Review Summary: John Pettibone's return to the world of metal is an immense one that shouldn't be overlooked
In certain circles of hardcore and metalcore, John Pettibone is a legend. His work in the bands Himsa and Undertow as well as being tour manager for Botch and Converge, among others. After the unfortunate break-up of Himsa, Pettibone laid low for awhile. He had stated that he wouldn’t be touring much anymore, preferring to stick around in the Seattle area. He started a few projects here and there but nothing came from it until three years after the end of Himsa, when Heiress (a project with former members of other Seattle bands, such as Pistols At Dusk, Harbinger, and Jough Dawn Baker) did a split with Narrows. Finally, in January 2013, Heiress has released their full-length Early Frost
, a massive, sludgy album that is a very early contender for album of the year.
Heiress combines sludge, post-metal, and a bit of doom and coats it all in a thick hardcore sheen, creating a crushing debut. The albums alternates between crushing riffs and ominous atmospheric passages that come together to create an expansive listen. The entire album has a haunting feeling to it, whether it is heavy, dark riffs or Pettibone’s growls, kept slightly in the background to keep from taking over. The title track is the best representation of this, which despite not being a heavy track, perhaps best illustrates the ominous and disturbing atmosphere present throughout.
Coming back to Pettibone, his guttural screams sound like a man being slowly tortured, which is very much a good thing. He is never the focal point of the album, but whenever he is on the mic, he takes the album to a whole other level. “Damaged New Wind” is a fantastic sludgy song to start off, but with Pettibone’s guttural performance, the song turns into something one of a kind. Pettibone doesn’t show off the kind of range that he had with Himsa, but replaces it with a bitter and impassioned performance where he seems to be throwing every bit of pain and rage into every single line.
The one downside of this album is that most of the songs are in the two to three minute range, and it would have been very interesting to see what they could have done if more songs were like “Beyond Fevering,” the seven minute epic that sits in the middle of the record. The band clearly loves playing slow, sludgy riffs, so if they let the songs spread out and breathe a bit more, then they could very well have a classic album on their hands.
Heiress have crafted an original and brutal debut, one that proves that all the waiting since they got together was definitely worth it. Pettibone and company are metal veterans who know what they want to play and do so with the passion and energy of a band of 20 year olds. Early Frost
is an apt title for the album, and does not disappoint. Heiress is a must-listen to fans of sludge, post-metal, doom, and hardcore. This is an unbelievable debut by a band full of vets, but it stills feels like it could have been more, which is very exciting for the future.