Album Review: Heck – Instructions

After years of relentlessly proving themselves through their unbounded energy on the live circuit, breaking and fixing everything time and time again. Even following a lawsuit from a filmmaking giant. Heck have finally released the forty five minute ball of thunder that everyone needed from a debut album. Unlike most bands Heck are a musical outfit that stand by the words they scream in your face. As vocalist Matt Reynolds roars “This isn’t over, this will never be over” it becomes evident that the only way Heck will ever be done is when they have burnt everything, including themselves to the ground. Not only have the band staked their claim as a dominant force in the future of metal. They have changed the face of heavy music, this can be expected to continue for years to come.

Instructions in the way anyone would expect Heck to start an album; a destructive pounding of the drum-kit, a wail of guitar feedback, and a guttural bellow. To begin with, the song writing doesn’t differ largely from the bands work beforehand. Opener ‘Good as Dead’ sees a viciously intense verse give way to all of three seconds of calm before a gargantuan chorus breaks into play. Immediately following this the album treats its audience to a development from the Heck camp. ‘Mope’ embraces a sludgier groove filled style of metal that pins it’s listener to the ground and forces them to start nodding their head. The second track is also where the bass-line really cuts through, establishing itself as a key feature of the albums success. It is a credit to those at Cottage Road Studios, and to bassist Paul Shelley that the bass-line was able to provide a sound so simultaneously raunchy and raucous. Too often are Metal bass-lines just poor copies of the guitar line, with the bassist taking easy options. It is refreshing to see Heck continue to be innovative in every possible way.

As the album progresses three older Heck songs are interwoven with the newer tracks. This isn’t just a lazy re-release though. Each track is rerecorded and the band have found ways to breathe new life into each one. With these re-recordings the songs feel tighter and better organised. Despite this, very little, if any, of the intensity of the original tracks are lost. It would have been a shame to miss any off of these Heck classics from their first full-length release. What is interesting is that ‘A Great Idea Bastardised’ sits on the track-list while it’s titular brother ‘A Good Idea Realised’ is omitted. The carnival waltz that rounds off ‘Don’t Touch That Dial’ is impressively eerie, in a way that could induce nightmares form a horror you saw when you were twelve years old. Preceding this waltz is a moment that could exist comfortably on an Oscar winning score for a spaghetti western. This stands to prove the versatility of the band. Proving that Heck aren’t just a one trick pony using their intensity as a gimmick. Sitting pretty between these classics is ‘Fastback’, a song that fearlessly encapsulates a raw moment of pure energy unmatched by any musical contribution that has come before it.

“A moment that could exist comfortably on an Oscar winning score for a spaghetti western”

Then comes the album’s first single ‘The Breakers’. It almost seems strange that an album so intentionally against all that is commercially viable should have a single. That is, until you listen to ‘The Breakers’. Upon listening to the single all becomes clear. There is something magically cathartic about the repetition of the line ‘Gone as if by balls’, before the song falls into a breakdown so mesmerising it would bring thousands into unified movement. ‘Totem’ and ‘White Devil’ give a moment of breathing space before returning the unrelenting chaos, ending with a visceral scream of ‘I swear to God you’re the fucking devil’.

The tenth track consists of a three part movement that actually makes up a third of the album as a whole. Following on from the theme of the album, the piece starts as an intense groove with unrelenting intensity. This is quickly turned around with the return of Paul Shelley’s blues filled vocal line. The rapid stabs of Drummer Tom Marsh’s kit could impress even the fastest of drummers. The guitar line then introduces melodies that would fit comfortably into a Biffy Clyro album. This is reinforced by the band playing around with time signatures and harsh harmonies, not dissimilar to the soon to be iconic Scottish trio. Once this has completely broken down into a whirlwind of brutality once more, it is easy to become aware that the album is so energetic that it forces its listener to expel any energy they may be harbouring, only visible in the absence of the album. This final track soon rebuilds itself to tear through a frankly magnificent guitar solo, embellished with the beautiful dichotomy of eerie metal dissonance contrasted against a soulful blues shredding.

“A beautiful dichotomy of eerie metal dissonance contrasted against a soulful blues shredding”

Heck have produced something wonderfully innovative, intense and angular. Instructions may be the bolt of lightning that the music industry required in 2016 to remind itself that there is so much more than overproduced, meaningless radio rock and the same inane chugging of guitars that permeates throughout the metal community. Prior to this album it would be easy to fear that it is impossible to balance accessible and enjoyable audio with the expulsion of energy that Heck bring to their live shows. Somehow Instructions has defied this impossibility and provided the perfect mix of the two. There is no way to accurately describe the energy that this album brings. In an attempt to make it clear for those that require a concrete example of what Heck are capable of; this album is equivalent to drinking eight litres of red bull. As soon as it is over the safest thing you can do is brew some chamomile, lay down and hope you don’t face cardiac arrest. Alternatively, listen to it again because despite its title, Heck might have just killed the bureaucracy of music, there are no rules anymore.

Liam Fleming

Image courtesy of Pomona

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