The last two years have been a hell of a ride for Heriot, the English Post Hardcore/Extreme Metal band who have experienced a rebirth of sorts and are firmly riding the crest of a wave on a distinct upward trajectory. They started life in 2016 as a three-piece, consisting of Jake Packer (vocals/bass), Erhan Alman (guitar), and Julian Gage (drums), but in 2020 drafted in former Dead Hands guitarist Deb Gough, applying depth to their musicianship, while also adding a new voice for the band to share vocal duties with Jake, enabling an intriguing expansion of their sound.
Since then, Heriot has gone from strength to strength in a whirlwind of online single/video releases which have seen over 100,000 streams on Spotify alone. They’ve secured a record deal with one of the hottest independent labels around, and experienced some impressive tour support slots. All of which has combined to place them firmly as one of the current buzz bands in the UK’s thriving post-pandemic metal scene.
I caught up with Deb and Julian on the cusp of the release of their debut EP Profound Morality, which is 20 odd minutes of gut wrenchingly brutal riffs and vocals, blended with moments of calm, haunting clean vocals and with an experimental industrial edge. The record dropped worldwide on Church Road Records on April 29th, and we discussed the release, what it means to Heriot, and what plans the band have in the pipeline to keep their momentum rolling.
For Julian the timing and realisation of the record was perfect; “The singles approach we kind of had to do because of the pandemic, although we probably would have done it regardless. We were cautious to put out a record before we had a fanbase there for it, and fortunately we’re releasing this now, with people there to hear it. I also think a physical release is important for a band like us, I collect vinyl so I’m really stoked to have our own record out there. I think it’s something that’s kind of on a bucket list for a lot of bands.”
Vinyl of course is experiencing a resurgence right now and the Profound Morality standard press comes on a beautiful orange and black splatter disc, although collecting can be expensive, it is certainly an addictive and incredibly fulfilling hobby as Julian agrees; “I’ve just dropped another £50 on a Slipknot reissue!”
Deb adds; “My boyfriend collects a lot of vinyl. We recently went to a record store together and I saw Lamb Of God’s Ashes Of The Wake and thought, right I’m buying that. And then I picked up Rheia by Oathbreaker … but I don’t even have a vinyl player so it’s all pointless really!”
Heriot are in the fortunate position of having aligned themselves with Church Road Records, a prestigious independent label in the UK’s underground scene. Julian explains; “They got in touch with us around Feb 2021, just after we dropped ‘Requiem’. We did have interest from other labels but felt Church Road were the best fit. They’ve worked similar to how we have, kind of DIY from the start, so I think there was an element of trust in going with them.”
And the band are certainly in fine company on the label, who are home to the likes of Svalbard (who Heriot supported on their UK tour in 2021), Absentees and Palm Reader. I asked Deb who else on the label fans of Heriot should be checking out; “Cruelty are definitely one, they are a little reminiscent of Converge, they’re really heavy and really cool. And Graywave are kind of like dark shoegaze and are doing well, so those are two bands that we definitely really like on the label right now.”
With the band’s recent evolution, the sound of Heriot has changed. There are now the elements of an Industrial influence, with the greater use of synths and samples than ever before, and a variety in tone and tempo to their music, echoing shades of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Code Orange. Deb’s heavy screaming vocal style offers an alternative to compliment Jakes’s more guttural Death style growl, and she also introduces a melancholic clean vocal sound, which I was intrigued to find out more about.
She explains, “I’ll be honest in that singing is still very new to me, both clean and screaming, and it was only during lockdown that I started doing both. With my clean singing, I really like Billie Eilish and I don’t know if that’s something people might get from it, and Caro Tanghe from Oathbreaker is a huge influence, I really like the haunting nature of her sound.”
The progression and experimentation of the band’s instrumental sound is also important to Deb; “Sonically were always going to be a heavy band, but for us it’s about finding different ways that we can make that possible and not just relying on riffs. We want to see how we can mould different soundscapes to be heavy. The riffs are always going to be there, but we want to have a few different methods to achieve the heaviness.”
