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HEARTSCORE

Crossover Prog • Germany


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Heartscore biography
Some bands are hard to describe, such as this weird German art rock trio, for example. HARDSCORE is basically the project of guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Dirk Radloff. Vocalist Olivier Hartstack contributes some operatic backing vocals on their first album whereas drummer Tim Warweg and piano/trumpet player Stefan Platte joins them on their second album. The music of HEARTSCORE is somewhat reminiscent of GENTLE GIANT but with guitar licks la Jimmy Page and strange vocals similar to Peter Hammill's; some shrill, shaky vocals bordering on hysteria at times.

Their mostly guitar-dominated albums are very riffy, supported by simple bass and drum play, and the straightforward compositions border on hard rock. The lyrics, taken from various North American poets of the 19th and early 20th centuries, coupled with Radloff's dramatic, deliberately pronounced vocals add up to something weird yet not unpleasant. However, none of the band's two albums are very challenging musically speaking. Because there isn't much variety from track to track, a feeling of sameness starts to creep in as the albums progress. As a critic once wrote, "it's almost as if Radloff had used up all his energy on the unique concept and run out of further ideas". Well put.

If the idea of early-century American poetry sung over LED ZEPPELIN-like guitar riffs appeals to you, perhaps you'll get a kick or two out of HEARTSCORE.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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Buy HEARTSCORE Music


Touch MeTouch Me
CD Baby 2009
Audio CD$6.85
$6.84 (used)
SculpturesSculptures
CD Baby 2007
Audio CD$13.51
$1.92 (used)
Many DirectionsMany Directions
CD Baby 2007
Audio CD$8.29
$8.28 (used)
Straight to the BrainStraight to the Brain
CD Baby 2005
Audio CD$11.61
$6.46 (used)
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HEARTSCORE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

HEARTSCORE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.82 | 2 ratings
Sculptures
2003
3.86 | 3 ratings
Straight To The Brain
2004
3.00 | 2 ratings
Many Directions
2007
2.00 | 1 ratings
Touch Me
2009
3.82 | 2 ratings
Heartscore
2016

HEARTSCORE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

HEARTSCORE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

HEARTSCORE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

HEARTSCORE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

HEARTSCORE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Straight To The Brain by HEARTSCORE album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.86 | 3 ratings

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Straight To The Brain
Heartscore Crossover Prog

Review by Jan Scanulfsson

4 stars Having enjoyed Heartscore's 2016 album I took advantage of the holiday season and made a foray into back catalogue, opting for the oldest item on the Bandcamp discography : "Straight to the Brain" from 2004.

The cartoonish cover art, a literal depiction of the title, reminds my days as a C64 owner dabbling with line-drawing software. A deliberately nostalgic gesture towards an 80s childhood perhaps?

The liner notes credit Dirk Radloff with guitars, bass, violin as well as lead and backing vocals. Additional personnel include Tim Warweg on drums, and Stefan Platte, contributing piano and trumpet. Mixing and mastering are attributed to Ole and Jorg Kiessling, making for a significantly different division of labour compared to Heartscore's recent album.

The opener, "God lay dead", wastes no time in getting down to business, with distorted guitars and a kind of epic metal-Western feel. Riffs with chugging punctuation, rhythmic shifts and mobile accents and a multitracked, distressed and demented sounding angelic choir befitting the subject matter. I wondered if this was a Nietzsche reference, but the CD booklet has a lyrical credit for Stephen Crane, with a short internet search dating the American author's poem to 1905 - perfectly in keeping with many of Mr Radloff's preferred authors. The song, in a little over 3 minutes, blends all manner of ideas and moods with a refrain that takes me back to 70s glam-rock, albeit influenced by heavier 80s metal. Radloff's vocals are pitched in "rock tenor" territory, reminding me of Peter Hammill or Anekdoten's Nicklas Barker. Committed and passionate, identifying the drama of the poetry and riding the musical waves. Energetic invention to open the set of a dozen songs in style.

