Uriah Heep

Taking their name from the scheming, parasitic lawyer in Charles Dickens' 1850 novel David Copperfield, Uriah Heep was a progressive rock institution who, alongside bands like Deep Purple, Queen, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin, helped lay the foundation for the United Kingdom's vibrant hard rock/heavy metal scene, via combustible hits like "Easy Livin'," "The Wizard," "Sweet Lorraine," "Lady in Black," and "Stealin'." Founded in 1969 by powerhouse vocalist David Byron and guitarist Mick Box, the group went through a prodigious number of members over the next four decades -- nearly 40 different musicians passed through the group over the years. Originally operating under the moniker Spice, Byron and Box eventually recruited guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist Ken Hensley, bassist Paul Newton, and drummer Nigel Olsson, and made the transition to Uriah Heep -- fans often refer to the band as simply Heep.

With Box and Byron handling most of the songwriting duties, the newly minted quintet debuted their bottom-heavy guitar- and organ-driven blend of bluesy sonic might and innovative hard rock on 1970's Very 'Eavy...Very 'Umble (called Uriah Heep in the U.S.), which was released on Vertigo Records. Initially panned by critics, the LP has since attained legendary status as an early heavy metal classic. Olsson would depart shortly after the album's release, making room for new drummer Keith Baker, who made his studio debut on the group's 1971 sophomore effort Salisbury. The ambitious six-track set, which saw Hensley making a more substantial writing contribution, adopted a far more progressive stance than the band's previous outing, with the 16-minute title cut employing a 26-piece orchestra. The group endured a flurry of lineup shake-ups -- Baker was replaced by Ian Clarke, whose role was then usurped by Lee Kerslake, while Gary Thain took over bass duties from Mark Clarke, who had succeeded Paul Newton shortly after the release of 1971's Look at Yourself and before the arrival of their acclaimed third studio long-player, 1972's Demons and Wizards. Widely praised as the band's breakthrough LP, it heralded a hugely successful run of albums (The Magician's Birthday, 1972, Sweet Freedom, 1973, Wonderworld, 1974, and Return to Fantasy, 1975) that saw Uriah Heep perfect their gothic-infused metal, as well as maintain a mostly stable lineup -- future Asia frontman and King Crimson alum John Wetton joined the band on bass for the latter offering.

Wetton would stay on through 1976's fairly mainstream-sounding High and Mighty, but internal issues, due in part to David Byron's struggles with alcohol, were beginning to wear on the band. Wetton left the fold in 1977, and the group was forced to let Byron go, resulting in the release of Firefly, the first Uriah Heep effort to feature new vocalist John Lawton and former David Bowie bassist (and ex-Spider from Mars) Trevor Bolder, the latter of whom would stay with the group until his death in 2013. The band's sound began to change as well, with subsequent offerings like Fallen Angel and Conquest leaning more toward commercial AOR rock than progressive metal, though the band maintained a respectable level of popularity, especially in Germany. 1982 saw the group enter into another phase, delivering a punchier, more pop-metal era-appropriate effort with Abominog, their 14th long-player and first of three outings to feature ex-Trapeze vocalist Peter Goalby.

While their audience declined as the years went on -- and pop culture norms waxed and waned -- the band enjoyed a strong international presence, and continued to release quality albums via multiple lineup iterations that featured Mick Box as the sole original member. In 2017, the stalwart rockers announced that they had begun work on their 26th studio album, with plans to release it the following fall, followed by a world tour. ~ James Christopher Monger

  • ORIGIN
    London, England
  • GENRE
    Rock
  • FORMED
    1969

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