We are very happy once again to premiere music by Heads for the Dead. It’s the kind of happiness people feel when they wake up from supernatural nightmares and realize the monsters weren’t really eating your guts after all, or those who get thrills from the chills of horror movies in which the undead bare their rotten teeth and demons pierce the veil between worlds.
Horror in many forms is the bread and butter of this multinational death metal band, whose discography has swollen since 2018 to encompass an EP and three albums, and now there’s another EP shambling toward us, with a due date of September 1st via the venerable Pulverised Records.
As signified by its title — In the Absence of Faith — all the lyrics in these five tracks were inspired by horror-related movies “that deal with the concept of losing belief or getting challenged in extreme situations”.
Once again, the EP features the collaboration of multi-instrumentalist Jonny Pettersson (Wombbath, Henry Kane, Pale King, and many more) and vocalist extraordinaire Ralf Hauber (Revel In Flesh), and this time they’re accompanied by drummer Jon Rudin (Pale King, Just Before Dawn, and many more) and guitar soloist Matt Moliti (Sentient Horror).
In the Absence of Faith has a total running time of about 23 1/2 minutes. We’re going to jump right over the first four tracks and comment first about the final song, the name of which is “Possession“. It stands out to us in part because it’s a tribute to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, the 1973 album whose opening theme was used for the soundtrack to the horror film The Exorcist. And there you can see the connection between the song’s title and the movie, and you can also understand why it was included in a record that “deals with the concept of losing belief or getting challenged in extreme situations”.
The story of how Tubular Bells came to be is utterly fascinating, and you can read that tale here. If you’ve ever heard the excerpt used in The Exorcist, odds are you’ll never forget it. And you’ll hear it again in the keyboard overture of “Possession” and in the ringing melody that Heads for the Dead intersperse amidst jolting chugs, clobbering drums, stratospheric synths, and Hauber‘s blood-curdling howls and screams. The song also includes a glorious guitar solo that sounds like demonic sorcery itself.
It’s a great melding of Oldfield‘s unforgettable melody with death metal that’s both harrowing and punishing, otherworldly and savage, magnificent and marauding.
Before you get there if you start at the beginning (which you definitely should do), you’ll encounter the opener “Heart of Darkness“, which itself includes fantastically swirling solos — one of them right at the start — along with a prominently burbling bass, chainsaw riffing that scathes and jars, relentlessly multi-faceted drumwork, and of course Hauber‘s thoroughly diabolical but entirely intelligible snarls.
That opening song reveals visions of daunting grandeur, but the organ-like penultimate section also makes it sound creepy and hellish, and the serpentine lead-guitar near the end is an expression of misery — just before synths channel celestial choirs.
Perhaps because of the thematic concept behind the songs on this EP, all of the other songs also manage to create sensations of extreme conflict on a towering scale. They create sensations of immense heaviness, deranged delirium, and shattering fear, elevating the dramatic turmoil to heavenly heights while also shaking the listener’s spine to the fracture point — and the soloing is perpetually lights-out.
All the songs are also packed with sharp hooks, and a variety of instrumental accents. “The God Forsaken” is probably the EP’s most multi-faceted song. The vocals vary there, in addition to the instrumentation, which seems to channel both the cavorting of demons and the tragedy of shattered faith, and the soloing in that one is magnificently crestfallen. “Self-Immolation In Fire” is, if anything, even more stricken and devastating, evoking memories of the early English Doom greats.
In short, this is a terrific EP, every song gripping and viscerally powerful — and you needn’t be a fan of horror to revel in its achievements.
The EP was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Studio Unbound by Jonny Pettersson, with cover artwork conceptualized by Jonny Pettersson and Indonesian illustrator Dedy Badic Art.
Pulverised Records is releasing it in a multitude of formats: jewel-case CD, crystal clear vinyl (with splatter of course), transparent yellow vinyl with black marbling, and noble black vinyl, as well as digitally. Plus, there’s a tape edition via War Anthem Records.
It’s recommended for fans of horror movies and Death Metal inspired by movie soundtracks, Necrophagia, very early Paradise Lost, and Tribulation.