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Norwalk, Connecticut's Steelheart is among the last surviving hair metal bands to emerge from the MTV era in the late 20th century. Their sound is rooted in anthemic rockers -- often with chant-along choruses -- soaring power ballads, fat, compressed guitar riffs à la Led Zeppelin and Guns N' Roses, and the lead vocals of Michael Matijevic, possessed of an effortlessly delivered, emotively powerful four-octave range. Their self-titled 1991 debut album boasted the single "She's Gone," that hit number one on the international singles charts and remained there for a whopping 17 weeks. Interestingly, it is regarded as one of the last power ballads to nail a top spot on the charts before the grunge and alternative rock invasions pulled the pop culture plug on hair metal completely. They scored another big hit in Asia with 1992's "Mama Don't You Cry." After a lengthy absence due to a life-threatening injury, to Matijevic required long-term recovery just as the music scene was waning. A re-formed Steelheart with Matijevic as the only original member continues to record and tour into the 21st century. Originally called Red Alert, the quartet (which included Matijevic, guitarist Chris Risola, bassist James Ward, and drummer Frank Dicostanzo) spent most of the '80s playing the tri-state area and honing their guitar-centric, crowd-pleasing energetic sound. After years of hard work, the bandmates headed west to Los Angeles, signed with MCA Records, and changed their name to Steelheart. In 1991, Steelheart released their self-titled debut, most notable for its octave-spanning vocals and a pair of hit power ballads: "Never Let You Go," which reached number 14 on the Billboard singles chart, and "She's Gone," which fared well internationally, spending 17 weeks at the top of the singles list. The band quickly began work on its sophomore effort, Tangled in Reins, which was released a year later. But tragedy was lurking just around the corner -- at a Halloween show opening for Slaughter at McNichol's Arena in Denver, Colorado, Matijevic was struck in the head by a lighting truss, knocking him to the ground face first and injuring his skull, jaw, nose, and spine. The country's musical climate changed dramatically during Matijevic's recovery, resulting in the band going on an indefinite hiatus. In 1996 Matijevic put together an all new lineup of the group and released the LP Wait. The album featured the single "We All Die Young," penned by guitarist Kenny Kanowski, that was used in the 2001 musical comedy-drama Rock Star, with Matijevic providing the singing voice for Mark Wahlberg's character in the film. Good 2B Alive arrived in 2008, offering a different musical direction and was subsequently with mixed reviews. After touring incessantly for a couple of years, Steelheart went on hiatus again before re-emerging at the three-day Rockingham festival in 2016 with Marten Andersson from Lynch Mob and Lizzy Borden on bass. As a new version of Steelheart with guitarist Joe Pessia completed sessions for its fifth full-length outing, Through Worlds of Stardust, they received news that former guitarist Kanowski had passed away. As a tribute, one of his previously taped solos was added to the album track "My Dirty Girl." The band toured the globe in support. In 2018, they issued documentary evidence from Europe with the album Rock'n Milan.
© Greg Prato /TiVo


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