Pittsburgh hardcore beasts Heartless dish out beatings on ‘Hell Is Other People’

Heartless level Helter Shelter

If you live in Pittsburgh like I do, relying on your city newspapers for music coverage is a faulty idea. If that’s your only means of knowing what’s going on around town, you’d think we had no metal and hardcore scene. Some of the punk bands get very limited ink, but it’s like an old boys’ network where the same stuff gets mentioned every week, and nothing daring and dangerous is allowed above the surface.

But ignoring it doesn’t mean it goes away. There have been bands that have signed with notable indie labels (Hero Destroyed and Complete Failure with Relapse, defunct Once Nothing with Solid State) and hardly a thing was uttered about that. We’re about to test the waters of tolerance again in these parts now that the debut full-length “Hell Is Other People” from hardcore fire-breathers Heartless is about to drop (the band does have a number of preceding 7-inch efforts as well). And it’s coming out on Southern Lord, a label you just may have heard of before. OK, enough bitching about the local scribes, who are only concerned about Elvis Costello and the Kinks and the groups they influenced, and more getting to Heartless, who will bloody your brow and cave in your chest with their gargantuan sound. Oh, and the album title? Perfect. My sentiments exactly.

It’s been well noted that Southern Lord is on a hardcore kick the past couple years, releasing crushing platters from bands such as Nails, the Secret, Masakari, Trap Them, Seven Sisters of Sleep, and countless others, and Heartless fit right in with those groups aesthetically, philosophically, artistically and sonically. Say what you want about the Lord’s fixation with this sound, but they know what they’re doing, and they haven’t plucked a bad band yet. Call me partial from sharing a misunderstood hometown with the dudes, but Heartless is their best find in this genre yet and is one of the bands on their roster I’m most excited to see progress. And this is coming from someone who leans more toward the label’s Wolves in the Throne Room/Earth/Sunn 0))) contingent.

Even if I had no idea who Heartless were before taking on “Hell Is Other People,” the awesome cover art, the creation of Brian D’Agosta of Gostworks (find a link to their site below, where you can see the entire layout), immediately would have drawn me into the fury. Cover art seems to be such a low priority for so many bands and labels living in this gimme-now digital age, so when you see something that strikes your eyes and instantly piques your curiosity as to how the band sounds, it’s something of a minor miracle. The sooty, creepy cover is a window into “Hell Is Other People” that actually gives you a pretty accurate portrayal of the leveling and bloodletting that is in front of you. My guess is the band’s going to be able to drum up some pretty great merch based on the packaging design. But what do striking T-shirts matter if the music doesn’t deliver? Not to worry with Heartless.

“Hell” is a perfectly timed, precisely stuffed package at 13 tracks clocking in at a tick under 21 minutes. With such a compact assault, the only way to react is by exclaiming the name of another Steel City mangler, “Oh shit, they’re going to kill us!” “Clean Slate” opens the door to this pit of hell with feedback ringing out and a complete demolition of the mind, body and soul that ends in a bit of doomy skull-sludgery. “Resuscitate/Suffocate,” the first cut fed to an unsuspecting media and public, just blasts off, and before you know it, you’re buried up to your chest in the speedy, hardcore wailing of “Cede” and the blast-filled “Late.” “Undulations” also has a doomy makeup, but eventually that’s blown all to hell with thrashy blasts; “Deject” is a slowly driven, calculated collection of mashing guitar chugs and mangled hopes; “Cop Out” is the band’s epic at 4:08, and it’s a total monster; “Hard Feelings” is a nasty diatribe that has the entire band offering up venom via their gang shouts; and “Blinders” is a simmering pot of disgust, with frontman Cory lamenting, “The only thing broken is me.”

If you’re not down with Southern Lord’s excitement over the underground hardcore scene, I’m not sure Heartless will change your mind. But you should give them a chance, right? You can’t complain if you don’t try it on. But those who are excited by what the label’s been pumping out lately will be psyched over “Hell Is Other People.” This is a face-scorcher of an album, one that should come across even better live and will keep your hardcore fires burning. Heartless is a young, hungry den of lions who could be one of the genre’s frontrunners in a few years if they keep making madness like this record.

For more on the band, go here: http://heartlesspgh.blogspot.com/

To buy “Hell Is Other People,” go here: http://www.southernlord.com/store.php

For more on the label, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/

For more on Gostworks, go here: http://gostworks.wordpress.com/