And regarding the experimental style and use of breaks in sound within the musical arrangement on the EP Julian adds; “I think if we did 8 songs that were just straight up riffers, then it probably would have just been a bit too intense even over 20 minutes!”
I probed on the idea of their debut collection being released as an EP rather than full length album and Deb explains; “We didn’t want to commit to an album so early on with being a four piece, as there’s still loads of different things we’re experimenting with, and we know there still a lot more to come. If we recorded an album straight away, we could have missed out on exploring loads of different sounds and textures that the EP has allowed us to dip our toe into.”
Julian agrees; “We know the hypes there right now and the pressure will also be there to release an album, so we will be looking to follow up quite quickly. The EP came quite easily and the creativity was a lot of fun, so I’m hoping we can take the same approach for the album early next year”. And in terms of their songwriting process Julian continues; “We have a folder of ideas and riffs and stuff which we went through for Profound Morality. Then we booked a rehearsal space for 5 days and basically went through, piecing together what we had. We did the bulk on the band tracks for the EP in those 5 days, jamming them out then going to the computer and working from there.”
Deb adds; “Jake (Packer – Vocals/Bass) is really good at making the soundscapes for the industrial side of things, a lot of which were made at the time of recording live. We all have an input in what it should sound like, but Jake is the genius who can peace it all together and make it work with the heavy stuff. Jake also has his own production studio called Slow God Audio, so we recorded it all through him obviously. It’s great to do it in house as we can work at our own pace, and have a bit more control over everything.”
And regarding the record’s lyrical themes, she continues; “This EP is kind of all about the question of where your morals lie and how integral can you be to your morals, questioning yourself and others, questioning how the world functions and whether that is something you can be on board with. And if you can’t, what do you do about it … where do you go? In the early days we’d all stew over the lyrics together, as it’s gone on it tends to be me and Jake that write them. We’ll both have a bunch of notes on our phone, and then we’ll agonise over different words for ‘death’ or something like that for about an hour! But we’re all normally very much on the same page. Ultimately though we try not to put anything in an abrupt or blatant way, as we want the listener to interpret our lyrics however they want to.”
Their seemingly carefully calculated rise has also seen an emphasis on the visual element which accompanies their music. Each video they’ve released online so far is creatively unique, and the style of their artwork and band photos are well thought out and all connected. This is a theme that the band are keen to continue as their identity grows. Deb explains; “The visual aspect for us plays a big part in Heriot. We try to make everything as immersive as we can do, so this side of us is almost as important as the music, it all goes hand in hand really.”
And playing live of course also goes hand in hand with their recorded music. They have just completed a round of shows over the May Bank Holiday weekend to celebrate the release of Profound Morality, and in February completed one of the UK Metal tours of the year so far, which Deb fondly remembers; “The Rolo Tomassi tour was amazing, every night was just fantastic. The turn out and crowd response was wicked for every band. Rolo and Pupil Slicer are all such nice people as well, it just felt like we were on holiday with our mates!”
This summer the band will be making appearances at the likes of Bloodstock and Download, although Julian admits; “I’m kind of worried about festival season this year cause there’s a lot of bands who are probably going to be forced to drop out still … Covid still seems to be a sticky subject.” Deb adds; “I’m a bit nervous too. If Lamb Of God don’t end up playing Bloodstock for any reason … I’ll cry!” And regarding their plans for beyond the Summer Deb explains, “Playing out in Europe is definitely on our to do list. I think next year we’d like to go play some shows over there, we’re really itching to do that. We do have some exciting tour news coming for after the summer, which hopefully will be announced soon.”
Personally I’m looking forward to catching up with Heriot at Washed Out Festival in Brighton on Sep 2nd, and amongst other events you can also catch them live at Download Festival (June 10th), 2000 Trees Festival (July 6th), Dominion Festival (July 29th) or at Bloodstock Festival (August 11th). To keep up to date with all things Heriot, give them a follow at https://www.heriotmetal.bandcamp.com, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all of the usual suspects!
Read our review of Profound Mortality here:
Words by ABSTRAKT_SOUL