Heriot built a solid reputation in the Wiltshire metal scene in 2016 with their debut EP but showed little promise beyond the aspirations of a heavy blackened sludge band. Things changed in 2019 when the trio enlisted the services of guitarist and vocalist, Debbie Gough. Since then, the likes of Kerrang! and Bandcamp have proclaimed them a new force in UK extreme metal, and the quartet now find themselves on Church Road Records with a new EP. Their vociferous media supporters will love it, but is it another example of hype over substance?
The first thing we should note is that the sonics on this record are heavier than the brakes of a ten-ton truck. Secondly, these songs antagonise you with a cacophony of overloaded noise like the blue screen of death you’d see on your 1999 Hewlett Packard screen in the early days of the internet. This band have a bewildering array of influences, as seen in the way they switch from the pedal-loop ambience and industrial bass of ‘Abaddon’ to the blast beats and black meal roars of ‘Coalescence’. These opening tracks are abstract and formless but delicious in their ferocity. Gough brings a new layer of sound to the band on the latter with her ability to seek out the kind of esoteric harmonies reminiscent of the glory days of shoegaze in the early 1990s. Imagine Code Orange with no discernible direction but an equal amount of fury.
You’re still wiping the blood from your nose when they pummel you with the violent down-tuned hardcore of ‘Carmine (Fills the Hollow)’ and subject your befuddled brain to a dose of aggressive death metal growls. Heriot are too noisy to deliver the rupturing breakdown riffs their dynamics promise, but the music is fascinating enough to retain your attention. The illusion that just one of these short songs will make sense should spur you on to the end. And we all like to be perplexed every so often, right? ‘Mutagen’ sees Gough’s sultry wails sparkle like steel handcuffs in a moonlit attic room. A Godflesh bassline threatens to emerge with a regular beat but remains locked in an impenetrable abyss of ambient pedal effects. Play it back again, and it still seems obtuse and demanding of a rational explanation.
You don’t know what will come next with Heriot, and maybe the quartet share the same confusion. ‘Abbatoir’ in isolation from the other tracks would be a shapeless mood piece of oscillating heart beats with machine malfunction noises. But it has its merits in the context of this eight-track EP if you listen to it as a chronological experience. The closing title track starts like the intro to ‘Bleeding in the Blur’ by Code Orange but stays in the shadows, with Gough’s tortured harmonies giving a flicker of light to the mid-tempo grind of the rhythm section. Clearly, Heriot have no inclination to write a chorus or offer an olive branch to those listeners outside the experimental extreme metal camp, and that’s not a bad thing. To hear some critics call them metalcore is absurd. Profound Morality is a unique amalgamation of industrial, hardcore and extreme metal coated in a dirge of low guitar tunings and overpowering distortion. It’s more like an oil slick than a slick piece of overproduced metal with hardcore attitude.
Heriot come close to figuring out their sound on this EP, but they’ll complete this evolutionary task on their next record. For now, they present us with a gaping view of what could make them special in the future.
Release Date: 29/04/2022
Record Label: Church Road Records
Standout tracks: Near Vision, Enter the Flesh
Suggested Further Listening: Godflesh – A World Lit Only by Fire (2014), Code Orange – Forever (2017), Mastiff – Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth (2021)