Distant – Heritage

Dutch-Slovak quintet, Distant, are the band Century Media have identified as the future of European deathcore. Scream Blast Repeat reviewed their last album in 2021 when they were on the roster of Unique Leader Records. We applauded their prodigious output and the unusual step to produce a sci-fi novel to accompany the release of Aeons of Oblivion. Nineteen songs of brutality were not easy to stomach, and we said that, ‘Sometimes, you lose impact when you try to be extreme for the sake of it… The old adage rings true: you can do more with less.’ Now, they return with their third studio album and major label debut, and they decided to slim it down to twelve tracks over forty-seven minutes. Could this be the record that puts them in the same league as Brand of Sacrifice, Shadow of Intent and Lorna Shore?

You have every reason to be sceptical about the merits of listening to downtempo deathcore. The guitar riffs are no more sophisticated than the standard nu metal fare of the late 1990s; the drums are a product of Pro-Tools; and the thuggish sway of their grooves leaves you wondering if this band are from the hood (they probably are – they live in Rotterdam). You might roll your eyes at the sound of spooky keyboards, distorted drum snares and panned guitar effects ghosting though your headphones on atmospheric opener, ‘Acid Reign’. But the violent confrontation of ‘Paradigm Shift’ will correct any prejudices you have against this music. Jeez, this is heavy. Forget about the open-string riffing and the absurd guitar tunings – this is more aggressive than a Pitbull terrier. The drums crash and land in the chaos with the same complexity as Elliot Hoffman (Car Bomb). What can you say about the gratuitous lust of the vocals? You’ll feel the blood and spittle on your face.

This record ought to be a recipe for failure. ‘Born of Blood’ and ‘The Grief Manifest’ take Korn’s Follow the Leader album as their inspiration for the guitars and inject them with a dose of brutal death metal. The latter embarks on a brief detour of black metal and sweep-picking solos when you’re ready to write it off as a piece of Emmure thuggery. You cannot fault the malevolence of the vocals or the crushing guitar tone. The downward picking techniques on ‘Exofilth’ are violent enough to snap the plectrum. Listen how the gothic keyboard textures produce a contrast to the bruising dynamics with layers of ethereal contemplation. How do they land on a tangible groove in a song as unforgiving as ‘The Gnostic Uprising’?

Of course, there are flaws with this record. ‘A Sentence to Suffer’ confirms that modern drop-tuned metal seems to be moving away from Meshuggah and back towards Korn. Without the pig squeals and short spasms of blast beats, this would be nothing but a nu metal upgrade. The absurd collaboration list for ‘Argent Justice’ reads like a who’s who of deathcore (Suicide Silence, Emmure, Bodysnatcher, CABAL, Crown Magnetar) and feels like a YouTube project rather than a pivotal album track. You’ll be exhausted after two minutes, even if your determination to identify each collaborator spurs you on to the end and through many clichés.

The man of the moment, Will Ramos (Lorna Shore), makes an appearance on the title track. To be fair, this sounds like a thoughtful collaboration rather than a headline grab. He also adds a black metal dimension to the music. The intricacies of this song deserve praise, especially the way the bass fills the gaps in the syncopated guitar lines. And death metal rhythms are most welcome from a downtempo deathcore band. We need more of these to counter the excessive binary riffing that is so tiresome by the time you reach closing track, ‘Plaguebreeder’.

Nevertheless, Heritage succeeds where its predecessor fell short. You’ll hear a lot more from Distant over the next five years. This is a band on the up. Music as violent as this can never be innocuous.



Release Date: 10/02/2023

Record Label: Century Media

Standout tracks: Paradigm Shift, The Grief Manifest, The Gnostic Uprising

Suggested Further Listening: Bound in Fear – Penance (2021), Frostbitt – Machine Destroy (2023), Brand of Sacrifice – Lifeblood (2021)