Band – The Heartland
Album – Frontier
Release date – April 2009
Label – Creep Records
Sounds like – Probably what Sam Neil experienced when he went to that hell dimension in Event Horizon, with a mathcore band playing in the background.
You could say itâ€™s quite a stereotypical beginning. The sound of someone plugging a lead into a guitar, the hiss of feedback, the casual-non canon strumming â€â€œ itâ€™s all there. Then, like all good opening tracks, ‘I.S.Wâ€™ is the sergeant major who bursts into the dorm, shrieking at the top of his voice, (until his face turns blue from lack of oxygen); for you to get up and look lively. The Jacob Bannon-esque shout sounds like someone trying to clear his throat and hiccupping at the same time, over a wall staccato drum beats and guitar lines that sound so chopped up, they belong hanging in a butchers shop window. ‘Congratulationsâ€™ feels like a ‘cut-n-shutâ€™ job, as the first 2 minutes, rampage with the same red-eyed hate as the opener, before suddenly shifting to a more relaxed refrain. This is then decimated by the deliciously smooth guitar solo that slams back into the barrage of screams and strained backing vocal howls. ‘Ursa Majorâ€™ builds up like ‘Satellite Yearsâ€™-eraÃ‚Â Hopesfall, with a touch of ‘A-Typesâ€™ thrown in for good measure and the clean-backing vocal wail is offset nicely by the persistent and uncompromising screams of the lead vocalist. Itâ€™s the kind of consistent heaviness that really brings out the crushing nature of the Ohio quintet’s sound.
The dynamics take another shift, like the cube in that filmâ€Â¦.ermâ€Â¦Cube, as The Heartland whip out their maths textbooks and seriously fuck around with their notion of hardcore on ‘Wet Warthog‘, especially vocalist Brian, who sounds like he’s being stabbed to death inside a house of horrors. Other highlights include the incredibly wanky guitar bit at the 1 minute 36 mark, which made me go all ‘Bill and Tedâ€™ and the pure rage in the upcoming breakdown, is the blow to the back of the skull that makes your head jerk forward in praise. The Heartland continue with this freight train of absurdity with ‘Medusaâ€™, which sounds like a b-side from a Psyopus album and vocalist Brian seems to be channelling the throaty bile of Curl Up And Dieâ€™s Mike Minnick over 3 minutes of scattered noise-punk.
‘Lunaâ€™ suffers slightly from being incredibly alien to the tracks that have preceded it; taking the Heartland down a more melodic hardcore path, similar to that of Boysetsfire, but still with the extravagantly jazzy guitar flourishes in the background, that thankfully donâ€™t dominate proceedings on this calmer and what Iâ€™d consider to be, one of the strongest tracks on this release. ‘Titanâ€™ brings more of the same fury, emphasising the quick-fire passages of disconcertingly aggressive math-metal, juxtaposed with the bandâ€™s softer, yet rare, ambient side. Chaos seems to reign on ‘God I Hope Iâ€™m Not On Fireâ€™, which flails and writhes with all the intensity and rage of early Dillinger Escape Plan some hilariously ‘so-bad-theyâ€™re-goodâ€™ grindcore squeals; before morphing into some twee sounding handclapping monstrosity that made me check to see if the track had accidentally skipped.
The crowning moment however is ‘Ursa Minorâ€™; a beautiful part-instrumental, space-rock piece that builds with such grace and stuttering elegance that the unexpected scream of â€œTHIS IS HOW IT ENDSâ€Â is a jarring wake-up call. The final track ‘Frontierâ€™ feels like too much of an afterthought and would have worked best before ‘Ursa Minorâ€™, which is the track that the album should have ended on. Regardless of this, itâ€™s a quick-fire track, showcasing the Heartlandâ€™s brutal message, mixing some nice scuzzy hardcore into their scrappy-time changing metallic attack.
To conclude, ‘Frontierâ€™ is not what I was expecting. The genre shift of certain songs makes a refreshing change from something Iâ€™d initially thought was content to pummel me senseless. The Heartland manage to show enough diversity in their sound; not only in individual tracks as a whole, but in several verses and choruses littered throughout, giving the album a sense of fullness, despite itâ€™s obvious disjointed but intriguing identity. Therefore, I feel ‘Frontierâ€™ is a mood swing of ludicrous shapes and sounds, shifting patterns and a distinct lack of coherency and convention. Fans of Converge, Curl Up And Die, Dillinger Escape Plan and even good 90â€™s emo should seriously consider picking up this 10 tracker â€â€œ take note: real potential right here for your listening pleasure.
By Ross Macdonald