I recently stated on Instagram that 2019 would be the year for black metal and sludgy hardcore. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have HEROD in mind when I said this, as the Swiss group fall into the latter category with their progressive sludge and their hardcore brutality. Sombre Dessein is the band’s second record and the first to feature new vocalist Mike Pilat (ex-THE OCEAN) who has quickly become one of the band’s greatest strengths. Mastered by CULT OF LUNA’s Magnus Lindberg and boasting epic, heavy soundscapes, Sombre Dessein is the soundtrack to the death of a civilisation.
Fork Tongue Intro gets the album off to an atmospheric and crushing start. When Fork Tongue eventually worms its way in, it could almost be classed as dissonant with its suffocating, doomy tendencies. Featuring Bill Steer from CARCASS and the supplementary guitar playing from Pilat, Fork Tongue ends up becoming a brutal assault. You will soon learn what I mean about THAT RIFF dominating the track. Absolutely colossal.
Lead single Reckoning is a savage delight. There is an air of KNUT’s Terraformer (another heavy band from Switzerland!) which might give you an idea of the atmospheric heaviness at hand here. Even the clean vocals on Reckoning leave an eerie overtone. A truly monstrous song, you could do worse than start here.
This is followed by Don’t Speak Last, a 10 minute opus which begins with a claustrophobic ambience, tension and a sense of impending doom. The gradual build up becomes overwhelming until everything collapses into a storming spread of chaos. HEROD channel their inner DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN during the hectic moments but the commanding outro hypnotises you into submission.
Fifth track Silent Truth sounds like a metal version of the Guinness advert with the horses in the waves (you know the one). This is apt as the song feels like the equivalent of being trampled by wild beasts. One of the heaviest songs on Sombre Dessein, Silent Truth is anything but silent. If you feel you need something a bit tamer after that assault then Mourning Grounds has got you covered. The mesmerising, clean vocals carry the song until it erupts into A LIFE ONCE LOST-esque barrage and an ending TEXTURES would be proud of.
Sombre Dessein comes to its devastating conclusion with There Will Be Gods. The mostly instrumental track is one of my musical highlights of 2019 so far. The sludgy grooves, the skull-crushing riffs, the euphoric climax…this song is a triumph and guarantees Sombre Dessein gets the send off it deserves. This year is going to be one hell of a year for HEROD on the basis of this superb album. All hail the progressive sludge.