Hereafter’s debut EP ‘Fires of The Flame’ was one of those releases that showed promise. Right from the beginning, the material showed a great command of a riff, but a fairly terrible vocal often let the side down. Vocals can be make or break when it comes to a more extreme metal sound, and Hereafter’s fixation with semi spoken, semi growled lyrics often made the band seem like a strange novelty act. Nevertheless, the EP still offered a couple of tracks that sounded promising when heard in isolation – largely due to their abilities with a riff or three – and hinted at a band that could improve with time.
On the basis of 2023’s ‘Overcome’, they haven’t. As before, there are elements of the material that show potential greatness, but also elements that are just a little too loose to be taken one hundred percent seriously. Things start well when ‘No Turning Back’ opens with a droning keyboard and slow, doom laden riff, falling somewhere between a Sabbath obsessed band and one of Slayer’s drawn out intros. Things then slide somewhat when the speed intensifies. The jagged guitars are great, and a wall of sound is built with ease, but the drums sound like a man bashing on plastic tubs, and a bad vocal is far too distracting. Frontman Chris Natalini sounds as if he’s impersonating bits of Venom’s ‘Black Metal’ album, but without the brilliantly distorted sound that makes bits of that genre defining release genuinely threatening, he just sounds unintentionally funny. It’s down to guitarist Mick Michaels (also of melodic/trad metal band Corners of Sanctuary) to save face, and luckily, even with the obviously DIY production values, he fills the bulk of the number with some solid riffs that show he is clearly the real force – and talent – behind this band.
The title track draws more heavily from a trad metal sound, putting Mick in a comfort zone, and a few of the drums are bigger, marking a massive improvement. Musically, there’s a lot to enjoy here: the riffs shift between 80s thrash, proto black metal and even offer a nod to ‘Make Them Die Slowly’ era White Zombie (clearly an overhanging mood from the debut), and when glued together, there’s enough to suggest Hereafter are an old school beast capable of bigger things. Even a couple of backing vocal wails add to an old school charm. As before, though, the gravel-edged, shouty vocal remains a little problematic, unless you love Venom and early Slayer – but, to be honest, it’s not a patch on either. There are a couple of musical moments that stand out here; Michaels plays well, especially during the premature fade when he adds a busy circular lead riff beneath the solid rhythmic chug. His best efforts are left half buried in a low budget mix but, in terms of intention, this is definitely a step forward from some of the previous Hereafter tunes.
Tackling a longer duration, ‘They March’ opens brilliantly with a world of riffs that are borrowed from Judas Priest circa ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ colliding with a couple of riffs inspired by Saxon circa ’83. Michaels really goes to town with his mid tempo chug, and drummer Mad T actually arrives with a much bigger presence, and between them, they set up some solid groove/trad sounds. With bassist Robert Bigler having finally been turned up the volume on his amp, this track’s bottom end also helps to make Hereafter sound more committed and professional. Factor in a couple of great multi-tracked guitars which stoke up a classic feel, and a mood that, again, at least threatens to take on one of Slayer’s slow workouts, it’s easily this EP’s best track. …And once you consider that Chris even sounds comfortable barking his warnings about the approaching hordes, this is a reminder that on the rare occasion when Hereafter all seem to be pulling in the same direction, there’s a spark of something decent. It would be remiss to say they had a genuinely great sound, but on tunes such as this, their end goals appear much clearer. As with the best two songs on the previous EP, ‘They March’ is the kind of track that would fit on a well curated playlist of independent metal bands; in fact, in such a scenario, it would possibly fare better than it does here.
In closing, the band offers a New Wave of British Heavy Metal inflected intro on ‘Let The Record Show’. Please let the record show that after a great intro and the promising ‘We March’, this is a disappointing step backwards. Beyond the initial injection of melody, the number trudges its way merrily through four minutes’ worth of average metal. There’s a brief glimmer of hope when Michaels drops in a well executed lead break, but either side of that, you’ll have to endure some very average metal, driven by another barking vocal and a one-line chorus. With so much musical competition out there, it just isn’t enough to make Hereafter stand out.
As with the debut, if it’s just a world of solid chugging riffs you crave – specifically ones that fuse a slight groove metal edge to something with a massive trad heart – and you aren’t fussy about sonic perfection, then Hereafter will have your musical desires covered. In terms of a big-ish guitar sound and abilities to share that with a reasonable force, they’ve got little to worry about. Their song writing is a different story. ‘Overcome’ is genuinely well meaning but, despite glimmers of interest, it’s the work of a band languishing in a world of third division metal, with little chance of advancing until they sort out their obvious weaknesses.