[4th November 2013]
Someone has been sprinkling something on Heart Of A Coward‘s sugar puffs. Either that, or since the 2012 release of their debut Hope and Hindrance, they’ve been drinking their own weight in protein shakes and bench-pressing a hatchback. Returning with their second album Severance, the Milton Keynes quintet is an altogether beefier, more imposing proposition.
In between these two releases, the band have put in some serious touring, and the development of their sound has been hinted at through their increasingly commanding performances.
Severance starts as it means to go on, with opening track “Monstro” being most appropriately named. Big, chuggy riffs complete with djenty twangs and atmospherics, and a breakdown meaty enough to put serious strain on the bass response of a cheap pair of earphones.
Its clear almost straight away that the band have upped their game across the board. The riffs are crisper, the songwriting tighter and the album is packed with pit-ready breakdowns. The band had some personnel changes in the run-up to recording Hope and Hindrance, and the stability of the line-up since then has helped them to develop into a slick, well-oiled machine. Vocalist Jamie Graham, in particular, is showing considerable improvement and is equally convincing in his clean singing as he is bellowing his lungs out.
All of this comes together with devastating effect on lead single “Deadweight“, which is an absolute barnstormer of a track. The main riff employs some tasty rolling triplets of chug, similar to those deployed on debut album highlight “Nightmare”, but with five times the potency here. “Deadweight” stands as easily the best track the band has penned to date, and is a strong contender for being one of the best all-out stompers released by anyone this year.
But, for all this progress and some top quality moments, Severance is not a completely satisfying listen. This is at least partly down to the fact that whilst the ideas are well executed, they aren’t particularly original. The influence of the djent big-hitters looms uncomfortably large through these tracks. In particular, “Distance”, sounds like it could be an off-cut from Monuments‘ Gnosis sessions. There really isn’t much on Severance you won’t have heard before.
Even “Deadweight” has a moment of faint disappointment hidden within – at the pivotal pre-breakdown moment, Jamie roars “I don’t give a fuck”, and it is a shame he chose to resort to such a tired cliche.
So, sadly, what Severance boils down to is a handful of really good tracks – “Psychophant” is another one – and a brace of average ones. Their slightly more hardcore-weighted take on the Djent sound is loaded with promise, but they haven’t quite delivered the goods. Yet.
If Heart Of A Coward can progress as much as they have between Hope and Hindrance and Severance for album number three, then it could be a very special thing indeed. In the meantime, the band are worth checking out if they roll into town on tour – but, other than a few choice cuts, Severance is for die-hard fans of the scene only.