Lionheart - Live at Summer Breeze (Cover Artwork)


Live at Summer Breeze (2020)

Fast Break! Records

I don’t have to remind you that 2020 has not been a kind year. Among its many casualties has been live shows. What for many of us was once as routine as morning coffee, by now seems like an unattainable luxury. If you’re like me and at this point would drop $50 to watch a hippie play Phish covers on a ukulele in a food court, a live album filled with all the energy of the real thing can be of great comfort. Lionheart recently decided to try to fill our voids a little and unexpectedly released Live At Summer Breeze.

Having passed their 15 year mark as a band, Lionheart, as clearly displayed here, are as secure in their place within the hardcore/metalcore scene as can be. Their early works drew heavy comparisons to Hatebreed, and while this wasn’t misguided in terms of style, Lionheart at least had the advantage of strong, “true story” lyrics- rather than setting strings of cliches to beatdown. In their later efforts, the band’s sound blossomed, invoking elements not only of metal and hardcore, but also a decent dose of hip-hop; a choice which mixes well with their urban tales of struggle and hustle.

Even as they eventually came into their own, Lionheart developed a trait just as important: humility. Especially following a brief breakup in 2016-2017, Lionheart is not stubborn about where they stand. They came back seeming to have a newfound focus not on continuous expansion, but on holding onto what works and keeping the heart at top priority. Balance avoids burnout, and humility allows for a concentration on passion.

As such, the band appears to view an appearance at Germany’s massive Summer Breeze festival as, to some degree, a rare lucky shot; one not to be wasted. They bring their best game throughout the whole set. With only a whiff of banter, Lionheart crush through the set with the soul of an intimate basement show, and the pomp of having an audience in the tens of thousands.

Of course, all the humility in the world won’t undo the fact that this is still a widely popular band, especially in Europe. The record opens with what sounds like the entire festival chanting “L-H-H-C” as the band takes the stage and opens the set with “Cali Stomp”; here serving the same purpose as pump-up intro as it did on 2017’s Welcome To the West Coast II.

After a very strong followup in “Hail Mary”, “Vultures” takes a bit of stale turn. Although a newer release, it’s a track that harkens back to their earlier work musically. It’s not a bad song per se, it just doesn’t translate well live, and especially not in this environment. Luckily the lull doesn’t last very long, and is followed by an impressive string of some of the bands best work. The relatable honesty of “Pain”, the headstrong “Still Bitter Still Cold”, diss track “Keep Talking’”, and autobiographical “Trial By Fire” provide a traditional “greatest hits” run, right in the sweet spot of the set.

The only other real letdown of the show comes with “Lockjaw”. It’s not that it doesn’t translate live this time. It’s that it isn’t a very good song to begin with. The song is just muddled- an attempt at a diss track, although clearly to nobody in particular, and a chorus that was probably meant to be a memorable hook, but comes off as dated and wily.

I’ll warn you ahead of time not to get your hopes up for “Fight For Your Right”, even after you hear the riff. It’s not what could have been a really cool cover; it’s just band introductions. They then close out the set with “LHHC” (plus "Going Back to the Bay", really nothing more than an outro). "LHHC", which could be considered their calling card track, is a pretty fun song despite the uncomfortably dopey chorus. But even that part is forgiven in this setting, as the crowd rushes the stage and one can visualize...with great longing...the sweaty dog pile grabbing for the mic.