Next is "Long John Brown and little Mary Bell", beginning with a Page-esque riff and accumulating 80s heavy metal trappings. Very dynamic drums and an extended solo guitar feature are arrangement highlights. The third track, "Anyone", begins with a classic pedal-note riff, something akin to Randy Rhoads' rhythm style in the late 70s/early 80s. Great drumming and, again, lots of guitar-focus.

The fourth track, "Love is like whiskey", draws on Langston Hughes' jazz-age poetry, and adopts something of a glam-rock style, at least initially. This being Heartscore, nothing is ever single-genre based, and the track develops in a 40s/50s street corner doo-wop direction. I wonder if this is a filtered 70s Queen influence?

So far the earlier Heartscore employs more conventional heavy rock forces and gives extra spotlight time to the lead guitar.

A stand-out track for me is "The schoolboy", featuring wonderful trumpet, in a kind of nod to the baroque tendencies of 60s psychedelia, and a childlike opening theme with a vocal timbre reminiscent of Steve Harley. The song moves through another choral arrangement before a glorious transition around the five minute mark, which brings to mind "And You And I", in terms of its melodic shaping, guitar style and upward spiralling epic quality.

Zeppelinisms abound over the second half of the album with Dirk pushing his vocals to include whoops and squeals. More riffs, more energy and always lots of rhythmic variety, see-sawing between 70s and 80s influences.

The other personal highlight comes in the form of the penultimate track, "Good-Bye" , drawing on the poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson and seeing Radloff into Peter Hammill territory in a few places, especially during the existentially fraught spoken word section, which would have been at home in the soundworld of "Lemmings" or "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers".

The closing track deserves a special mention with a glorious opening of acoustic guitar and chattering woodwind, which I can only describe as pastoral Zeppelin in collaboration with Erich Korngold. This song, more than any of the others, hints at the future direction of Heartscore with classical/soundtrack influences melded to classic and art- rock, and a more prominent role for Radloff's distinctively lyrical violin abilities.

The mix quality and production are excellent with lively drums and well-recorded guitars, exhibiting an ideal balance of crunch and bite. Hearing Dirk take the lead vocals is very interesting in comparison to the native-English speaking Chris, who is heavily featured on 2016's eponymous album. Fashioning lyrics from non-rock-idiom poetry and setting them to music influenced by classic rock and metal makes for striking and unexpected phrasing. There's a refreshing lack of the usual blues-derived exhortations, making for cliche-free lyrics and adding to the very real sense of cross-cultural currents.

How does this compare to "Heartscore"?

Similar yet different. Something of a cop-out perhaps, but the restless, searching invention and dazzling arrangements are common to both albums, albeit with the older title using a smaller instrumental palette, thanks to the classic rock quartet/quintet.

I'd say that the more direct and riff-o-centric "Straight to the Brain" will appeal to an audience more familiar with classic rock, as opposed to 2016's "Heartscore" which displays more classical/jazz/modern-musical theatre influences. Again, if you're looking for something different, something more defiantly progressive, in its truest sense, then you won't go wrong with either album.

 Heartscore by HEARTSCORE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.82 | 2 ratings

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Heartscore
Heartscore Crossover Prog

Review by Jan Scanulfsson

4 stars Released in April 2016, Heartscore's eponymous album is clearly not a debut affair, as a glance at an extensive discography reveals. Could this collection mark a new direction for Dirk Radloff's studio project, or a return to an older stylistic approach ? "Setting Poems To Music" is the Heartscore maxim, with this set of songs selecting American authors spanning the second half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Being a lifelong Poe enthusiast, my eye was drawn to "The bells" so, curiosity piqued, I streamed the song twice via Bandcamp and was sufficiently impressed to order the CD. A gamble? Perhaps.... perhaps not, let's see....

The CD booklet and cover artwork is clean, uncluttered and elegant with source poems printed in full, author portraits and a short biography which also lists Radloff's musical influences. It's essentially a one-man project with Dirk being responsible for everything except the lead vocals, which are credited to Chris from "studiopros".

