Written by: Volt Thrower
Old sticky beer gripping the bottom of my shoes. Sweaty dudes bumping into me. The crushing weight of Tatsu Mikami’s bass tone laying waste to my chest cavity. Was it all a dream? The last show I went to in the pre-pandemic times was Church of Misery in February, less than three months ago, but it feels like it's been at least three years. The concept of time of has become a black hole since ~March 13th. Anything prior to that date genuinely feels like it's beyond the grasp of memory or record, i.e. Time Immemorial.
We’re in unprecedented times, people feel hopeless. Canadian sludgers Heron build atmosphere on the back of hopelessness, and deliver perhaps the most relevant release of 2020.
At a time in the musical world where we’re post-genres, and structure means as little as ever, it's really allowed creative bands to flourish. Heron, for example, use two guitarists and ditch the bass, which is interesting but certainly not groundbreaking--I mean, Metallica was doing it back in ‘88 already. Hey! *Ba dum tss.* It's most definitely not a gimmick however, as the two guitarists Scott and Ross combine crunchy production and really complimentary playing styles to build some incredibly dynamic atmospheres. Whether it’s a lurching chug like on "Death on the Malahat," or the moody slow burn of "Void Eater" a la Seasons in the Abyss style Slayer, they're at the forefront of the mix and they come through shiningly throughout the whole record.
Going back to their 2018 debut full length A Low Winters Sun, the band shows remarkable growth in terms of focus and cohesion. Gone are the cheesy air raid sirens and unnecessary piano interludes, replaced with sharper vocals and more focused drumming. Jamie takes over full time vocal duty for this record and masterfully switches between pained shrieks and bellowing growls. Pairing that sonic anguish with beautifully bleak lyrics, painting a devastating picture across the 36 minute run time. An absolute highlight on the album is "Boiling Ancient Light," due to crushing vocals and chugs, beautiful melodies and frenetic drumming. Back on drums is Bina, who does a terrific job in setting the pace and building up the low end. My only complaint with perhaps the whole album is that the drums seem to be a bit more pushed back in the mix than on the last record. I dig the raw sound, which contrasts the guitars really well, but the one thing this album could use is some more chest-pounding double kicks.
There's a couple interesting influences I kept hearing that I wanted to quickly point out, one being the vocals which I absolutely love, which remind me a lot of Texas death metallers Creeping Death. And then the band's rhythm and pummel remind me a lot of U.K. sludgers Beggar. It's really quite a nice marriage of styles and does a nice job describing their overall sound, which they establish as uniquely their own. Now, the purists are gonna be upset about this one, but I absolutely love the cover they do of Entombed’s "Wolverine Blues." A stoner metal vibe, death n’ roll jam that brings the only real moment of reprieve on the record since the soothing intro of opener "Long in the Tooth." It absolutely rips and it makes me want to go on the back porch and just yell “FUCK” at the top of my lungs. Just in case you thought there was going to be a happy ending, Heron gives us one last soul-crushing, apocalypse anthem, in closer "Endless," really hammering home their point that “nothing lasts, nothing changes”.
Nihilism and death are the central themes of the record, Heron does a great job splashing in these really beautiful, peaceful sounding moments of hope, just to rip them from your clutches before they come to fruition. It all leaves you feeling a little bit dirty, but somehow comforted and pissed off at the world. Which hello, if that's not the definition for sludge metal then I don't know what is. Each new play-through, whether on headphones or speakers, rewards a new listening experience. Sometimes life feels hopeless, and you just need your music to represent that feeling with a nice warm sludgy hug.
Heron - Time Immemorial will be released May 15th from Sludgelord Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!