The Brooklyn-based trio Heaven’s Jail illustrates the continuing influence of straight-ahead, AOR-style rock in that musical universe we still call “indie.” That said, they don’t brandish the guitar wizardry of your Kurt Viles and Steve Gunns, or the studio atmospherics of a Phosphorescent or the War on Drugs. Instead, Heaven’s Jail hones its guitar-driven sound around the unique lyrical perspective of frontman Francesco Ferorelli.
Raised on rap and heavy metal, Ferorelli revisits the romantic and wounded characters that populate the songs of Warren Zevon, Kris Kristofferson, and (a particular hero) Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott. At times on their latest album, Ace Called Zero, lyrical turns toward the dark and the brutish evoke Norman Mailer’s narrative style. Elsewhere, as on the track “Suicide,” vocal silences and wordless harmonies fill up the empty spaces with tension, loss, even horror.
If this undeniably masculine style feels problematic for this day and age, Heaven’s Jail isn’t particularly interested in making it easy for the listener. In these troubled times, Ferorelli is driven to explore the dividing line between the heroic and the vulgar; well aware of the risks in store, he keenly shapes lyrics and compositions to their simplest essence. Heaven’s Jail sustains a curious, fragile balance between sensitive songwriting and rock swagger that should collapse at any second. That expectation carries the listener through Ace Called Zero, its unfulfillment leaving an impression long after the album is over.
Ace Called Zero is out now on Heart Break Beat Records.