U.P.O. – The Heavy

U.P.O. - The Heavy


Nitrus Records
Release date: March 9, 2004

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

L.A. based U.P.O. was founded in 1998, and when their debut album No Pleasantries was released in 2000, it sold way beyond the band’s expectation and the guys all of a sudden found themselves famous. Much of their success is thanks to solid airplay on radio stations all across the USA in spite of no video or other traditional promotional campaigns.

During the four years that have passed since the release of their debut album, the band has been quite busy. Apart from extensive touring and playing, the band has contributed to numerous compilations and even soundtracks. Now comes the reward to all the fans that have been waiting patiently: The Heavy.

In spite of 12 tracks altogether, the album clocks in at just a second less than 44 minutes. Not bad! The lyrics deal with relationships gone sour, inner personal conflicts and soul torment, and quite a bit of self-pity. There is plenty anger, remorse, and despair, while hope seems absolutely absent. At times, U.P.O. communicates their low-down feelings well, playing on the nearly universal relevance these topics have (i.e., solid commercial material). However, their lyrics tend to be a little shallow and straightforward and not at all very poetic. Thus, this is fast-food for the mind and easy to dig into.

Musically, U.P.O. is a child of its own time. You’ll find influences from several major styles from the past two decades and on this album, especially styles that grew out of Seattle some 12-15 years ago or so. Seemingly, they have taken their influences, merged them, and played them back out in a very Hard Rock “mainstream” kind of way. That’s probably why they often sound like Soundgarden meets Alice in Chains meets Tool. There is very little “U.P.O. original signature sound” to be found, but guitarist Chris Weber’s diversity is noticeable and apparently he does contribute a lot to the better arrangements within each of the songs. The drums and bass also do not in any way fail expectations. It sounds, though, as if their potential is somewhat suppressed by the lack of vitality in their musical arrangements in general … but as far as singer and writer Shawn Albro is concerned, he’s got a lot to offer. Sad, but unfortunately true, Albro too often sounds like Layne Staley (Alice in Chains). This similarity is mostly because of the typical vocal harmonies used in The Heavy (extensive use of fifths), and this naturally keeps much of his talent in chains too, so to speak.

Still, though, the album has a few highlights, like in “Free,” where they bring in tablas, sitar, and the didgeridoo, which makes the song the most memorable track (in fact, the song is the featured single and video from the album). The Oriental sound and style leaves enough room for them all to expose a more emotional side and that serves them well. The words are also less explicit, adding a dimension to the song that is both welcome and rare within this album. Additionally, even though this song is nearly 5 minutes long, the repetitive elements work well this time around and that helps to create a suggestive feel to it. Many of the other, shorter tracks tend to be a bit boring, simply because the style of repeating the same musical elements fails to work. Why? The aforementioned lack of signature sound is one reason (i.e., it seems like we’ve heard this somewhere before), the weakness of some of the musical elements is the other (i.e., a product is rarely better than its weakest component).

Wrapping it all up, The Heavy is a must for fans of the band and it’s likely to help catch a new fan or two as the album is being played extensively on radio. It’s also something to check out for those looking for energetic and powerful “Metal-ish” rock with short, straightforward songs and comprehensible lyrics. All others are probably better off without it.

PS! For reasons not known, the lineup of the band has changed since the release of the album. Both the drummer and bass player have been replaced, and an extra guitarist has been added in. It’s not possible in this column to tell the effect of these changes, however, check out www.upomusic.com for more info!


  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.