In 2012, the punk/hardcore five-piece band called Heart to Heart released one of the best albums I have ever heard. It was simply titled Heart to Heart, but it had absolutely everything – and more – that you could expect to get from a punk band's debut full length, which made me wonder this: "why is this band not bigger?"
After signing with Pure Noise Records in early 2013 and opening The Story So Far's fall tour later that year (which also featured Stick to Your Guns, Such Gold and Rotting Out), I thought it was finally Heart to Heart's time to blow up. It didn't happen, but I still had the band's forthcoming record to look forward to as another opportunity for the band to finally get the recognition it deserves. Dulce is finally here (a link to stream it on AltPress can be found after the review) and, coupled with the band's involvement to the first half of this year's Vans Warped Tour, I think it's safe to say the time has finally come for these Californians to be noticed.
Opener "A.M.F." is the perfect way to start Dulce; it houses the biggest chorus on the record, there's a nice mix of harsh and clean vocals and the overall sound is fairly similar to the band's self-titled album – giving old fans a sense of familiarity and first-time listeners a glimpse of what's to come. "Daydream," a very aggressive track with some even darker lyrics, is sandwiched between the previously released "Mentirosa" and "Firefly." While these singles aren't the most gripping or personal of vocalist Nick Zoppo's work, Heart to Heart makes up for the slight drop off in lyrical quality by crafting a hard rock anthem that brings to mind Three Days Grace's older material ("Mentirosa") and an absolute summer jam that you can't help but want to sing along to ("Firefly").
The middle of Dulce features two more strong tracks in "Hellbound" and "Backdraft." "Hellbound," like "A.M.F.," is home to a very catchy chorus, and the overall vibe of the song reminded me of the band's previous work. There is also a huge breakdown that brings the song to a close and makes way for "Backdraft." "Backdraft" is weird – mainly because of the eerie but great verses. The bridge/outro is exceptional and easily the high point of this track, but that's not to say the rest is mediocre, as the chorus of "Backdraft" is one of the best on the record up to this point.
"Bad Habits" was an immediate standout track after my first listen because it has the aggression and catchiness that I've come to expect from Heart to Heart – and the excellent lyrics are back; "I've set myself up for a life of regret / I've got a list of bad habits" is the perfect segue to the massive chorus of "I'd take it back if I had the chance / I wish I could explain every mistake that made me the man I am today." "Dulce" is probably the most unique track on the record, though. There's more hints of Three Days Grace in the intro and first verse, and there's a really interesting guitar solo at the end of the track. Following an infectious chorus, though, Heart to Heart briefly reverts to its trademark style with harsh vocals, hard-hitting drums and heavily distorted guitars.
"Yours Truly, You" and "Black Widow" close out the album effectively enough, but they both feel like they're missing something. "Yours Truly, You" is solid for a few minutes before it goes out with a bang, while "Black Widow" has a very "end of the record" feel and is consistently great until the piano outro. I can appreciate that Heart to Heart tried something different to close out Dulce, but after the most aggressive segment of "Black Widow" – and maybe even the whole record – the piano outro causes Dulce to go out with a bit of a whimper. Maybe we'll get another bonus track, like "300 to Life" on the self-titled album, so the slightly out-of-place piano outro can be completely overlooked.
Minor flaws aside, this is by no means a sophomore slump. For the most part, the lyrics are some of the best in the genre and still a focal point. The vocals, both lead and backing, are very passionate and alternate between being filled with aggression and charm. Instrumentally, I'd even go as far as to say that the guys in Heart to Heart stepped up their game on Dulce, as there was a bit more creativity at times (see: "Dulce" and "Black Widow"). If you've liked the band's previous work, there is no doubt that you will remain a fan; and, if you're a fan of punk but haven't listened to Heart to Heart before, there is no doubt that you will like the majority of this record very much and immediately become a fan of the band.
Links: Facebook - AltPress stream