(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Seattle-based Heiress.)
Listening to this collection of material – some of it simply rare, some as-yet-unreleased – by Seattle metallites Heiress, is something of a bittersweet experience for me, due to how much it recalls two of my favourite, and now sadly defunct, bands – Himsa and Burst.
The similarity to the former is mostly accounted for by the presence of one John Pettibone – whose voice has lost none of its savage, sandpapery snarl – behind the microphone, but heavier numbers such as “Kodiak” and “Suffocate On Command” also have more elements than just the vocals in common with the dearly-departed Thrash-core quintet.
But the comparison to Burst is also undeniable at times, as the band’s particular brand of atmospheric, Hardcore-tinged Post-Metal is often a dead-ringer for that of the (in)famous Swedes, and songs such as “Restless Aim” – all fluid, hypnotic rhythms and sparkling melodic undercurrents – and the punchy, punky catharsis of “Distant Hold” could almost have been drawn straight from Origo or Lazarus Bird if you’re willing to squint a little.
That’s not to say that the Heiress (whose line-up is rounded-out by guitarists Wes Reed and Nathan Turpen, bassist Justin Martinez, and drummer Mat Houot) are in any way derivative or uninventive – there’s far too much character and creativity on display here, not to mention a sense of raw, unalloyed emotion, for that – it’s just that the band happen, whether by chance or by choice, to have found themselves filling a certain hole, a certain ecological niche, that has largely been left vacant ever since Jägerskog, Liveröd, and their colleagues chose to hang up their boots.
It’s worth noting that, by its very nature, this release is difficult to analyse in the “usual” fashion, being a compilation of tracks of different ages and, to an extent, different styles, rather than a singular collection of songs written as part of a collective whole.
“Communionist” and “Husk Workship” (from the band’s split with Narrows in 2010), for example, showcase the two very different sides of the band, the former a precisely focussed blast of punkish venom and vigour, the latter a much more expansive piece of roiling Post-Metal that conceals hidden depths of primal emotion beneath its meditative surface.
Similarly, the pairing of “Naysayer” and “Just Throats” (originally released in 2012) also exposes this dichotomy at the centre of the band’s identity, one track a prowling metallic beast of churning chugs and splashing cymbals, the other a drifting, dreamlike progression of chiming melodies and supple, textured chords, with Pettibone’s ever-recognisable howl serving as the thread which binds the two together.
If this were a normal album it would doubtless feel somewhat disjointed, as the tracks presented here, new and old, represent strikingly different eras of the band’s existence. Nor does it help that the digital and physical versions of the album have entirely different track-listings, with the CD containing an extra eight tracks compared to its incorporeal twin.
But, all logistical concerns aside, Restless Aim is a fine introduction to a band whose career has, thus far, flown well under the radar, but who very much deserve their chance in the spotlight.