Danny and the Juniors once prophesied that rock and roll was here to stay, in what's come to be known as the least rock 'n roll song this writer has ever heard. But while the music bears no resemblance to the guitar-heavy, in-your-face shot of adrenaline I know as rock today, they're lyrics were spot on - this is a genre that will never die. Even now, while music of the 21st century runs rampant with computerized vocals and singers who are merely talking on beat (not naming name$, but you all know who I mean), the "old fogies" of rock are still turning out that real quality sound. Sebastian Bach, Richie Sambora, and Van Halen all released great albums this year, and we can rejoice again, for Heart, the sister queens of rock, are back for 2012 with Fanatic.

The band's 14th studio album wades in the waters of really hard rock, possibly one of the heaviest records since 1977's Little Queen. It opens with "Fanatic," an ode to music, art, and prevailing over changing trends. "Don't try to tell me the world is changing," Ann Wilson sings, breaking almost immediately into her signature belt. The guitars are low, rumbling below her vocals like a charging stampede, only to burst forth at the solos like the rocking beast they are. By the time you reach the chorus and Wilson passionately cries out, "I'm just a fanatic!" you cannot help but to take her side.

The disc moves quickly to "Dear Old America," a song that quickly became a new favorite when I saw the band live over the summer. The distorted string introduction sounds even better on the album, creating a creepy dreamlike vibe that works so well with the poignant lyricism. The way Ann's voice slinks over the notes adds to the eerie element of the song and communicates its satirical message with the sort of ease we've come to expect from Heart. It's a gem of a track.

I must admit that after "Dear Old America," I had a hard time finding another song to jump out at me. They were all good, don't get me wrong; however, few surpassed the greatness I've come to expect from Heart. "Walking Good" is a particular treat: a sweet, a folk-infused acoustic number sung by Nancy Wilson and special guest Sarah McLachlan. It's a nice change of pace from the rest of the album, and the two girls' harmonies are beautiful. "Skin and Bones" is a sultry, bluesy track that I really enjoy, and the ballad "Pennsylvania" is a musical treat along the vein of "Dog and Butterfly." Listening through each of the songs, however, my mind kept circling back to a few self-evident truths: when it comes to rock 'n roll, Heart is in a class all its own; when it comes to powerhouse female artists, Heart stands head and shoulders above the rest; and, when it comes to new studio albums for 2012, Heart's Fanatic is one of the finest.

~ Chantel Donnan

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