John Harv’s TWISTED MIND – Into the Asylum (2019)
For the past decade John Harv has been best known as the frontman of classic metal purveyors Stormzone, with whom he has helmed six studio albums. Now, some four decades into a career he stands poised to release his first ever solo album “Into the Asylum” with his own band John Harv’s TWISTED MIND.
John ‘Harv’ Harbinson is possibly one of the most distinctive figures on the Northern Ireland / UK metal scene. Many artists take the opportunity to use solo albums to move out of their perceived comfort zones and into territories they cannot otherwise explore within the confines of a band set-up.
Not Harv. ‘Into The Asylum’ is an album which remains very firmly implanted in the roots of the music with which he grew up and established himself – classic rock, traditional metal and hard rock.
And it could be argued that the shadow of Stormzone also looms large over the CD, especially as it features contributions from all four members of the band’s current line-up, including guitarists Steve Moore and David Shields, alongside two of the group’s former shredders, Keith Harris and Andrew Baxter.
While the album is billed as featuring songs which “did not fit into the band context”, quite a few of them arguably could do so: but, that’s perhaps inevitable, given how closely Harv has been intertwined into Stormzone’s fabric throughout their career.
For proof, you have to look no further than the opening title track, with its typically bombastic metal intro and rapid fire riffology, which also sees the singer casting his eye over his shoulder back to his early career in bands such Den Of Thieves, who in turn helped shape the sound that Stormzone have adopted in more latter years.
Another prime example is “Hammerfall’, which should turn the Swedish power metallers of the same name green with envy.
The Stormzone connection is further emphasized on two tracks in the form of reworkings of ‘Coming Home’, originally recorded for the ‘Zero To Rage’ sessions but left off the final album to be later released as a stand-alone YouTube only single and given a much heavier treatment here, and a mostly acoustic version of ‘Beware In Time’ from the ‘Three Kings’ album: the latter is a deeply personal song to Harv, written about the death of a close family member, which makes it a poignant way to close out the album.
Of course, he does push the envelope and there are a good few songs which fit the album’s billing: ‘Wolf At Your Door’ has a sub-NWOBHM feel to it, and the aforementioned ‘Hammerfall’ includes a keyboard arrangement.
And then there’s the ubiquitous power ballad, ‘Blood And Tears’, with its piano and orchestration, or the pummelling beatdown of ‘Apocalypto’, with its searing guitar trade-offs and furious blastbeats.
Then you seriously need to check out ‘Tyrannosaur’ and ‘Beating Of A Heart’, two tracks which again see Harv winding the clock back to the beginning of his career with two slices of Melodic Hard Rock / AOR, ripped straight from the ‘80s / 90s playbook of Phenomena, TEN, House Of Lords or Newman.
Overall, ‘Into The Asylum’ is not an album showing a singer striving to carve a separate identity, but one which provides further insight into the (twisted) mind of its creator.
Yes, it doesn’t stray too far from the path which Harv has been treading for many years, but it doesn’t need to. Neither does it live it up to its press release blurb as a collection of songs that “did not fit into the Stormzone band context”, as there is no feeling that any of these songs are cast-offs, but fully alive and breathing entities in their own right, which have merely been biding their time looking to emerge into the daylight.
01 – Into the Asylum
02 – She’ll Get You
03 – Wolf at Your Door
04 – Coming Home
05 – Hammerfall
06 – Tyrannosaur
07 – Touch the Flame
08 – Heart of Fire
09 – Blood and Tears
10 – Apocalypto
11 – Beating of a Heart
12 – Titanic (Steel Meets Ice)
13 – King of Hearts and Minds
14 – Beware in Time (Acoustic)
John “Harv” Harbinson (vocals)
Shaun Nelson (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards)
Steve Moore (guitar)
David Shields (guitar)
Keith Harris (guitar)
Andrew Baxter (guitar, bass)
Peter Rondo Mackin (bass)
Graham McNulty (bass)
Frankie McClay (keyboards)
Stephen Prosser (keyboards)
Davy Bates (drums)
Ryan Hood (drums)
Julian Watson (drums)