Uriah Heep – Abominog (Review)

Say hello to Metal’s other Orange Demon Dude – the Abominog! If he’s a bit chirpy looking, it’s maybe because he’s gracing the cover of the comeback album of much-loved Rockers Uriah Heep. A decline in fortunes had led to the poorly received Conquest album and the group falling apart in 1980. Only guitarist Mick Box returned for this album, recruiting vocalist Pete Goalby and keyboardist John Sinclair. Bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake joined fresh from a stint in Ozzy’s Blizzard but this also marked Kerslake’s return to the band after quitting in 1979, providing welcome continuity with the band’s classic era. The line-up’s first album Abominog hit the shelves in 1982.

For all the great songs dotted around their discography, I’ve never found a Uriah Heep album that has totally blown me away (and not for want of trying either – aided by Fopp consistently punting their back catalogue for £3 a disc). And unfortunately, although Abominog is probably my favourite Heep album, it’s still not quite the full package. The opening track Too Scared to Run is classic Heep with its stomping rhythm, raging guitar, and a leather-lunged performance from Goalby but the rest of the album veers into unexpectedly Poppy territory. By the time the disco dad-dancer (and Russ Ballard cover) On the Rebound starts pumping out the stereo, anyone who bought the album based on the allure of the Orange Demon Dude may well be wondering what the hell is going on. On the Rebound is not the only cover version here. It’s followed by Hot Night in a Cold Town, which sounds like a UFO cast-off and then there’s a Lion song, with added Heep writing credits, Running All Night (With the Lion) which adds some welcome energy but has dodgy sub-All Right Now lyrics and a lame chorus that just makes me think of Monty Python’s “I get ta fight da lion! I gotta fight da lion!” The band performs these numbers with conviction but the material sounds dated and cheesy in comparison to the two band-penned tunes that kicked the album off.

However, although another cover kicks off Side 2, it’s a vast improvement on what came before. That’s The Way That It Is, previously recorded by the Bliss Band and also Graham Bonnet, is superb and a highlight of the album (as well as scoring a minor hit in the US.) A moodier song than the “lads out on the tiles” filler that preceded it, it’s enigmatic, classy and deserves the powerful delivery the band give it. It seems like the band are finding their sound and Prisoner (another cover!) maintains the mood and the upturn in quality before two originals Hot Persuasion and the anthemic Sell Your Soul ramp up the riffage and find the band increasingly opening out with fantastic instrumental breaks. The guitar and keyboards trade off each other brilliantly on these with Mick Box contributing particularly impressive and blistering playing. Think It Over (an song re-recorded from the Conquest era) ends the album on dramatic and anthemic note and the first side’s cringe-inducing pomp and peacock-strutting becomes a distant memory.

Few albums deserve mention of their artwork quite as much as this one. There’s no doubt that this cover was aimed to lure fans of the booming early 80s Metal scene and it’s fair to say many would have been thrown by the slick, mature Rock contained within. But I believe there was enough of a Metal/AOR crossover back then for this not to have been too big a deal. Abominog’s problem isn’t a lack of heaviness, it’s the patchy quality. The band were not short of songwriting chops and their original material provides the majority of the album’s standout moments. I don’t know if the paucity of original compositions was due to time constraints or if they were aiming for a big hit. Regardless, the result is a frustratingly flawed album which is a shame as the lion’s share of it is well worth investigating if you’re a fan of bands like Foreigner, Rainbow (post-Dio) or Magnum. If only the band had managed to contribute a few more killer tunes then it could have been the one. Then the Orange Demon Dude really would have had something to smile about.

HMO Rating: 3.5 out of 5

[Uriah Heep – That’s The Way That It Is]

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56 thoughts on “Uriah Heep – Abominog (Review)”

  1. I’m probably biased here, as Pete Goalby is a mate, and a fine singer, great songwriter and top bloke to boot…but I know what you mean about Abominog. It so nearly hits all the right buttons, a little care in song selection and it would have been a classic. I’d recommend anyone who likes Pete’s pipes to check out his work on ‘Hold On’ by Trapeze, it’s a hidden gem.

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    1. I’m glad you agree about the song selection, I know a lot of folk really love this album but it just falls frustratingly short for me. I’m glad you brought Pete up though cause his pipes are fantastic on this, he’s certainly not the problem here. I’d definitely be keen to hear more of his work so thanks for the Trapeze tip! Never heard that one.

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      1. My Abominog is part of ‘twofer’ strangely paired with Firefly. Picked it up in Tenerife for about 5 euros! It should’ve been paired with Pete’s other album with them – Head First. He also wrote a great track which appeared on Raging silence after he’d left the band: ‘ Blood Red Roses”

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      2. Is Firefly an earlier one? Abominog is the latest album of there’s that I have. I wouldn’t mind buying Head First. How does it compare to Abominog?

        What’s your take on Heep in general? Any particular favorite albums?

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      3. Firefly came out in 77, I think it was the first without Byron on vox. John Lawtons singing. My fave Heep albums are probably the usual, Demons & wizards, magicians birthday, and I have soft spot for Return to Fantasy, the first heep album I owned which I bought on its release. Love the track ‘Shady Lady’.

