Heron – A Low Winter’s Sun (Sludgelord Records, 13 April 2018)
Ever notice how many really great bands there are, who are named after birds? I mean, just off the top of my head: Vulture, Cormorant, Mockingbird, Wren… and I guess to a lesser extent, Counting Crows? Anyway, it’s time to add Vancouver (BC)’s Heron to that list.
Surprisingly graceful for their size, as well as extremely stealthy and patient hunters, the heron is already no stranger to cover art (both dead and alive*), so it totally makes sense for a metal band to use that name. Just released yesterday, Heron‘s debut album is one of the first few put out by the relatively new Sludgelord Records, and it’s one I’d highly recommend you check out.
The thick and sludgy sound produced by this band is actually more reminiscent of the murky, brackish marshland in which herons are often found standing — long legs perfectly still, neck bent like a coiled snake, waiting for the perfect moment to strike out and spear a fish (or small invertebrate, reptile, etc.) with its deadly bill — than of the bird itself. After all, with a sound as huge and intense as this record has from the very beginning, Heron are unlikely to sneak up on anyone anytime soon. Not with vocals like these: dual parts consisting of a deep animalistic roar and an acrimonious screeching howl (à la Lord Mantis or Slaves BC).
If nothing else, though, the title A Low Winter’s Sun is entirely appropriate for the sound of this record. The intros or outros of several of these six tracks are a bit softer, more ambient, and may lull the listener into feeling comfortable or secure — like one of those times where it has been miserable and gray, windy and snowing, nonstop for days, and then a hint of pale sunlight comes through the window making it seem like it has turned warmer outside. But upon opening the door it becomes immediately apparent that it’s colder than ever, if that’s even possible.
Strewn among all the layers of progressive-post-sludge angst and melancholy here, various spoken-word samples have been interspersed, touching upon a number of thoughtful and philosophical themes, most of which could be roughly summarized as expressing the insignificance and futility of mankind and of life in general. “The final truth of all things is that there is no final truth. It is nothing.”
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* By the way — yes, that’s technically an egret on the cover of Angel Dust. Egrets, herons, and bitterns are all part of the heron family, so I don’t need any shit from you.