Gli Uriah Heep sono un gruppo hard & heavy inglese nato agli inizi degli anni settanta.
In origine il nome della band era The Stalkers, mutato poi in Spice e successivamente, dopo l'aggiunta delle tastiere (prima Colin Wood poi Ken Hensley), in Uriah Heep, nome suggerito dal loro manager Gerry Bron e preso in prestito dal personaggio presente nel romanzo di Charles Dickens David Copperfield. Le prime formazioni comprendevano Mick Box (chitarra) David Byron (voce) e Paul Newton (basso) come elementi principali del gruppo che cambiava continuamente batteristi, fin quando nel 1970 uscì il primo lavoro chiamato Very 'eavy...very umble dove alla batteria si avvicendarono prima Ollie Olson (poi batterista con Elton John che in più era un carissimo amico di David Byron) e poi Alex Napier.
Nel 1971 esce Salisbury, un'opera rock monumentale, soprattutto per la suite omonima di 16 minuti suonata insieme ad un'orchestra di 24 elementi che conclude grandiosamente il disco. Da notare anche Bird Of Prey, sicuramente progenitrice di tutto un genere che dalla fine degli anni ottanta verrà definito come Epic Metal.
Una caratteristica della band è sicuramente l'intrecciarsi delle voci che formano melodie d'effetto, metodo molto usato soprattutto nei primi anni sia per pezzi più prog che per quelli più rock, come nel medley Rock and Roll dell'album Live (1973). Sempre nel 1971 esce Look at Yourself: il suono della band diventa sempre più pesante (Look At Yourself, Shadows of grief) e in certi casi anche "sporco" (Tears In My Eyes, Love Machine), ma nel disco sono presenti anche tracce come July Morning (con un assolo di moog di Manfred Mann) e What Should Be Done, interessante esempio del loro lato più soft.
In questi anni gli Uriah Heep sono guidati dal multi-strumentista Ken Hensley che oltre a suonare organo, pianoforte, moog, etc. e cantare, si offre come seconda chitarra (principalmente slide) per molte canzoni di impatto più violento.
Nel 1972 esce quello che viene definito da molti il capolavoro degli Uriah, Demons & Wizards, album nel quale non troviamo più né Paul Newton né Ian Clarke (batteria) che sono stati rimpiazzati dall'ex-bassista di Keef Hartley, Gary Thain, e dal batterista Lee Kerslake. La band trova così la sua formazione più classica con cui registrerà anche The Magician's Birthday (1972), Live (1973), Sweet Freedom (1973) e Wonderworld (1974); nel 1975 Gary Thain verrà escluso dal gruppo in favore di John Wetton (già dei Family e dei King Crimson tra gli altri) a causa di problemi con l'eroina, di cui Gary abusava continuamente e che lo portò alla morte lo stesso anno.
Uriah Heep are an English rock band, formed in December 1969 when record producer Gerry Bron invited keyboardist Ken Hensley (previously a member of The Gods and Toe Fat) to join Spice, a band signed to his own Bronze Records label.
Sometimes jokingly referred to as "The Beach Boys of heavy metal" for their melodic songs, and trademark multi-part harmony backing vocals, although their music draws on diverse influences including: progressive rock, hard rock, heavy metal, jazz and even country on occasion. As one of the first bands to fuse progressive with metal, they are a precursor to the progressive metal genre.
In spite of their huge popularity in Britain and continental Europe, Uriah Heep were never able to break into the American market in a big way, with the exception of three hit songs, "Easy Livin' " from the 1972 album Demons and Wizards, "Sweet Lorraine" from the 1972 album The Magician's Birthday (a top ten album in Australia), and "Stealin' " from the 1973 release Sweet Freedom. The band released several commercially successful albums in the 1970s, including the seminal Uriah Heep Live (1973), but their audience declined by the 1980s, to the point where they became essentially a cult band in the US and UK. Uriah Heep maintain a significant following in Germany, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Balkan Peninsula, Japan and Russia, where they still perform at stadium-sized venues.
Their debut album, Very 'Eavy... Very 'Umble (which was self-titled in the United States), introduced a heavy organ and guitar-driven sound, with David Byron's theatrical, dynamic vocals soaring above thunderous sonic backgrounds, although acoustic and jazz elements also featured in the mix. The album's title references the signature phrase of the Dickens character Uriah Heep ("very 'umble") from the novel David Copperfield from which the band took its name Their second album, Salisbury, was more squarely in the progressive rock genre, with its 16-minute title track featuring a 24-piece orchestra; it also included Lady in Black. Their third album, "Look at Yourself", released at the end of 1971, included the single "July Morning". Subsequent releases would find the group's ever-shifting lineup (between 1969 and 1980, the band changed drummers five times, bassists four times, and lead singers twice) frequently exploring fantasy-oriented lyrical themes, often in lengthy, multi-part compositions, largely penned by Hensley, who would eventually come to dominate the band during his tenure. On December 8th 1975, New Zealand-born former bassist, Gary Thain, was found dead in his Norwood Green home, aged 27, having overdosed on heroin.
Following the 1976 replacement of vocalist David Byron (with John Lawton - formerly of the German band Lucifer's Friend), Uriah Heep turned away from fantasy-oriented lyrics and multi-part compositions back toward a more straightforward hard rock sound typical of the era. In 1977 they scored a top 40 chart hit in Australia with "Free Me" which went all the way to #1 in New Zealand. The replacement of Lawton with vocalist John Sloman for the 1980 album Conquest was not well received by most fans, and Ken Hensley's acrimonious departure in September of that year left the group in a state of collapse. It fell to guitarist Mick Box to pick up the pieces and soldier on with a new singer Pete Goalby of Trapeze fame. Two early 1980s releases, Abominog and Head First, updated the band's sound and generated a brief, newfound interest in Uriah Heep among younger glam metal fans.
David Byron died of an epileptic fit and liver disease on February 28th 1985, at the age of 38.
Uriah Heep still tour and release both (occasional) studio and (frequent) live albums. The lineup has been the same since 1986 with veteran Mick Box at the helm, Trevor Bolder on bass and Lee "The Bear" Kerslake on drums. Vocalist Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon on keyboards have been present since 1986, making it 20 years as of 2006 that the same act has been touring and recording, with music spanning five decades. Their principal tour circuit is in Germany, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian Peninsula, Japan, and Russia, although they return to Britain for a tour each year that culminates in The Magician's Birthday Party (named for one of their most popular albums) in November in London. This event consists of fan gatherings at local venues featuring current and former band members, and a concert, often with guest appearances by former members. To date, the last Party was in 2004.
Mick Box also acted as manager until, on April 5, 2005, the band retained Simon Porter as their manager.
In December 2006, the band announced that they were recording a new album with producer Mike Paxman for Sanctuary Records, with release planned for 2007.
In early 2007 drummer Lee Kerslake had to leave the group due to ill health. In March 2007, the band recruited Russell Gilbrook as their new drummer, and immediately started recording Wake the Sleeper, which is to be released in March 2008. As of April 5th 2008 it has still not been released. However, Universal Music has announced that this album will be released June 2, 2008.
In their Email newsletter of November 22, 2007, Mick Box announced that songs from the upcoming album would be performed on their European tour beginning November 24th.