I’m a little bit of a purist when it comes to my black metal. In my awkward “goff daze”, circa mid-2000s, I listened to a hell of a lot of Emperor, Dissection and Mayhem. If it was not from Scandinavia, I did not have time for it. Which is why the new Heron EP is a bit of a strange one for me. The North Carolina quartet obviously do not fit that bill, but their strange melding of atmospheric black metal with modern post-hardcore makes for an intriguing listen.
The first of two tracks, ‘Ghost of Seven Hearths’, has all the speed and fury of some classic black metal, with blast beats like nobody’s business and a soaring atmospheric verse. However, the band introduce far more melody, and at times, it’s more like Circa Survive are playing than Darkthrone – not always a bad thing. The vocals are chilling and don’t sound like some kid who needs his cough syrup after trying to do a Cradle Of Filth; instead, the shrouded effects placed on them in production create a truly ghostly feel. But just when it starts to sound genre-breakingly good, there’s a few sections that creep out, twisting it into a Final Fantasy boss fight theme – and I’m not sure if that’s endearing or not.
‘Venus Swallowing Torments’ proved my esteemed colleagues’ law that pretty much every release of this nature has to have a song that creeps past the five-minute-metal territory. Clocking in at 6.28, it does feel like a bit of a journey to get to the end. That being said, the production values on this are enough to keep you going – black metal is notorious for sounding like it was recorded in a toilet, but Heron’s efforts are just distorted enough to sound authentic without being completely offputting. Plus, the guitar about halfway through is just perfect; even if black metal is your idea of hell, this EP is worth picking up for that.
Blending the old with the new has worked well for Heron, and Sacrifice is a genuinely interesting and progressive record. Let’s see where they go from here.
3.5 out of 5 high fives!