Herder

Gods

Written by: AP on 21/07/2014 12:58:05

The biographical details of Groningen, NL born Herder are best left unseen, lest one's impression of their wits and abilities as a band become corrupted. Yet the liberal use of profanity in them does go some way to pay homage to the Dutch quintet's sound, all fury and crushing sludge metal tones. They're a little known act to be sure, but since replacing their former vocalist Nico, who decided to migrate Down Under in 2012, with Ché Snelting and releasing the "Doomed" EP last year, Herder's rise to prominence has picked up momentum. More or less exactly one year in its wake, the Dutchmen released their highly anticipated new album "Gods" in April, and as we shall see, there is reason to bat an eyelash.

Unlike many a contemporary practitioner of the sludge metal genre, Herder have taken no steps to soften their approach during the course of their (admittedly brief) career. Heavy, groovy, and utterly devoid of clean singing, "Gods" is most reminiscent of some base born child of Eyehategod and Helhorse, laced with Mesopotamian melodies that give the musical relevance to its conceptual framework. "Gods" begins with the slowly burning "Genesis 3: 29", instrumental in all but one of Rust Cohle's (Matthew McConaughey's character in the HBO series True Detective) monologues of misanthropy sampled into the background: "I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself; we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight - brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal." The allusion to a verse in the Temptation and Fall of Man that does not exist along with the relevant and brilliant quote sets the scene for intrigue, and fills me with curiosity from the first strike of a power chord - and if that isn't evidence of a perfectly executed introduction, then please, enlighten me.

Of course, "Gods" is not merely a study of the Abrahamic religions, but a perception of deities and the supernatural in general. Neither the music nor the lyrics are positively inclined: rather, the focus rests on the wrath of gods, the physical and psychological sacrifices they demand, and the absurdity of religion. And Herder make no secret out of their own convictions, titling their tracks à la "Betrayer Deceiver", "Stab", "Blood from Life" and "Soul Harvester". Interesting it is then, that the album is not veiled in a mist of brooding darkness. Aggressive and confrontational though a song like "Betrayer Deceiver" may be, its raucous drive reminds me first and utmost of Helhorse's excellent "Fuck Art, Let's Kill", sounding like a band with no remorse for religious nonsense on a mission to expose its lies. Fuelled by Snelting's eviscerating growls and the enormous production that presides over the record, its name might as well have been "Fuck Religion, Let's Kill" - an apt statement of intent given the ambition underlying. Such ambition also means that there is a rare unity throughout the album; the songs don't so much change as mutate, the subtle undercurrent of Mesopotamian melody; the well infused spoken word, ominous baritone chants and roars and the primal drumming techniques all ensuring "Gods" sounds like an album and not simply a collection of Herder's best songs from the last few years. Whether it is the wildly noodling lead in the title track, the brutal march of "Stab" or the mystery and terror of "Asylums of the Forgotten", much of the material on "Gods" is absolutely impossible to shave from memory.

There are overt differences between "Gods" and Herder's earlier years, those familiar with the band will agree. "Maelstrom" does revisit the era of Nico's reign: fast, short and incendiary, with a heap of crusty hardcore infused into its sludge tone, the song is certainly entitled to its name; and the following "Foad II" proceeds in similar vein though with an infectious mid-tempo stomp that sounds curiously similar to Terror - bar the vocals, which remain dirtier and rawer as is characteristic of the sludge metal genre. Still, despite their retrospective gaze, they feel like necessary pieces of the puzzle that is "Gods" too, bringing with them the variety intrinsic to the overall success of the album. Without them the excruciatingly slow, doom ridden "Soul Harvester" (which again advertises Herder's flair for incorporating suitable dialogue from cinema by recalling the maddening repetition of "I am a false prophet, God is a superstition!" by Eli Sunday, played by Paul Dano in Paul Thomas Anderson's movie There Will Be Blood) and the preceding account of ritual sacrifice that is "Blood from Life", might not have come across as thoroughly imposing. They're also reminders of the fact that although Herder place heavy emphasis on the concept and accompanying atmosphere, "Gods" is by no means an album only enjoyable with a lyric book at hand: the riffs imaginative and abundant, the rhythm section more than merely a foundation, and the songs written with a virtuosic hand. Anyone with an affinity for heavier sludge and stoner metal should add "Gods" to the collection.

Download: Betrayer Deceiver, Gods, Stab, Asylums of the Forgotten, Foad II
For the fans of: Conan, Dopethrone, Elder, Eyehategod, Helhorse
Listen: Facebook

Release date 13.05.2014
Reflections Records

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