ALBUM REVIEW: Herod – Sombre Dessein

Release Date: February 15th 2019
Label: Pelagic Records


Switzerland have been a bit of a hot bed for heavy music talent over the last few years, ranging from progressive metallers This Misery Garden, out of the box thinkers The Erkonauts, and black metal crew Bolzer all releasing quality records recently. Now, you can most definitely add Herod to that list.

Second record ‘Sombre Dessein’ encapsulates everything that’s interesting and exciting about heavy, progressive bands such as Conjurer, Gojira, and The Ocean, and mashes them all together to produce a body of art that really is quite scintillating.

‘Fork Tongue’ starts with a slow-burning, almost mechanical introduction that builds into a hooky guitar riff, complete with disgustingly ferocious vocals from Mike Pilat. It’s interesting to note at this stage that Pilat sang on The Ocean‘s 2007 record ‘Precambrian’, and the band are also signed to Pelagic Records (also affiliated with The Ocean), so the similarities are clear to see. A chunky yet catchy guitar riff pierces through the gloom halfway through the track before that hooky riff again returns with suitably impressive swagger.

Those aforementioned Gojira influences are easily identified on ‘Reckoning’, with that trademark pick scrape prevalent throughout and yet another riff guaranteed to get those heads banging, while ‘Silent Truth’ is a straightforward slab of technicality interspersed with a vocal delivery that veers seamlessly from Chino Moreno (Deftones) to Jacob Bannon (Converge).

‘Don’t Speak Last’ is arguably the highlight of the record showing exactly what this band are capable of. A ten-minute assault on the senses, the slow and gentle introduction soon gives way to an outpouring of bile and heaviness. No sooner have you got your claws into the sheer groove of the song, it then takes a slight left-turn with clean vocals appearing for the first time on the record. The level of complexity remains high, and just when you think a natural conclusion is approaching, it whips you off your feet with another bout of creativity before dramatically ending.

As has been hinted already, there’s a brooding atmosphere that flows through the course of listening to this album, in part due to the stunning production job from Julien Fehlman (The Ocean) and Magnus Lindberg (Cult Of Luna), and this heightens to mesmeric proportions on ‘Mourning Grounds’.

The guitars, driven by Bertrand Pot and chief songwriter Pierre Carroz, appear to be switched to full amplification about a minute into the track which really dial up the dynamics. A quieter segment soon comes into play, which showcases both clean vocals and heavy screams at the same time, while the repeating riff that peppers the song has an almost dream-like, doomy approach fitting in well with the dourness of the song.

Finally, ten-minute album closer, ‘There Will Be Gods’, is mainly an instrumental song full of complexity and dynamic swings with harsh vocal segments only sporadically audible through its running time. Drummer Fabien Vodoz produces lots of distinctive rumbling effects set against background riffing that showcases small pitch changes here and there, but this pattern then breaks stride and elevates the anthemics towards the end before being barked into submission by Pilat.

What we have here is an incredibly engaging album that has multiple elements and characteristics without ever suffering from being too difficult to listen to. While there are a couple of ten-minute tracks on show, harsh screaming that is inaudible at times and tonal shifts that range from the serene to the chaotic, ‘Sombre Dessein’ manages to package everything together in a straightforward manner to deliver one of the albums of the year so far.