Heartless - Hell Is Other People
2011, Southern Lord
Their selftitled seven incher from 2010 was my first encounter with Philly ragers Heartless. It was a seething mess of fast and heavy blackened hardcore that promised great things to come. Their music was heavy, uncompromising, furious and sweaty, like some old lost Slap-A-Ham power violence album. But with better production. A re-released demo and a split with The Blind later (I may have the release chronology completely wrong here, but this is the order in which I heard them) they released Hell Is Other People on Southern Lord last year and, not even a minute into opener Clean Slate, I realise all of my expectations were set way, way too low. I knew the band had potential, but this was ridiculous! Hell Is Other People is possibly one of the top ten full length debuts I have ever heard. Ever. Thirteen songs clocking in around twenty minutes leaves no room whatsoever for any sort of masturbatory Steve Vai-wankery or pointless repetition. All the excess fat has been stripped away here, leaving a cadaverishly lean beast, where no element is kept running any longer than absolutely necessary. This makes Heartless' music ferociously hectic and dynamic and, at a first glance, often chaotic. Almost all of the songs are riddled with sharp turns and neck breaking twists and just as you think you've figured out the structure of any one particular song, it instantly whirls away in another direction.
This could easily be frustrating to an uninitiated listener, were it not for the bands' excellent song writing skills. Where many groups would leave a muddy, tangled and convoluted impression, Heartless does not. Even in the midst of the confusion and fury there is almost always a hook to which you can latch on, that makes the songs memorable and ... well, almost catchy. Stylistically this is a boiling stew of d-beat crustcore, grind, metal, screamo and old school hardcore, with a side order of dirty-as-fuck sludge and alot of noisy textures and feedback thrown into the mix. I could easily draw comparisons to contemporary bands like Nails, Trap Them and Forfeit, or even Brody's Militia, as well as to long gone legends such as Neanderthal and Infest. I even spot a bit of Melvins or 16 in the four minute epic Cop Out, with its simplistic plodding, doomy, heavy riffage and some truly depressing, life-hating EyeHateGod in closing sludge-apocalypse Hard Feelings.
Another cool thing about this record, beside the excellent material, is the earlier mentioned short running time: it positively gags for repeated spins. This could, in retrospect, be one of the better releases of last year. Some of the earlier Heartless releses are available free of charge at their bandcamp site, so there's no reason not to check them out.