Close the drawer, press play, here we go :

A furious drum tattoo, with something of a Western-movie feel opens "Hope is a thing with feathers". A statement of intent with shifting accents and clever arranging which, for some reason, reminded me of Ray Noble's "Cherokee" from the big band era, albeit with very different forces. Clipped and muted guitars give way to a heavy rock chug, jazzier transitions, neat call and response sections and, all the while, Chris' vocals soar above, handling difficult changes in both meter and harmony with aplomb.

The second track, "Alone", provides quite a contrast with Radloff's plaintive violin lines recalling the neo-classical music of the twenties and thirties. Dirk also contributes a multi-part harmony vocal group to this song in a style suggesting equal parts Igor Stravinsky and Brian Wilson.

"Sylvester's dying bed" is the next offering, partnering the jazz-age poetry of Langston Hughes with an arrangement recalling seventies rock-gospel musicals or Steven Sondheim. Lots of theatrical flourishes with "blue eyed soul" vocals from Chris contrasting with the accented multi-part harmonies of Dirk.

The musical theatre aspects are noticeable quite a few of the other tracks, possibly as a result of fusing classical, jazz and rock influences in similar proportions to Bernstein and Sondheim. This wonderfully intriguing coalescence is nowhere more apparent than on the fourth song, "Neither far away nor in deep", drawing upon classic "driving-rock", eighties metal, musical theatre and jazz fusion, all in the space of the first three minutes.

The song that started it all for me is next. "The bells", a second shy of ten minutes, adapts Poe's verse and offers a dazzling, ever-shifting arrangement with complex rhythms, modal jazz harmonies, and a convincing range of moods and emotions to suit the poetry. The synth brass voicings, unfortunately, sound a little artificial and create something of an eighties feel for me. However, they are treated and mixed in such a way as to bed-in with the arrangement. Noticeable but not overly prominent or distracting. "The bells" is descriptive music in the manner of a Straussian tone-poem or Mahlerian orchestral lieder with contrasting rockier movements which I can only describe as being akin to Led Zeppelin arranged by The Mahavishnu Orchestra. This is progressive rock in every sense.

Halfway in and the Heartscore style is becoming more familiar, drawing on an incredibly wide range of influences, passing them through the Radloff- filter and rearranging with more than a spark of original genius. Occasionally there's a sense of Chris struggling with a polysyllabic vocal line, as if he's rushing the words to cope with a meter dictated by the source texts, and changing the feel from lyric-singing to recitative, but it's all in keeping with the albums's ever-present theatrical influences.

The second half of the album continues to surprise, delight and reward with the mellow, electric-piano textures of "Maggy and Milly and Molly and May" making for a jazzy ballad graced once again by Dirk's superlative violin lines. A special mention to the funky Weather Report-esque groove of "Railroad avenue" and the jazz metal crunch of "Haunted house" with its spectral synths and clever spacious production.

The closing track, "Opium fantasy", is as addictive as the title suggests with a dreamy cocktail of twenties neo-classical, acoustic Zeppelin and hints, perhaps, of Siberian Khatru.

The CD is equipped with an unlisted bonus track, an eleventh wonder which I won't elaborate on. After all, everyone likes a nice surprise.

How to summarise such an eclectic collection of songs? It's not "immediate" rock music where you can settle into a comfortable chair and sing along after the first listen. It won't help you tick off the miles on long highway rides and it's certainly not music to provoke foot-stomping and beer glass swinging. It is music that will reward you with every listen, revealing fresh ideas, interplay, arrangement details and thematic connections with every spin.

I've listened to this album six times in full concentration/darkened room mode and I'm unearthing new gems with every few measures, continually doffing my cap to Dirk Radloff's compositional and arranging talent.

Different? Yes. Progressive? Definitely. Highly Recommended.

 Straight To The Brain by HEARTSCORE album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.86 | 3 ratings

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Straight To The Brain
Heartscore Crossover Prog

Review by Lee Lucas

4 stars Released in 2004 Straight To The Brain is the 2nd album by Heartscore and one that comes with a change in direction in relation to the previous album Sculptures. The album consists of 12 tracks over a playing time of 57 and half minutes, and the material is much more stronger and further attention I feel to how the tracks placement on the album are well placed making it flow really well.

