There are usually three types of bands: those which play music that’s largely derivative, those that, by some stroke of luck, produce something partially fresh if not original among the derivative mass, and then there are artists who have true in-depth un- derstanding of the musical paradigms of the scene they’re a part of, and who use that intel to create something truly special. Switzerland-based atmo- spheric groove metal quartet Herod fall in the latter category.
“I’m obsessed with late 90’s Meshug- gah, early Dillinger Escape Plan, and early Cult of Luna,” explains guitarist Pierre Carroz deftly about the influences behind the sound of his brainchild. Combining the sonic agility of the American math-core pioneers with the relentless ferocity of the Swedish progressive metal innovators, Herod produce a brand of heavy music that is truly face melting. Having played with le- gendary metal acts like Obituary, Napalm Death and Carcass, Herod are no strangers to the international metal scene, and it shows in the calibre of their music. Their upcom- ing third album The Iconoclast puts the full power of their artistry on display, redefining musical heaviness and atmosphere at every turn imaginable.
“The word iconoclast has had different meanings throughout history,” explains Carroz about the album concept. “In the past it meant the destruction of holy images but today it signifies the aggression towards the rule; a political, social and liberating act.” Pitting the destructive power of the iconoclasts against the oppression of the icons, Herod produce a complex, kafkaesque picture of a future world that leaves little room for hope and optimism.
The Iconoclast sees the Swiss quintet paint with a consistent palette of groovy syncopated riff- ing, heavy breakdowns, and a diversity of vocal techniques and deliveries. Using similar col- ours and textures to create many different pictures, it’s an approach that feels almost experi- mental. Like great abstract painters like Kazimir Malevich or Jackson Pollock, Herod continue to develop their technique and method throughout their oeuvre.
One notable deviation from this palette includes a collaboration with four members of the fam- ous Les Mysterès des Voix Bulgares choir who transform «The Ode to…» into a restless and strangely jubilant centrepiece to the album. The high-pitched polyphonic voices combined with the relentless mechanic pounding of the band make for an experience that approximates the most wildly alienating and unique film scores written for the big screen in recent years: Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack to the epic science fiction film Dune. Commenting on the writing process, the German composer remarked, “I asked myself, why do all these science fiction movies have a European orchestra? We’re supposed to be on a different planet. We are in the future.” Listening to The Iconoclast with this in mind, the music of Herod is transformed to a world bey- ond compare.
Like true students of Zimmer, Herod transport you to a world that is definitely not your own. Al- bum-opener «Icon» greets you with alien high-pitched funerary chants and guitars like un- earthly mouth harps. The Banksy-referencing «The Girl with a Balloon» lets the sounds of a Lovecraftian chasm escape in between its opening notes, while its dual clean vocals admonish you like oracle incantations through the static. Meanwhile the band continues to drench you in grooves ripping up dirt like an overpowered dune buggy. The relentlessly pounding riffs are only sparsely interjected by haunting atmospheric passages, most notably «Intergloom»—an intermezzo with the grandeur of an overture which offers only slight relief amidst Herod’s powerful propensity for sheer violence.
The Iconoclast is a creation of pure magnificence, combining an undeniable artistic mindset with the best of what modern metal has to offer. «The Edifice» features the incredible Matt McGachy from Canadian technical death metal legends Cryptopsy while the album closer sees the band collaborate with long-time friend Loïc Rosetti: «The Prophecy» poses him against a most ferocious backdrop, capturing two amazing vocalists of the past and present Ocean Col- lective teaming up and facing off, since Herod’s vocalist Mike Pilat was the main vocalist on The Ocean’s «Precambrian» album (2007).
The Iconoclast comprises an unsettling vision of the future—aptly captured by Benedikt Demmer on the album cover—with the slight promise of a new future in mind. “Every destructive act is in itself a creative act of transformation. Recreating something new out of broken elements”, explains Carroz lastly. Indeed, destruction and obliteration are in the band’s nature, going by the Swiss quartet’s previous outings, but The Iconoclast is also an act of the highest form of creativity. Contrary to the iconoclasts of old, Herod have created an effect beyond destruction, ushering you into a new world beyond the known.