Review: New Years Day – ‘Half Black Heart’

A 5-year gap between studio albums is unusual. Unless you are Metallica of course. The relentless album-tour-album-tour cycle can often burn musicians out and the result can often be sub-standard albums where a break might have been more beneficial.

In the case of California’s New Years Day the gap between the release of 2019’s ‘Unbreakable’ and brand new album ‘Half Black Heart’ has not only seen the band survive the worldwide shutdown of live entertainment but has also seen returning band members Jeremy Valentyne (rhythm guitar), Brandon Wolfe (bass) and Trixx Daniel (drums) reunite with long-term guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Nikki Misery and NYD founding member, vocalist and frontwoman Ash Costello. All of which makes ‘Half Black Heart’ a bit more special than simply just being New Years Day 5th studio album. It’s a rebirth. It’s a homecoming of sorts, only this time the Prom Queen is a total badass with red and black hair.

Opening track ‘Vampyre’ (choosing to spell it this way is perfect, as John William Polidori who is often credited by some as the creator of the vampire genre spelled it this way over 200 years ago when he created the short story “The Vampyre” (1819), the first published modern vampire story) is full of heavy, down-tuned, bending guitar notes full of effects that border on industrial-like. The drum work from Trixx Daniel is pummeling. Throw in a few harsh, screamo vocals and thick nu-metal basslines and it is the perfect opening.

The title track quickly follows on and continues with the relentless, powerful drumming. Costello is in masterful territory here and delivers one of her strongest vocal performances over the last few studio albums on what is a strong, uplifting, anthemic call-to-arms.

New Years Day have always had a commercial side to their music and in another dimension, toned-down versions of ‘Hurts Like Hell’, and ‘Secrets’ would have someone like Demi Lovato, Halsey, or Kesha sitting at the top of the singles charts while Ash Costello adds another wing to her mansion. Take the screams and the drums (what have they been feeding Trixx? Raw meat marinated overnight in nitroglycerin?) out of ‘Secrets’, replace them with some poppy EDM beats, and Dua Lipa has just won her next Grammy. The synth-wave elements of ‘Fearless’ are stunning and the tale of empowerment is perhaps one that every young girl starting in the music business needs to hear (lyrically, ‘I Still Believe’ drinks from the same well). Hook-laden to the max, it hangs around for days on end.

Somewhere out there a stripped-back version of ‘Burn It All Down’ exists. One that features only Costello’s natural, organic vocals and perhaps a piano, or a cello. Either way, this one is crying out to be licensed to those putting the soundtrack together for the second season of ‘Wednesday’. Same with the closing track ‘Creature Of Habit’, that’s got to be used in the trailer, yeah?

Even when they create something as full of hooks and melodies as ‘Creature Of Habit’ is, New Years Day still pack enough heavy hits to keep the metalheads interested. There are a few pit-inducing moments to be found within ‘Half Black Heart’, but on the whole, it’s all about those hooks. And Trixx’s hits.

An album that constantly surprises and pleases with each twist and turn. 5 years well worth the wait. Scary to think though that if New Years Day follow the same pattern then album number 6 will be released in 2029.

Available now via Century Media Records, more information HERE.

Review – Dave

Live images – credit Rob Wilkins

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