Artist: Heart Of A Coward
Release Date: 02/10/2015
Label: Century Media Records
I came across this album thanks to happenstance. I was searching for some new music in the same vein as what I already listen to, sadly it didn’t turn up much and I was fairly disappointed at first, but I bought the album and forgot about it until a week ago when it came on shuffle. It took a while to realise what I was listening to, because it sounds familiar, yet somehow entirely new. I stared down at the half-dead screen of my ancient Ipod and saw “Heart Of A Coward” and wondered where I’d heard that name before, and it clicked, it was the new album I bought. I gave it a listen and, I have to say, I was completely blown away.
We start off with Hollow, the first single from the album. It begins with a swell and bellows intensity. Instrumentally it is simple but punishing and really leaves space for the vocals to shine, which seems to be a theme throughout and it works excellently. Jamie’s powerful guttural screams are blunt and direct while his cleans show an ability to change it up and they themselves are incredible. Having heard him belt out notes that few other singers could hope to reach and with power to spare, I can’t wait to see what he can do next. Miscreation begins with an almost deathcore-esque riff and spoken word intro before the flood of brutality arrives once again. The moments of clarity between the storm of pummeling riffs and sweeping vocals are short and sharp but balance everything out nicely. The melodic chorus on this track is a favourite of mine, it has that beautiful sweeping structure and feel that is so often left aside in metal music.
Another theme in this album is that the band tries to tell a story with their music, this is most obvious with the use of ‘part’ songs. Turmoil I: Wolves begins this trend. It starts with a much slower tempo that you might be used to, it comes off as a hardcore song with the vocals reminiscent of Jamie Jasta and the unrelenting riffs to match. I’d like to really commend the drumming on all the tracks of the album. They’re never over-the-top and will often highlight certain parts while letting others stand on their own. Turmoil II: The Weak Inherit The Earth brings the sound back down again, lowering the tempo and opening up this colossal feeling. Like standing inside a crumbling cathedral with an icy rain pouring over your head from the black steel clouds above. This song feels like it needs to be in the soundtrack to an action film for the moment the eponymous hero discovers the full extent of the destruction caused by the villain and I love that about it. The depth and intensity keep up throughout along with the dark under tones and it really helps to create an aggressive moroseness.
Now we have the section of the album that I find is really the most accessible and tightly performed section. It begins with Anti-Life, a track that highlights the parts of the songs that I like the most from this album. It’s both heavy and melodic. The moments of clarity are slightly muddied with the supreme vocals hitting the top notes with an edge of grit and aggression between soaring guitars and subdued percussion. The choral effect created is mesmerizing and enrapturing, it draws you in further and further into their world. The song finishes with the intro pace and power before hurdling you into the next offering of brutality and beauty, Grain Of Sand. This is my favourite song on the album, the guitars are simple but heavy and belie a complex rhythm section. The vocals are incredibly broad and rich and the lyrics hold a magnificent message of philosophy, hope and despair. The chorus, for me, is what really stands out. The guitars hammer out rolling riffs just below the peaks of the vocals sailing to glorious heights and the percussion again steps back and lets the leads shine. Simple riffs dance beneath the maelstrom and float above the surface from time to time, if you pay attention, and they really add something more to the mood of the track.
Mouth Of Madness was originally a Lovecraftian tale of despair and woe, as many of his are. Heart Of A Coward have created something along those lines with this song. The miasmal heaviness of the verses give way to the same muddied clarity that prevails throughout the album, its brief moments of harmony and clean vocals are all the more beautiful for their brevity. The addition of a sombre clean guitar and gentle vocal rendition for the last chorus was perfect into the final harrowing vocal performance begging some unseen recipient to change their ways. The title track, Deliverance, rounds off this quartet of beautiful despair. It is markedly heavier and more intense than the others, the aggression of previous tracks coming in, but the clean vocals are much simpler and more stand out than before. The guitar work is again, impeccable and the percussion throughout is sharp and flows excellently against and with the rest of the band.
We come to the ending of the album, the other dual songs. Skeletal I: Mourning Repairs. It features more clean melodic vocals than the other tracks and really reminds me of a cross between Intervals and Comeback Kid, which is unusual but incredibly beautiful in its execution. A sweeping tapped guitar riff flows beneath the clean chorus and lends it an air of finality, like the last battle-cry before an impending defeat or the few final seconds before you beat the end boss of a game and your health bar is dwindling dangerously low. This is helped by the gentle vocals, slow drumming and subdued guitar creating the final swell of the song, it grows and ebbs and moulds with some orchestral elements to produce an epic anthem. Finally, we have Skeletal II: Arise. This is unusual because it starts where the first part left off, soft, gentle and clean. It really shows some maturity for a primarily hardcore vocalist to try something like this, clean and powerful vocals over gentle piano that begin to swell again over a synthesised drum beat into an impending crescendo that just keeps building, the guitar comes in, the drums comes in and the almost inevitable choral revival of the and brings with it the intensity the pervades the whole album, but with an entirely different mood, it is hopeful and stirring and eventually leads back to the softer opening to finish.
The album is unusual, it has elements that I was not expecting and some that I was but in a much more mature and intense way. It’s as if HOAC have taken what they knew, added something extra and boiled it down to concentrate it and make it better, and they’ve achieved that and more. This album is a masterpiece. Among the incredible albums that have been released so far this year, this stands out among the best and that is no mean feat.
HOAC are currently on a UK tour
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