Hailing from Finland, Heathen Hearts play an absolutely crushing brand of hardcore. On this debut EP, their sound takes the guts of bands like H2O and Agnostic Front and applies a huge metallic crunch. The result is a sound that’s sometimes blisteringly fast but always oppressively heavy – a musical sledgehammer where the riff is king, and the guttural roars clear everything in their path. It’s the kind of introduction that’s both unsubtle and brilliant.
The band’s self-titled EP provides a near perfect snapshot of their chosen style. Its strongest track ‘Loyal To Sacrifice’ takes an old hardcore groove, dresses it in bigger boots, then applies a dose of 90s metal for good measure. In just three minutes, the arrangement goes through a few distinct moods, from a lengthy intro where clattering drums from old Revelation recordings collide with dirty guitars, into a crashing hardcore riff with multi-layered lead guitars borrowed from great metalcore, and then absolutely slays with a massive hardcore breakdown that showcases a great rhythm section. In terms of hardcore/metalcore crossovers, there’s nothing especially new here, but there’s plenty in Heathen Hearts’ bracing approach that makes their sound seem vital. Dropping into far more of a metalcore influence, ‘World of Ash’ opens with a groove laden chug, before overlaying a dirty, bottom end sound with crunchy melodic guitar lines. In less than twenty seconds, the listener is able to really latch onto a near timeless riff, before the verse ushers in an even harder edge. Although still more metal than hardcore punk, its great to hear the band working with some intensive mid-tempo riffs and to experience Juhana Haavisto (bass) and Ville Nissinen (drums) locking into an especially unshakable union. With a couple more melodic textures leading towards a slow hardcore breakdown inviting more of a slam-worthy sound, it really shows off the band’s easy gift for an effective arrangement. Finally, with guitarists Lauri Silanpaa and Jere Orre adding much broader sounds with huge, cleaner playing at the close, this number pretty much squeezes all of the band’s best traits into another incredibly tight three minute package.
At the band’s most angry, ‘Ichor’ plays like a throwback to the 90s hardcore of Earth Crisis and Snapcase, but isn’t by any means a nostalgia trip. With a barrage of riffs attacking at a skate punk tempo but presented with the kind of unrelenting metalcore crunch of bands like The Sorrow and Hatebreed, Heathen Hearts really don’t mess around. As the track really finds its feet, the marriage of riffs and a throat rawing vocal from Antii Nisslia suggests the makings of a genre classic, and with a couple of grinding sounds and horsey squeals from the guitar also suggesting a love of groove metal, it adds another twist to an already superb arsenal of noise.
This is absolutely brutal. In under ten minutes, Heathen Hearts arrive, smash everyone into oblivion and then split, without a word or any extraneous notes. This EP is a sharp musical attack that acts as a reminder that, when played with absolute precision, crossover hardcore never gets old. For lovers of all metal infused hardcore – either from a 90s vintage, or a more contemporary angle – this is an unmissable treat.