Welcome to the West Coast II reminds me a lot of the best (and most unexpected) sequels and reboots of the past few years (21 Jump Street, Batman Begins, Star Trek): a surprise return to a level of greatness previously unreached. We assumed, based on credible word from the band themselves no less, that Lionheart were hanging it up (or at least disappearing for a while) after 2016’s Love Don’t Live Here. Clearly, that break never really materialized, and these Californians reference their hunger for more throughout the record. “Trial By Fire” (a bass-centric banger) even pokes fun at themselves while also highlighting why Lionheart have become a hardcore staple: “We were never that good; we just knew how to hustle.” They got to where they were/are not because their brand of metallic hardcore fury was particularly novel or through some unique perspective on life. No, Lionheart just knew how to bring it and worked their asses off in the process.
On that end, I can assure you that Lionheart have never brought it so hard as they do here, and that makes Welcome to the West Coast II electrifying. This unexpected sequel delivers the goods in spades: massive riffs (just listen to “Vultures”), lyrical fury, and more energy than a case of Red Bull. The band stick to tales of perseverance and vitriol throughout the record, and while some of the lyrics get a bit rote at times, “Shelter” is a beautiful ode to vocalist Rob Watson’s mother and her struggle to raise her kids. It’s a rare bit of poignancy in a sea of pit-starter platitudes (not a knock, Lionheart do that very well), and the band pull it off excellently.
Ultimately, Lionheart’s return is exactly the kind you want: an unexpected reintroduction to a band who know exactly what they do well (fast and furious hardcore) and play to their strengths. Welcome to the West Coast II is a masterclass in metallic hardcore anthems, the kind of songs that make you want to start a circle pit at your next office meeting (just me?).