Heron – A Low Winter’s Sun (2018) REVIEW

Vancouver, British Columbia based atmo-sludge/doom camp Heron rode in on a wave of post-hardcore informed sludge metal with their self-titled debut EP in 2015. Their approach wasn’t too far from ‘Oceanic’ era Isis, though far less anxious. Whether the riffs had movement or they were moving, I really liked their second EP ‘Fire Twin’; it had a modern gloom to it, not far from early Pallbearer if you’d tossed a shouting fellow in the middle of the murk. For a band just two years into their serious-faced existence there was a smart emphasis on restraint and relative simplicity in that second EP. I admired “The Great Attractor” in particular for it’s play with pacing and overall ‘epic’ statement, the track remains a small masterpiece in my mind. To no great surprise Heron continues to not suck at all on their first full-length ‘A Low Winter’s Sun’ as they provide bigger, slightly better things.

Not only do they showcase the best tracks from their earlier EPs in this black-and-blue beaten face of a debut, but they’ve grown hair upon their heavy handed approach to the sludge riff and spread wider the legs of black and doom metal influence to flesh out their more thoughtful meditations. If there is any irony in concrete-filled lungs shouting existentialist thought, indecipherable to most, it is lost upon me but the methodology of abrasive differentiation isn’t. What wasn’t necessarily clear in earlier Heron releases was the black metal-esque sped up moment of “The Great Attractor” would be capitalized upon just as much as the later-era Isis elements that seeped through. It all heads in a similar trajectory as the Usnea‘s full-length journey but takes it’s own detours, only slightly diluted by slow-moving jangly parts towards the end of the record. Compositions focus on a slow-build, a la Thou ‘Heathen’ and maybe too often at the record’s mid point.

Heron aren’t the newest, fresh-assed thing on the block but their take on sludge metal is a nice balance of harsh and mellow. ‘A Low Winter’s Sun’ feels modern yet still in awe of the last twenty years of sludge achievements, marveling in the loud-quiet-loud and the power of the riff while avoiding the deadlier spectrum of sludge by an inch. The whole thing works great on a full spin, although I think the ideas were stretched thin on the second half of “Uncomfortable Silence” and I found myself skipping over the last half here and there, still a great song. You really need to hear “The Great Attractor” and “A Gnawing Worry” back to back as well as the opening track “Of Gods and Goats” and I think those pieces should impress most sludge folks enough to dig the whole thing. An excellent first full-length.

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Artist Heron
Type Album
Released April 13, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp! Follow Heron on Facebook
Genres
Atmospheric Sludge Metal, Sludge Metal, Doom Metal

No air to breathe. 3.75/5.0

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