The release of The Embattled Hearts may be surprising for a few reasons. First off, old Veal fans might have thought singer Luke Doucet had given up his position in the band for his reasonably successful solo career -- the Aloha, Manitoba album was released to extremely positive reviews, and probably garnered more press than Veal ever had. Probably more surprising to people who know Doucet primarily as a gentle, almost countrified solo artist is just how hard he can rock out when he's in a band setting. One case in point is the song "Mitzi's," which appears on both Aloha, Manitoba and The Embattled Hearts: the original (found on Aloha) is a mostly acoustic number that crosses folk and country, while the Embattled Hearts version cranks up the volume and speed, turning it into a rocking, sludgy rockabilly number. You don't have to wait that long to hear the changes, though, because both the energy and volume levels are cranked up right off the bat. In fact, the opening cut, "Defiler," cops the riff from "Kashmir," which is probably as good an indication as any that Doucet's not hanging out in the country this time around; instead, his riffs veer from thrashy surf to punkabilly, with the occasional stop in more poppy territory (such as "Judy Garland," which is -- strangely enough -- about being knocked unconscious). You can tell, throughout, that Doucet really relishes the opportunity to crank the amp, and bandmates Chang and Nik Kozub make it easy, by rocking just as hard.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Carruthers