Though Dirk has gone along with the same style of working around famous old time poets and poems for the lyrics, musically he has added some fine diversity and progression along its path and he has also enrolled a session drummer namely Tim Warweg and Stefan Platte contributing piano and trumpet along the way here and there.

The album itself kicks off superbly with "God Lay Dead" not only is this song perhaps familiar to Gentle Giants style but also is the title here. It really is a superb track and is followed by another super track with "Long John Brown and little Mary Bell" which goes along at a great pace.

Dirk's familiar harmonies and his approach to the vocals are all done in his unique and professional way just as he did so on the album Sculptures, but here the songs on this fine album are much more suited to fit together for his voice, and his approach to the music is even on par here with his 3rd album Many Directions.

The album continues very much in the same fashion as it progresses along and nothing is out of place here, not even the longest track on the album "The Schoolboy" which is a great prog rock song with great diversity and progression along its path. Following this we have another fabulous track with "The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls" and the album continues to run along in great style right up to the the final track "The Day Is Done" which is another super venture into prog rock and my favourite track of the album.

Overall the album Straight To The Brain is a solid piece of work by Dirk Radloff. The material works and binds very well together and make a truly enjoyable album that is near enough on par with his fabulous album Many Directions. There is nothing for me not to like here and it merits a well worthy 4 stars from me. Also watch out for Dirk's violin playing along this album which is as good as his cracking job on the guitar. A well worthy purchase and one I would highly recommend for your ears.

 Sculptures by HEARTSCORE album cover Studio Album, 2003
2.82 | 2 ratings

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Sculptures
Heartscore Crossover Prog

Review by Lee Lucas

3 stars Released way back in 2002 Sculptures is the debut and quite a rocking album by Heartscore and the work of Dirk Radloff the very man behind the project. The album contains 10 great tracks over a playing time of some just under 45 minutes and even though it may not be considered by Dirk himself has his best work, I have to say for a debut album it's very fine piece of work and quite a solid album in many respects.

All of the music and the arrangements are done by Dirk himself. Dirk is not a lyric writer and he has carefully chosen the work of famous well known poets from many moons back, for example 7 out of the 10 tracks here the lyrics come from the 1920's poet and literature writer Langston Hughes. Others famous old time poets were very much from the same poet society such as Edwin Arlington Robinson who's poem and title he chose for the last track of the album "John Evereldown" and poetry from Emily Dickenson on track 6 and E. E. Cummings on track 9 respectively.

What fascinates me about these fine poets words is the fact that he does not really alter their words at all, and sings them exactly how they was written and sculptures the expressions around his fine music. Dirk is not only a fine musician but also a well good singer and all the harmonies he adds to his main vocals is very neatly and professionally done. Considering he does this on his own and is work on the harmonies are very familiar to how the great band Queen go about theirs, it quite an achievement for any one man to process such great talent and his vision and mind work very well. But also on this fine album for 4 of the tracks he has called upon Oliver Hartstack who also contributes some dramatic vocal work on tracks 1,5,6, & 8 receptively.

The album Sculptures kicks off very well with it's opening track "Men Treat's Woman (Lover's Return" The song itself is perhaps more pop based and has a much more commercial swing and up-tempo beat about it. Lyrically it's perhaps what I would see as a fine single from the album, but however it does also seem to out of context with the rest of the material on the album, which for me is much more rock driven and gets better and better by every track as you listen to it progress along from start to finish. The following track "Blue Bayou" is a great track with fabulous bass lines and a cracking little riff that drives it along. Great high's from Dirk's voice on this one too.

Other great tracks worthy of a mention here is the shortest track on the album "When Sue Wears Red" which has some great guitar lines and some pretty nifty changes about it. This is followed by another great bass driven track "Aunt Sue's Stories" which once again shows some fine diversity with its changes and is a really great song and certainly keeps the listener well intrigued and attentive to how the album flows along so well.

