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Hell Is For Heroes The Neon Handshake Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Brimming with confidence, The Neon Handshake isn't just the most inspired, upbeat...

Catherine Chambers 2003

Fact: Hell is For Heroes are a great British hope for 2003 and it isn't an exaggeration to state that The Neon Handshake is one of the most eagerly awaited debuts from a British band. Recorded over a year ago, the decision was made to hold off its release until the band felt ready. But as anyone who has heard the singles "Night Vision", "I Can Climb Mountains" and "You Drove Me To It", will vouch, it is well worth the wait.

To understand the significance of The Neon Handshake it's necessary to go back to the beginning of the Hell Is For Heroes history. It starts with the sad denouement of their precursor, exuberant pop-punkers Symposium, whose promising future was cut short thanks to record label hassles. As the band members went their separate ways, it seemed as if UK homegrown talent had taken another kick in the teeth.

Guitarist Will McGonagle and drummer Joe Birch then went on to form Hell is For Heroes. Shouldering expectations heavier than that faced by a 'new' band, the London quintet concentrated on honing their sound and blowing crowds away with stunning live sets rather than rush a release. As it happens, it turned out to be the right decision.

Listening to the climactic, empowering riffs that run amok through its pulsating forty-two minutes, The Neon Handshake is a rush of blood to the head. It's the feeling of a band that has seen the shit come down and survived, kicking and screaming, to tell the tale. From the breathless chuggery of "You Drove Me To It" to the driving riffage of "Out Of Sight", Hell is For Heroes have a seemingly endless stockpile of slamming riffs that are intense without suffocating. HIFH's statement is simple enough: you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. Look no further than the spirited optimism of "I Can Climb Mountains", a chest-beating anthem of Herculean proportions.

Brimming with confidence, The Neon Handshake isn't just the most inspired, upbeat record you'll hear this year, it's one of the best British rock albums to ever hit the shelves.

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