The Jamie Graham (ex-Sylosis)-fronted band Heart of a Coward return with album number two, Severance, out now via Century Media Records, and it is one hell of a record, let me tell you. Bear in mind, I haven’t heard the first one, Hope and Hindrance yet, but on its own this is a great piece of work. Ably straddling the line between metalcore and djent (a classification I am loath to use, but it fits), the songs will definitely appeal to fans of both subgenres. Their technical proficiency will hit you just as hard in the face as the brutally crushing riffs and drums will. Here is a band that has really managed to carve out their own sound in a landscape filled with copycats. In all honesty, it is damn refreshing.
The rat-a-tat-a-tat drums and guitars of “Monstro” get the face-punching party off to a quick start, and “Prey” doesn’t ease up on the pressure for one second. “Distance” begins with more clean singing than growling, and then kicks into high gear to round out the triple threat sonic beat down before soaring up for one of the best choruses on the record. Graham really has a tremendous voice, and his ability to transition between those growls and his cleans helps to drive these songs stylistically.
Now the first song I heard available for streaming was “Nauseum”. Here we have more of the technical side packed tightly with a thick and hearty groove, and it was one of the things that made me want to hear more right away. “Deadweight” is one that just goes for the kill shot from the opening tip and is an exercise in brutality before giving way to the disturbing beauty of “Eclipsed”. More pummeling coupled with some speed is the formula behind “Psychophant” which keeps both feet in metalcore territory.
The intro riff alone to “Mirrors” is enough to make it a personal favorite, but the rest of the song is something else. Slow and grinding, and with a chorus that reminds me of when Killswitch Engage were actually good (Howard Jones-era, guys), this one had me at hello. And the same can be said for “Desensitise”. After almost inhuman growls, Graham once again lets his singing voice guide the song home on the refrains, and the end breakdown is pretty damn good, too. Closing things out is title track “Severance” which employs a bit of trickery at the start to almost make you think, “Is this album gonna end on a doom/sludge note?” before pulling out all the stops for one last aural assault of guitars, growls, and bears, oh my!
I don’t know about you guys, but when this album finishes, I find myself hitting REPEAT for another go-round. The songs are such that with each new listen I pick up on something I didn’t catch earlier, and I love that. Heart of a Coward are definitely going to be a band to watch in 2014, and I expect them to be melting faces on both sides of the Atlantic very soon.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Mirrors”, “Desensitise”, “Monstro”, “Nauseum”, “Distance”