by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Columnist —
A legend of the Polish heavy metal underground and one of the most underrated bands in the scene – Hetman – returns with a new album You. Despite the line-up changes throughout the recent decade, the group around mastermind of the lead guitarist Jaroslaw ‘Hetman’ Hertmanowski remains somewhat faithful in their following the musical recipe they perfected on their last album Déjà vu (2009). In the past the band flirted with melodic hard rock/AOR (Zle Sny, 1992) and for many they’re associated with biker anthem songs (“Easy Rider”, “Harley”) – what they deliver on their more recent records, You included, is heavy metal deeply rooted in classic sounds of the genre, with some softening touches of their musical past as well. Songs on You, similar to its predecessors, are almost entirely in English – and the icing on the cake for the band’s avid followers is that several tracks on You feature Robert Tyc (known from Hetman’s previous incarnations) on vocals. Plus – the intentionally cheesy, cartoonish artwork, an ultimate reminder of the metal’s glory days.
The album starts off with an acoustic opening to the first track – the eponymous “You” which evolves into a bitter tale about the downsides of love led by a lumbering guitar riff. “Be An Eagle” explodes with a Maiden-esque riff – it’s classic power metal sound at its best with fast, furious guitar shredding; surprisingly, there is a slow-down in the middle of the song with an interesting dialogue between the bass and the lead guitar (which subsequently leads to again fast-paced ending). Certainly that’s one of the record’s highlights (an impression slightly weakened by the moderate vocal performance by Pawel Bielecki). Speaking of vocals – “Divine” is the one which follows, and in this song, the microphone is shared between Bielecki and the aforementioned Robert Tyc. It’s the latter’s performance that truly shines throughout the song – very expressive and full of emotion.
Another interesting song – certainly softer than the two previous ones, led by a dialogue between guitar and keyboards. “Na krawedzi” (“On The Edge”) is, for a change, sung in Polish (there is an English translation of its lyrics in the booklet). This epic song, enriched with the refined, wailing guitar sounds and classically sounding piano parts, ended with an acoustic coda, features Tyc on vocals again and again, it’s his blues-driven manner of singing and his expressiveness that make this intense, atmospheric ballad a real masterpiece. There is Jaroslaw Hertmanowski and the guest guitarists contributing some sublime guitar parts and soloing too – in this track as well as the next one, “My Home.” The fifth track is co-written by the band’s keyboardist Maciej Baran; little wonder the song’s based on the interplay between guitar and keyboards. Speaking of the sound of which – its follower “Fight For It” comes off sounding almost AOR-ish (and at times a bit reminiscent of the early Hetman as well) and more radio-friendly than the rest of the album. As for the next track – “We mgle” (“In the Fog”) is a two-minute acoustic interlude with a male/female duet (Bielecki and the leader’s talented daughter Julia Hertmanowska) repeatedly singing the song’s title.
“I Can’t Take It” and “Midnight” are other dynamic guitar-driven songs softened by the powerful keyboard sound, with the latter being another highlight of the entire album (and a future concert favorite among the audience). They’re followed by the gloomy ballad “Dziewczynka z zapalkami” (“The Little Match Girl”), a dark and dramatic ‘adult’ reinvention of the classic children’s short story of Hans Christian Andersen; the story’s well-known tragic ending is also quoted by Julia Hertmanowska towards the end of the song. This piece of spine-tingling music is complemented by the amazing vocal performance of Robert Tyc, who takes the microphone over again. The eleventh track “Easy” – with Bielecki on vocals and the band turning towards radio-friendly melodic rock again – finishes the album on a high note.
Dedicated “to women” You is a record able to win the hearts of all existing groups of rock/metal listeners – not only the above female part of the audience, but everyone who’s into classic guitar-oriented rock and metal. Diverse linguistically and musically, varying from power metal aesthetics to keyboard-driven melodic rock, You portrays the Polish legendary band not bothered with contemporary trends but rather sustaining their overall standard of music performance. For these who have never heard of Hetman before, here is a chance to discover an experienced, passionate guitarist and composer Jaroslaw Hertmanowski undoubtedly is, and Hetman’s solid and impressive musicianship. Robert Tyc’s amazing vocal performance on the record might also serve for some as a teaser to find out more about Hetman’s musical past … highly recommended for all heavy metal-hard-rock-melodic fans.
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Jaroslaw Hertmanowski: rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, lead guitar, bass guitar
Pawel Bielecki: lead and background vocals
Maciej Baran: keyboard instruments
Paweł Stuczyński: drums
Robert Tyc: lead vocals (tracks 3, 4, 10)
Julia Hertmanowska: lead vocals (track 7, 10)
Boguslaw Balcerak: lead guitar (track 2, 3)
Marcin Gałkowski: lead guitar (tracks 1, 4)
Piotr Szwed: lead guitar (track 5)
Piotr Bajus (track 11)
Rafał Konieczny: piano (track 4)
8. Be An Eagle
10. Na Krawedzi
11. My Home
12. Fight For It
13. We Mgle
14. Can’t Take It
16. Dziewczynka z zapalkami
Hardrock Haven rating: 9.5/10