H.E.A.T: ‘Extra Force’

Released on September 1, 2023 (earMusic)

Gutsy! That’s what I thought when I heard that H.E.A.T‘s latest album would include Erik Grönwall era tracks but sung by “new” singer (or better described as the “returning” singer) Kenny Leckremo. Sure, this has been done before but in this case, Leckremo had some giant shoes to fill. Interestingly enough, Leckremo fronted H.E.A.T when they released their first two records H.E.A.T (2008) and Freedom Rock (2010). Leckremo then left the band for reasons that I didn’t know until reading Wikipedia (for the purposes of this review) which states: “In July 2010, Kenny Leckremo announced he was leaving the band. Leckremo suffered from a genetic heart condition that caused his heart to beat extremely fast and it was causing him to have to step off stage to catch his breath. He would later undergo an operation to correct this condition but it was years after he had already left the band.”

Unfortunately for Leckremo, he was replaced by the Swedish Idol wonder kid Erik Grönwall whose voice and stage presence are simply out of this world. H.E.A.T went on to establish themselves as one of the best bands of the last 15 years with four studio albums with Grönwall on lead vocals consisting of Address The Nation (2012), Tearing Down The Walls (2014), Into The Great Unknown (2017) and H.E.A.T II (2020). With Grönwall electing to depart the band, the remaining H.E.A.T members made the wise choice of getting Leckremo back in the fold. I have to say that I was skeptical on whether Leckremo could fill Grönwall‘s giant shoes since H.E.A.T had seemingly grown by leaps and bounds since his departure. The H.E.A.T band members must have sensed that this would be a concern for their fan base given that a few months after announcing hat Leckremo was back as their lead vocalist, they wisely released a video of him handling the vocals on a recent Grönwall era track “Rise”. Wow! Whatever trepidations that I had about Leckremo fronting H.E.A.T were quickly dissipated.

H.E.A.T went on to release the very fine record Force Majeure in 2022. I wasn’t that enamoured with that record because I felt it wasn’t quite as heavy as some of the Grönwall era records like Tearing Down The Walls and H.E.A.T II. I am not sure of the exact reasons behind H.E.A.T‘s latest record Extra Force but it seems that the band is still doing some PR to promote Leckremo as their current frontman. Extra Force consists of a hodge podge of material with two new songs, two studio tracks with Leckremo singing Grönwall era tracks and six live tracks covering both Grönwall and Leckremo era material. As I have always been a big fan of the energy on H.E.A.T‘s live albums (2015’s Live In London and 2019’s Live At Sweden Rock Festival), it was a no brainer to purchase Extra Force just to hear the live tracks and they definitely did not disappoint! The trademark H.E.A.T energy is there and the songs feel like they’re played slightly faster and heavier than what can be found on the studio albums, which is a good thing. Leckremo sings splendidly on the live tracks and you got to hand it to the remaining H.E.A.T members for always having such great singers in their band. “Back To The Rhythm” in particular really stands out live. I love that Leckremo introduces the Grönwall era track “Living On The Run” (released back in 2012) as one of his favourites to perform live.

Interestingly, I find that the two new songs on Extra Force — “Freedom” and “Will You Be” — are the weakest ones on the record. It’s not that they are bad songs but the keyboards are a little too front and centre for my tastes. Nevertheless, both songs are pretty good with “Will You Be” being quite easy to sing along to. The two studio tracks featuring Leckremo singing two Grönwall era tracks — “Rise” and “One By One” — sound fantastic. I don’t miss Grönwall fronting H.E.A.T when I’m hearing Leckremo absolutely nail the singing parts on those songs. Overall, Extra Force is a cool release and a nice way for H.E.A.T to further highlight the triumphant return of Leckremo to their line-up.

Track List:
01. Freedom
02. Will You Be
03. Rise (with Kenny)
04. One By One (with Kenny)
05. Rock Your Body (live)
06. One By One (live)
07. Dangerous Ground (live)
08. Back To The Rhythm (live)
09. Nationwide (live)
10. Living On The Run (live)

Band Members:
Kenny Leckremo – vocals
Dave Malone – guitar
Jimmy Jay – bass
Jona Tee – keyboards
Don Crash – drums

Produced by Jona Tee, Dave Dalone and Kenny Leckremo (1, 2, 8, 9)
Produced by Jona Tee (3-7)
Mixed by Tobias “Audio” Lindell (1-3)
Mixed by Jona Tee (4)
Mixed by Jimmy Jay (5-10)
Mastered by Björn Engelmann (1-2)
Mastered by Tobias “Audio” Lindell (3)
Mastered by Jona Tee (4-10)

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, September 2023

H.E.A.T‘s “Rise” (with Kenny Leckremo) video:

H.E.A.T‘s “Will You Be” video: