Perhaps the reason I like it as much as I do is that my expectations were completely in the toilet after Erik's departure. I was expecting garbage... and it's not. I find it quite enjoyable, even if not Tearing Down the Walls level.
Unlike with the Journey album, I'm not hearing the production issues people are complaining about, at least not to that degree. It's a hot mix to be sure, but it's not impacting my listening or enjoyment as with Journey. I also wonder if again, the source/platform is making a difference. I'm listening to uncompressed FLAC straight from disc, not streaming or some bit-starved promo files.
H.E.A.T, with "It's All About Tonight" are literally the band that turned me onto modern hard rock in general, and this site in particular. So definitely a special place in my heart for this band.
Put me firmly in the "likes it a lot" camp on this album. Is it perfect? No. Is it a 98/100? LOL, no. But I like it a lot.
First, I don't hear all the same mix issues that some of you have mentioned. Is it a little loud in parts? Yeah, I can hear that. But it certainly doesn't ruin the songs or anything. But I don't hear Kenny buried in the mix or the lyrics being unintelligible or anything like that. I've listened on a good pair of Sony headphones and my car stereo - no issues in either place.
Secondly, I definitely appreciate that they kept the harder sound from the Erik era. The best songs here aren't as good as Erik's best ("Point of No Return", "Rise", and "Come Clean" probably being my top 3) but they are really good. "Tainted Blood" is excellent (see below, however). "Wings of an Aeroplane" is also really good. "Hollywood", which I didn't love before, is growing on me even if I do still hate the chorus. All in all, I really like the songs on offer here.
Thirdly, if I'm going to critique, it's Kenny's vocals. For the most part, he does an excellent job. When he's just singing the songs, he's great. He's not Erik, but he does an excellent job. However, on multiple songs, Kenny tries for vocal histrionics that sound strained and just don't work. Like on "Tainted Blood", for example.
Bottom line for me is that is a very good H.E.A.T album. It's not "H.E.A.T II" or "Tearing Down the Walls" or "Live in London" but it's better than the first two albums or "Into the Great Unknown".
Yeah, mixed feelings is the right phrase here. This album isn't bad but it's bland and forgettable. The two Kent Hilli songs are probably my favorites but they sound very similar to other stuff he's done.
There's just nothing here that stands out.