AN NCS ALBUM PREMIERE (AND A REVIEW): HEATHE — “ON THE TOMBSTONES, THE SYMBOLS ENGRAVED”
On May 30, 2019, Wolves and Vibrancy Records will release the debut album of Heathe, a project born in Aalborg, Denmark, with a core of a single individual and an ever-changing line-up. The album, entitled On the Tombstones, The Symbols Engraved, is colossally heavy and about as physically compelling in its massive rhythms as anything you could find. It’s also intensely disturbing and disorienting, capable of making mincemeat of your brain and clawing at your emotional well-being at the same time as it metaphorically pounds the hell out of your body.
The album is a single 38-minute track composed of different repeating sequences which flow into each other. You can pick out elements of doom, black metal, and noisy hypno-rock in this evolving hybrid of corporal punishment, emotional abrasion, and mental hallucination, but everything is united in a way that makes the music seem to have been borne this way in an instant, rather than cobbled together from disparate pieces. To be carried away by it, without losing interest, is a natural reaction despite how harrowing the music becomes, even though it takes a while to recover from the whole trip.
The trip begins with spine-tingling howls and craggy, droning chords, measured with glacially slow drum and cymbal strikes. This becomes the foundation for the accretion of sonic layers — the sublimated skittering of guitars, and an array of eerie wailing tonalities. The pacing remains deliberate, but the drums grow more destructive, and the persistence of the sheer throat-lacerating intensity of the vocals amplifies the simmering tension and oppressive gloom of the music into a portrayal of mind-splintering agony.
The sound of horns cascade across the dramatic drum detonations and the moaning of the bass, in a way that creates a feeling of funereal lament, a somber cry of grief floating above the crushing sounds of desperation and collapse; juxtaposing titanic devastation and the mysticism of lost souls searching for salvation and finding none. Waves of high, searing guitar (and/or organ) join the cascade, joining fever and delirium to the sensations of anguish and abyssal hopelessness.
The performers unite to create a vision of world-ending calamity through earth-splitting detonations of power and soaring, celestial evanescence. In this dramatic crescendo the experience is heavy enough to loosen the fillings in your teeth, and wondrous enough to spawn waking dreams of spellbinding magnificence.
You might think, based on what happens next, that Heathe were content that they had succeeded in pounding their listeners into paste, because they briefly relent, drifting in a veil of misty ambience. But it turns out they were just gathering their strength for a savage pounding, syncing chords and drums for the purpose of delivering as brutal a hammering as you could want, backed by shivering, shimmering guitar vibrations — with the occasional eruption of a mountainous organ chord whose reverberations then drone on in grand fashion.
It begins to seem like the hammering will never end, even after it has made a prisoner of your pulse and a bloody pulp of your brain. But it finally does, and the drummer hits a rocking beat while the bass (or keyboard) locks in to a deep pulsating rhythm, and that becomes the new (ab)normal. The vocalist begins to shriek and yell again, the guitar rings out in chiming psychedelic tones and vibrates in a frenzy; that beat bends your body to its will; and now we’re in the grip of some kind of hallucinatory hypno-rock.
But even this too ends, this crazed bit of liveliness forced to give way to another syncopated drum beat and a mauling bass rhythm. And as the rhythm section pounds and gouges, the vocalist again turns himself inside out, while the guitars do their level pest to bleed your brain like scalpels and pincers, becoming a cacophonous assault on your sanity. It’s a cataclysmic way to presage the end of a colossal album — which just growls at us at the very end like a dangerous animal.
For this album, we are informed that Heathe’s principal creator was joined by other musicians whose other endeavors include roles in Get Your Gun, Hjalte Ross, Kogekunst, Kellermensch, The New Family, and Døde Blomster.
The album features artwork by Simon Gardarsson, and it will be released on heavy vinyl (200 copies white, 100 copies black), accompanied by a download code. More details and ordering info are available here:
WOLVES AND VIBRANCY:
Thank you for introducing me to (to me) new band and their music, I love it