There is no doubt this album for me personally get's better as it goes along and track 6 "The Saddest Noise, The Sweetest Noise" certainly rocks my boat and super well driven rock song in every way. Very much a contender for the best track on the album. The album continues in the same super rocking style with "Judgement Day" and these two tracks really pick up the pace of the album in super style. Track 8 "Little Julie (Delinquent)" is another well intriguing story of a song and a cracking track. "What If a Much of a Which of a Wind" is perhaps the fastest pace driven song of the album, which for me is the least liked track of the album personally from myself but nothing remotely bad here and it certainly rocks very well. Interestingly enough Dirk as almost made this an intro for the last track of the album "John Evereldown" as it leads straight into it without stopping. Also for me "John Evereldown" is my favourite track of the album and as a great marching into battle feel about it.

To sum up the album Sculptures by Heartscore. It's very much a great rocking album, and as a debut album I think Dirk as done very little wrong here in the way the albums actually flows along and builds up from strength to strength. I could name many well known artists and bands who's debut albums would not be half as good as what we have here, with how well and strong the material is upon it. Bryan Adams strikes my mind instantly and it took him 3 albums to become anywhere near successful with his own career. So what we have here is a very worthy album well worthy of the bucks and a blast.

 Many Directions by HEARTSCORE album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Many Directions
Heartscore Crossover Prog

Review by Lee Lucas

5 stars Really super album well worthy of the bucks. The album itself contains some really well written and performed mainly short tracks done in great progressive rock style. The interesting thing about the album Many Directions is that it really lives up to its expectations in diversity and does indeed flow in many directions with its path. Even the shortest track "Many Red Devils" at some 1 minute and 51 seconds, has more directions than most 20 minute long epics I have ever come across in the world of Prog Rock.

The album does have a Gentle Giant feel to most of the material that can be found upon it, and if your into those, you will certainly like what this album has to offer that's for sure. Other tracks such as "Richard Cory" "There's Been a Death in the Opposite House" "Credo" and "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed" are amongst the highlights here, and the album ends off with a 10 minute classic with "The Miller's Wife" and is my personal favourite of the great album, and even has a Gryphon feel about it too.

To sum up the album Many Directions by Heartscore. There is no doubt that Dirk Radloff is one hell of an accomplished musician, you cannot create music at this level without having that ability that's for sure. Music like this does not just fall out of the sky into your lap, it's a very well crafted and sculptured piece of work that is far from anything remotely easy to play and put together in this way.

It's a very solid album of 14 tracks over a playing time of some 50 minutes. I feel Dirk also was heavily influenced by many of the greats from the 70's, but he has also managed to adapt his own personal touch in bringing it up to date with some contrasting styles of Pop and Jazz thrown into the equation along the way. He also continues his move into the world of Prog continues very well and this album continues in great contrasting style to its predecessor Straight To The Brain and is a well worthy purchase, and the album certainly rocks my boat and gets an 100% recommendation from me.

 Touch Me by HEARTSCORE album cover Studio Album, 2009
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Touch Me
Heartscore Crossover Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
2 stars German outfit HEARTSCORE is first and foremost the creative vehicle of one Dirk Radloff, a composer and multi-instrumentalist who started releasing his compositions on CD back in 2003. "Touch Me" is the most recent of his exploits, following two years after his previous production "Many Directions".

There's not much material to appeal to a progressive rock interested audience on "Touch Me"; pop music and mainstream-oriented compositions are very much the order of the day. And in that particular context, if you find that you truly like Radloff's peculiar vocal style I can heartily recommend this album; if you don't you will be well-advised to stay away.

 Many Directions by HEARTSCORE album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Many Directions
Heartscore Crossover Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars On the third release by German based project Heartscore, there are some interesting experiments; but also quite a few that are slightly flawed.

Most of the tunes are metal-influenced tunes, most times dominated by asynchron or quirky guitar riffs and/or rhythms; creating slightly original moods and melodies. Some tunes have other influences though; and the most successful tune on the album, the 10 minute long final composition The Miller's Wife, is one of those. A symphonic number with folk and classical influences, it's the clear highlight here.

The main weakness n this release are the vocals; both style and performance tends to be a mismatch with the melody much too often. Fans of quirky and experimental music might have an interest in this one though, especially those feeling that vocal performance is of secondary importance.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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