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Uriah Heep are an English rock band formed in London in 1969 and regarded (along with Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin) as a seminal classic hard rock act of the 1970s. Uriah Heep's progressive/art rock/heavy metal fusion's distinctive features have always been massive keyboards sound, strong vocal harmonies and (in the early years) David Byron's operatic vocals. Twelve of the band's albums have made it to the UK Albums Chart (Return to Fantasy reached #7 in 1975) while of the fifteen Billboard 200 Uriah Heep albums Demons and Wizards was the most successful (#23, 1972). In the late 1970s the band had phenomenal success in Germany, where the "Lady in Black" single spent 13 weeks at #1.
Uriah Heep's audience declined by the 1980s, to the point where they became essentially a cult band in the United Kingdom and United States. The band maintains, though, a significant following and performs at arena-sized venues in the Balkans, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia and Scandinavia. They have sold over 30 million albums worldwide.
The lineup remained unchanged from 1986 until 2007, being veteran Mick Box at the helm, Trevor Bolder on bass, Lee Kerslake on drums, vocalist Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon on keyboards. Their principal tour circuit has been in Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Japan and Russia. In December 1987 they were the first ever Western band to play in Soviet Russia, under Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost. At Moscow's Olympic Stadium the band played ten consecutive nights to a total of 180,000 people (following a reception that Bernie Shaw remembered as being "something like Beatlemania") which was represented in the international press as not just an achievement for Uriah Heep but a major breakthrough for Western music in general. The concerts were recorded and issued as the Live In Moscow album which included three new tracks. Ironically, it was this behind the Iron Curtain excursion that did well to re-establish Heep's name back at home. After a series of sell-out dates in Czechoslovakia, East Berlin and Bulgaria the band returned to Britain for the Reading Festival in August, 1988, and toured the UK with The Dogs D'Amour. Raging Silence, produced by Richard Dodd and released in May 1989, was followed by a return to the Soviet Union, concerts in Poland, East Berlin, six dates in Brazil and another British tour. "The last two years have been the most enjoyable of all my time in Heep," Trevor Bolder was quoted to say at the time. The band played in the Central TV studios in Nottingham (the film was shown as part of the Independent TV series "Bedrock" and a few years later it was repeated in the Cue Music series) and celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a series of compilations and re-issues.
Produced by Trevor Bolder and released early in 1991, Different World got a mixed reception from the press (put down in Kerrang!, hailed in Metal Hammer) and sold poorly. "Yet another technically sound but artistically bland recording from Uriah Heep” (according to AllMusic) failed to chart and marked the end of the band's contract with Legacy Records. Touring incessantly, the band issued some compilations of which Rarities from the Bronze Age and The Lansdowne Tapes (featuring previously unreleased material from the early 1970s) are considered most noteworthy. Still the first half of the 1990s is regarded even by the Heep fans as "the wilderness years".
The Sea of Light album (1995) produced by the band along with Kalle Trapp was well received and in retrospect is seen as the band's return to form, the key to success being (according to critic Donald A. Guarisco) the way it "forsook the ill-judged pop metal stylings of albums like Equator for a return to the gothic-tinged old-school metal style that highlighted classic Uriah Heep albums like Look at Yourself". Produced by Pip Williams, Sonic Origami, originally issued in Japan in 1998, then, a year later, in the U.S., had "a grand, epic tone throughout" that, according to rock critic Steve Huey, "doesn't always match Uriah Heep's journeyman-sounding prog-tinged hard rock," still being "a solid entry in its chosen genre. The release was followed by a successful European tour which continued all through 1999. The band released The Legend Continues DVD and then toured the UK. A reunion gig with Ken Hensley & John Lawton took place in London on December 7th, 2001 in the course of the Magicians Birthday Party, which since then became a tradition, even though Hensley never actually joined again. For most of the years that followed Uriah Heep have returned to Britain for a tour or just this annual showcase concert, which in 2003 was held at the now demolished London Astoria. All the while Mick Box acted as a manager for the band until, on April 5, 2005, they retained Simon Porter as their manager.
In early 2007, drummer Lee Kerslake had to leave the group due to ill health. In March of that year the band recruited Russell Gilbrook as their new drummer and immediately started recording a new studio album entitled Wake the Sleeper, where they used double drums in the songs "Wake the Sleeper" and "War Child". Originally slated for a summer 2007 release, Universal Music finally released Wake the Sleeper on June 2, 2008. In October 2009 Uriah Heep released their 40th Anniversary Celebration album, containing new studio recordings of twelve of their best known tracks, plus two brand new songs. "This collection underlines again that Uriah Heep are deserving great respect for their past achievements but far more importantly it makes it crystal clear that this is a band with a bright future as well as a glorious history", wrote Chris Kee in his 9/10 review in Powerplay magazine’s February 2010 issue. A United States tour for June/July 2010 was delayed due to immigration problems; the first two dates had to be rescheduled. This resulted in an appearance at B.B. King's in New York City as being the first date of the tour. Then Uriah Heep performed live on the Progressive Rock stage at the inaugural High Voltage Festival in London's Victoria Park on July 25, 2010. They played their 1972 album Demons and Wizards in its entirety, being joined by ex-Whitesnake man Micky Moody on slide guitar.
Uriah Heep released their 23rd studio album Into the Wild on April 15, 2011 in Europe (May 3 in North America) via Frontiers Records.