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      4. I like Demons and Wizards but, even then, I don’t think I like it as much as I’m supposed to! There are some brilliant tracks on it for sure. I often go for the Live 73 album. That’s really good. I’ll have to listen to Magicians Birthday more and pick up Return to Fantasy. I’ve heard a few people recommend that one but I don’t have it. There’s hope for Heep yet!

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      5. I always thought the Abominog dude was reminiscent of the Demon in the classic ’57 horror movie ‘night of the demon! ‘ nice of Heep to have got him some more work, his career seemed tail off in the 60s. 🙂

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      6. I love that film, still think the ending is scary as hell, regardless of crap FX! You probably know it, but I recommend the original version of The Haunting – great movie.

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  2. Jump in the fiiy-ah! This looks like a neat little reissue. I think I’m going to wishlist it. Even knowing that there is filler on it, that means I probably won’t be expecting too much when I hear it.

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    1. These Heep reissues are all great quality. Despite my reservations I’d still recommend this one and if you go into it without any expectations I think it’s a worthwhile listen. What did you think of the track I posted?

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      1. It’s a bit more pop than I expected but it passes the test. My 13 year old self would have loved it and bought the album based on this track, had he happened upon it back then.

        That’s about the best way I could put it.

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      2. Oh man imagine if somebody took that photograph. They could have put an outer cover on this deluxe edition, a cardboard sleeve with that image. Ozzy wearing a sandwich board with this album cover on it.

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      3. Here’s another way to put it — I would have filed it next to Rainbow’s “Stone Cold” in my cassette collection. (I used to put similar sounding things in the same box. Maiden and Priest would be in the same box. Bon Jovi and Europe in another.)

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      4. The Canadian Amazon site has it for $20.69 right now. I’m going to watch the price for a little while and see where it goes, but that’s a reasonable price for this kind of reissue in Canada. $18.99 would be more my speed…let’s see who blinks first. Me, or Amazon.ca.

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    1. That’s right. I don’t think Daisley stuck around all that long but Lee Kerslake was a Heeper before he was in Ozzy as well as afterwards. And the chap (John Sinclair) that played keyboards on this ended up with Ozzy for quite a few years later on too. Small world!

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      1. John Wetton (family, Asia) did a stint with Heep too. He’s on Return to Fantasy. And of course we should mention the late, great Trevor Bolder, who I never met, but who was a good friend of someone dear to me, and I understand he was a lovely bloke. RIP Trevor.

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      2. That was really sad news about Trevor. After all the tension in the bands’ earlier days the recent lineups do all seem to be really nice guys. And they’ve had a few casualties through the years.

        Actually my first experience of Heep was via Blackfoot. Ken Hensley played with them for a while and they did a storming cover of Easy Livin’ on a live album. I had to hear more after that!

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      3. I think Ken still has a studio up the road from me in Alicante. Glenn Hughes guested on his ‘Blood on the Highway ‘ album which was recorded there.

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  3. I’ll say this much, I wouldn’t want to meet up with this ‘Abominog’ demon in the back woods of Ohio. ‘Head First’ still kicks my ass to this very day… an album that did follow the blueprint for mid-80’s Arena Heavy Metal, still, please pick it up and you’ll see what I mean. 🙂 \m/\m/

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  4. You see, folks, I’ve been telling our HMO he needs to get into writing more album reviews. We all love his lists and what’s tempting him, but when he plops down to write up his thoughts on an album, we get aesomeness like this. I haven’t even heard this record and I agree with him. See what I mean?

    I have hardly any knowledge of this band. I do own Sweet Freedom on vinyl, and played it when I got it, but haven’t since and I’d need to hear it again to comment. Not a band I’ve gotten to yet, though it’s on the long and distinguished list of Bands I’d Love To Hear More Of, One Of These Days.

    Thanks, HMO. I’ll add this one to this list for when I get to this band more in-depth!

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    1. Thanks for the compliments! I do want to get down to more reviewing from now on… if only so I can concentrate on the music I already own rather than just continually acquiring more. The problem is reviews just take me ages to do… I’m a bit like the Tom Scholz of music reviews!

      I have Sweet Freedom but I think I’ve only played it once too! I definitely need to spend a bit more time with my Heaps of Heep.

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  5. I have a handful of Heep albums but never got Abominog, even though I was impressed & repulsed by the cover in equal measure the first time I saw it in the record racks. Your review makes me think I should check it out one of these days, as long as I don’t expect a heavy metal/hard rock tour-de-force. Thanks for highlighting it & reminding me that I need to give it a listen after all these years.

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    1. Cheers Rich. I’m sure if you’ve enjoyed other Heep albums you’ll find plenty to enjoy with this one. The overall vibe is very AOR but it definitely has some full-on rocking stuff too. The track I posted is a good intro to the album style but there is some great old school Purple-style riffing going on in some of the songs as well.

      What do you think of the Heep stuff you have heard?

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      1. I have two compilations from Heep: “The Best Of” on vinyl and “Travellers In Time – An Anthology” on MP3 (copied from a friend’s 2-CD set). I like a lot of their music but I need to spend more time with them. I’m guessing at least a handful of songs on the latter collection has songs from “Abominog,” so I should check them out before getting that album. The “Best Of” LP was released a few years prior, so it focuses on their earlier material.

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      2. I mainly listen to their 1st album, Demons and Wizards, the Live album and this one. I find that, even with those, particular songs stand out so maybe a comp is the best way to go with them. I think there was a box set out a few years back too.

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