist’s sound and style likely have become fondly entrenched into the fans’ musical memory archives. As is the case with virtually all tribute albums, the bands participating normally embellish their own flavor and style, which unfortunately can quickly alienate the loyal fans of the tribute band or artist who feel nobody should jack around with “perfection”.

With the above in mind, the formula for success when creating a tribute album (at least in my book) is:

1). Choose the bands carefully – Having Snoop-Doggy-Dog try to cover a Metallica song, for example, just isn’t going to work.
2). Don’t disrespect the tribute band by skimping on the production quality – Keep it professional and up to snuff.
3). Keep the interpretations of each song down to earth – Fans of the tribute band generally are going to be quickly turned off if slow tempo songs are suddenly fast-paced and vice versa.
4). Lastly, make sure most of the songs selected for the tribute album are recognizable – Listeners who have an interest in the tribute band, but can’t recite each song off of each album on demand, want to hear songs that feel familiar.

Overall, A Return to Fantasy scores high on most of the criteria listed above and is a solid tribute album from start to finish. The most immediately notable successes are the production quality and the sound. Although a wide variety of bands participate on this album, the sound and clarity of each comes through consistently. Uriah Heep is hard rock band, not a Heavy Metal band. The bands here are Heavy Metal, and dare I say, provide a more enjoyable overall sound to a host of solid tunes than Uriah Heep had within their original recordings. Yeoooooow! Did I just say that? Hmmm…yep, I did! I am indeed a fan of Uriah Heep, don’t get me wrong, but I always found it unusual (and at times annoying) when Uriah Heep’s lyrics would get out in front of their music, and when certain instruments would seem out of time or improperly emphasized. I guess, in the end, an unfortunate facet surrounding Uriah Heep (especially the old stuff) is that their albums were poorly produced. The bands paying tribute on A Return to Fantasy solve both of these problems, and deliver a smooth set of quality songs while tastefully adding an aggressive Heavy Metal flavor.

Throughout this tribute, the percussion sound is excellent, the guitar and bass work is skillful and energetic, and the vocals are properly paced and stay within the framework of each song. As expected, several songs clearly stand out as exceptional: Angel Dust’s version of “Easy Livin’”, Liege Lord’s performance on “Too Scared to Run”, Nightingale’s rendition of “Stealin’”, and Lana Lane’s work with “Weep in Silence”. My guess is hard-core Uriah Heep fans will find these songs particularly non-offensive and enjoyable. Although these four made the most notable impression on me, out of the 13 total tracks on this album, 10 work quite well and truly have something to offer the listener that’s not contained within the original Uriah Heep versions.

The only three songs that seem to be fish out of water are: “Lady in Black” by Jack Frost (too ghoulish and zombie-like), “Suicidal Man” by Freebase (Uriah Heep in a Heavy Metal format works…in a Death Metal format, it’s over the top), and the second version of “Rainbow Demon” by Vintersorg. By the way, someone explain to me why a duplicate version of one song even shows up on this tribute album when Uriah Heep has a deep pool of quality songs from which to choose. When you have 2 versions of the same song, you can’t help but to choose favorites, and Tad Morose’s version simply comes across with more enthusiasm and purpose.

All in all, if you’re a diehard, hard-core fan of Uriah Heep, I think you’ll find A Return to Fantasy a truly respectable tribute with an interesting song selection and well produced presentation. Or, if you’re like me, a Heavy Metal fan with a healthy respect for Uriah Heep and a strong appreciation for their place in musical history, I believe you’ll find that the emphasized, aggressive edge apparent throughout the album (i.e., Heavy Metal spin) creates an enjoyable, satisfying listening experience. With that said, hats off to a tribute album, created by a consortium of Heavy Metal artists to honor a classic hard rock band, that does exactly what it’s supposed to do…that is, of course, pay tribute!


Angel Dust – “Easy Livin'”
Narnia – “Sunrise”
Tad Morose – “Rainbow Demon”
Onward – “Bird of Prey”
Liege Lord – “Too Scared to Run”
Jack Frost – “Lady in Black”
Nightingale – “Stealin’”
Lana Lane – “Weep in Silence”
Vintersorg – “Rainbow Demon”
Sacred Steel – “Return to Fantasy”
Easy Livin’ – “Circle of Hands”
Freebase – “Suicidal Man”
Metalium – “Gypsy”


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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