Metalcore is enjoying a surprising and unprecedented era of critical cachet, all without giving an inch to “good taste”. Whether it’s splatterhouse gore, WWE entrance music, emo MySpace, southern-style big killers, or a “Bring Me to Life” revival, this 21st century subculture has already proven to be a music of fertile roots. Amid this wave of extremists and specialists, Heriot makes a curious Next Big Thing. The Midlands quartet hadn’t developed a big reputation before the pandemic; a string of early releases was followed by a four-year hiatus and the addition of guitarist/vocalist Deb Gough in 2020. Gough’s presence infused Heriot with greater instrumental flexibility and, more importantly, charisma. : from their reboot single “Cleansed Existence”, it was clear that Heriot had this, even if this quality cannot be reduced to sound signifiers. With deep morality, it’s easier to define—whatever intrigues you about metalcore, you’ll find it here.
More than their peers, Heriot maintains a healthy degree of respect for formative figures of the genre. The cover’s typeface and fuzzy, fiery imagery are reminiscent of Roadrunner’s commercial peak in the 1990s, and in late 2021, Heriot nailed the track “Ten Ton Hammer,” a cover of Roadrunner’s 1997 hit. Machine Head – a key liaison between groove- and nu-metal, and also the subject of some of the most scathing reviews of the time in Heriot’s native UK. Gough has the chops of a Guitar World guest columnist, but can also be found jamming with Turnstile on her Twitter account. Many descriptions of Heriot’s guitar sounds have assumed the reader is familiar with Boss’ HM-2 pedal, similar to what hip-hop reviewers will name the 808 drum machine – the sound of trainer gear of the “golden age” whose sound character remains timeless.
And so it’s only fitting that the instrumental opener “Abaddon” evokes one of the most memorable examples of early ’90s futurism, the final scene of Terminator 2 where Arnold Schwarzenegger descended into a vat of steaming steel, obscured by chains – the sound is metal, some cybernetic, some forged from steel, all fusing towards a molten end. And immediately after, “Coalescence” imagines the T800 re-emerging as an amoral killing machine, the track itself a stand-alone program of everything Heriot has done and will do through deep morality: bionic percussions, blast beats, vocals that range from blackened, death and goth metal, tempos alternating between sludge and speed.