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Music / Uriah Heep

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The classic line-up in the mid-1970s.

"I'm sending roses,
I'm sending blood red roses,
This burning in my heart, is tearing me apart I'm sending roses,
I'm sending blood red roses,
You've got to understand,
That's my heart in your hand."
—"Blood Red Roses"

Uriah Heep are a British Progressive Rock band whose debut was released in 1970 and are still active as of 2023. They are considered one of the first Heavy Metal bands, with their initial albums released neck-to-neck with the foundational metal records of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. They stand out from their early 70s contemporaries by their deeper progressive stylings, a taste for the psychedelic and fantastical, and the very heavy presence of the Hammond organ (to an even greater extent than Deep Purple).

The nucleus of the original group was David Byron, a singer with an operatic voice and multi-octave vocal range and lead guitarist Mick Box, both of whom had played in a psychedelic group called Spice in the sixties. The third member of the core of Uriah Heep was Ken Hensley, who contributed keyboards, some guitar and most of the songwriting. Bassist Gary Thain and drummer Lee Kerslake completed the "classic" line-up that played on the Demons and Wizards and The Magician's Birthday albums.

Presently, Box is the only member who has been in every line-up.

Not to be confused with the David Copperfield character for whom they're named.

Studio discography:

  • ...Very 'Eavy ...Very 'Umble (1970)note 
  • Salisbury (1971)note 
  • Look at Yourself (1971)
  • Demons and Wizards (1972)
  • The Magician's Birthday (1972)
  • Sweet Freedom (1973)
  • Wonderworld (1974)
  • Return to Fantasy (1975)
  • High and Mighty (1976)
  • Firefly (1977)
  • Innocent Victim (1977)note 
  • Fallen Angel (1978)
  • Conquest (1980)
  • Abominog (1982)
  • Head First (1983)
  • Equator (1985)
  • Raging Silence (1989)
  • Different World (1991)
  • Sea of Light (1995)
  • Sonic Origami (1998)
  • Wake the Sleeper (2008)
  • Celebration (2009)note 
  • Into the Wild (2011)
  • Outsider (2014)
  • Totally Driven (2015)note 
  • Living the Dream (2018)
  • Chaos & Colour (2023)

"Stealin' when I should have been tropin'":

  • Album Title Drop: The Sea of Light album has no title track but this line is heard in the song "Love in Silence" - one of its centerpieces and the longest track on that record.
    "Knowing in your heart what's right, you walk upon the sea of light..."
  • An Aesop: "Lady In Black" ends with the message that evil cannot overcome evil.
  • Ambiguously Human: It's not clear if the "lady in black" in the song of the same name is a human or some kind of divine being, though her wisdom and appearing to the narrator in his hour of greatest need would suggest the latter.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The titular "Lady in Black", who gently warns the despairing protagonist that Pay Evil unto Evil only makes things worse.
  • Demoted to Extra: In spite of their popularity and influence, Uriah Heep is less well remembered than other early metal groups, though they probably have more recognition in prog rock circles.
  • Determinator: When your band disintegrates and everyone except you throws the towel in, what do you do? Grit your teeth, call friends and ex-colleagues, gather a new lineup and soldier on. This is what Mick Box did after the great implosion of 1981: he was the only common link between the lineups that recorded Conquest and Abominog, but he got the band back in shape and steered it in a new direction. Admittedly Box did drink for a few days wallowing in misery, then thought of going solo, then... just snapped back into the combat state of mind, and pulled everything together.
    • On a lesser scale, he (plus Trevor Bolder and Lee Kerslake) repeated it five years later, when Peter Goalby and John Sinclair left, and the first of the replacement singers turned out inadequate. They found new people and created a lineup that lasted 21 years, spawning the best of their latterday albums in the process.
    • By now (2024) Box is not just the only one of the "classic" lineup, or any of the 70s lineups, still in the band, he's the only member of the "classic" lineup still alive, and yet he soldiers on, and the band has released a string of albums as successful as anyone can realistically expect of a group hailing from the dawn of hard rock, 55 years away from inception.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Their debut album is a grab-bag of various sub-genres of rock, mostly because Ken Hensley joined the band after the material was written. Once Hensley took on main songwriting duties, the following string of albums have a much more coherent sound. The album is also mixed very differently from their later work (see Gratuitous Panning below).
  • Epic Rocking: The second side of Salisbury is occupied by a 16-minute long suite featuring a twenty-six piece orchestra. One of their most popular songs, "July Morning", is another good example.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The ominous opening to "Rainbow Demon".
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: The late, great David Byron had an incredibly powerful falsetto, as heard among other places on "Sunrise" from The Magician's Birthday.
  • Gratuitous Panning: The mixing on Very 'Eavy pans all instruments to either the left or right channel in most songs.
  • Heavy Mithril: Their early 70s' catalogue has plenty of this. Generally their most explicitly fantastical songs ("The Wizard", "Lady in Black") were softer, folksier ones. They did have their share of fantastical metal songs too, though ("Rainbow Demon", "Pilgrim", "Magician's Birthday").
  • I Am the Band: A bizarre example. Ken Hensley was undoubtedly the leader through the 70s, but then he left the band. Mick Box, the lead guitarist, is the only original member still in the band to this day. For a time, they were a simple Revolving Door Band after all of the original members left, with Box as the only constant member. However, the line-up that he formed in 1986 lasted 21 years and would still be together today, had ill-health not forced a change in drummers; then, Trevor Bolder who had been the longest running bass player (from 1976 to 2013, minus a short sabbatical between 1981 and 1983), died.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: As mentioned above under Ambiguously Human, it's unclear if the "lady in black" from the song of the same name is a goddess who appears in people's hour of need and counsels them or just a woman with good advice who appeared at a good time.
  • Nightmare Dreams: "Too Scared to Run", which seems to be about sleep paralysis.
  • Progressive Metal: Their hard rock-inspired take on progressive rock could be considered to be an Ur-Example of this.
  • Short-Runners: The band's lineup with bassists Mark Clarke lasted about two to three months, but Clarke helped write, played on, and sang in "The Wizard", so he appears in the final Demons and Wizards album.
  • Something Blues: "Lucy Blues" from ...Very 'Eavy ...Very 'Umble.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Ken Hensley took the lead vocal on some of their most popular songs, including "Lady in Black" and "Look at Yourself". According to Hensley, David Byron refused to sing "Lady" due to disliking the song, and was unavailable with throat issues for "Look".
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Rain" from Magician's Birthday is a soft piano ballad in the middle of a hard/prog rock record. It was originally intended to involve no other instruments than the piano, but the band's manager insisted on a bit more oomph to not stand out too much on the album. A more stripped-down rendition can be found on Ken Hensley's first solo album.
  • Vocal Tag Team: David Byron and Ken Hensley sometimes sang in duet with each other, such as on "I Wanna Be Free", where their harmonies sound like a tiny choir. In "Paradise", they alternate lines with each other, panned to the right and left channels, respectively, for a back-and-forth.