Stitched Up Heart, the City of Angles-based hard rockers who came seemingly out of nowhere after being founded in 2010 by female powerhouse vocalist Alecia “Mixi” Demner and guitarist Merrit Alfero, have launched their much-anticipated full-length debut album, Never Alone, on Another Century Records. Rounding out the group are bassist Randy Mathias and James Decker on drums. Never Alone was released last week, on June 17th, and features 12 high-octane rock tracks that show the band can keep up with even the most seasoned of rockers.
Now, before we get into the meat of the album, I should preface this by saying I’ve long been a fan of female-fronted rock and metal bands, with Nightwish, Halestorm, Epica and Within Temptation being among my favorites, so it should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that I think very highly of Stitched Up Heart, whose name is meant to give people confidence and courage, as they take listeners through a journey of hard hitting drums and heavy guitar riffs. For the uninitiated, Stitched Up Heart have released two EPs prior to Never Alone, including their self-titled debut EP in 2010, as well as 2014’s EP effort, Skeleton Key, and have put together quite the tour resume. They’ve performed at Warped Tour and SXSW, and have shared the stage with Like A Storm, Sick Puppies and, mostly recently here in NYC, with Lacuna Coil.
Kicking off Never Alone is “Finally Free”, a hard-hitting epic that sets the tone for the rest of the album perfectly. “Mixi”, as she’s known, shows off her incredible range right from jump street, and announces to the world that she can kick ass just as much as any other female lead singer out there. Mixi definitely has some Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) in her on Finally Free, but then we move on to the album’s second offering, Monster, which starts off soft and gives you the false impression that it’s going to be an upbeat track before launching into Mixi’s howling vocals, where she shows she can hit the growlies and screams like Maria Brink of In This Moment.
Catch Me When I Fall is the third track on Never Alone, and definitely has a more metal feel than its two preceding tracks. Merrit Alfero’s guitar riffs have a heavier sound, and the drums have more punch. It just feels like a metal song from a hard rock band, and that’s a great thing. The lyrics are perfectly done, and just when you think you’ve heard the band’s best, you get It’s So Easy, which might be my favorite song on the entire album. It’s So Easy’s lyrics scream of love story-turned-horror-story, and it’s not nearly as the other tracks on Never Alone, but Mixi’s vocals really pull you in and make you feel like you’re part of the music.
I’m going to skip ahead a bit and talk about I Can’t Breathe, the closing track from Never Alone. I Can’t Breathe starts out very dark, with piano-backed vocals, before kicking into high gear with the usual array of monster guitar riffs I’ve come to expect from Stitched Up Heart by now, and then back into piano-backed vocals. There’s just something about piano on a song that would otherwise be considered more of a metal song, with a chick who has an enormous voice and incredible range howling over it that makes for a great song, and I Can’t Breathe is perfectly placed at the end of the album as a great way to end the band’s full-length debut.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least talk about the album’s title track before I end this review. Never Alone, the song, is flat out unbelievable, and one of the best songs on the entire album. If it weren’t for It’s So Easy, this would be my favorite song. The lyrics, from the verse to the chorus and back, are absolutely perfect for the theme and feel of the song, which isn’t nearly as dark as some of the other tracks on the album, but still has that dark-ish feel to it, like a love story gone bad. “I hear you’ll never be alone”, goes the chorus, and coincidentally enough, is also the last lyric on the track, which is just flawless.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a thing for female-fronted rock and metal bands. It’s a genre that’s been popular in Europe for a long time, but never really took off here. Sure, you have bands like Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless, but there just aren’t enough bands like this. I don’t know if that’s out of fear of not making it, or because we don’t normally associate hard rock or heavy metal with female vocals, but Alecia Demner’s vocals blow away some of the men I’ve heard singing in rock bands lately. Stitched Up Heart is a breath of fresh air for a post-2000’s hard rock genre that can sometimes be stale, where it feels like every band is doing something similar. Stitched Up Heart puts a unique spin on hard rock and takes it to another level with non-stop, hard hitting music and dark lyrics that don’t often appeal to me, but they do it so well that I can’t help but love it. Stitched Up Heart has already shown they can hang with the big boys, and Never Alone further proves why they opened for Lacuna Coil. I personally can only hope they’ll do a US headline tour to support Never Alone in the near future, because I absolutely have to see them live.
Stitched Up Heart is already very, very good, and they’re only going to get better. Never Alone is available now, and, in a really cool move that we don’t often see anymore, can be streamed for free in its entirety on Spotify.
1. Finally Free
3. Catch Me When I Fall
4. Event Horizon
5. It’s So Easy
6. Never Alone
7. Now That You’re Gone
8. Turn You On
9. Bleeding Out
10. City of Angels
11. I Can’t Breathe