PICK OF THE WEEK: Heiress search for any signs of hope amid total despair on punchy ‘Distant Fires’

Photo by Scott Evans

We end the year hoping that, if only possible, we could look down the line into 2022 and beyond and hope that there’s something in which we can believe. Things have been so miserable for so many, and the depression and fear has been palpable, so any sign that we have a reason to think there are good things ahead of us, or a modicum of safety, would be a godsend.

On this final review of the year (um, see ya next week for one more), we try to look out into the darkness for a hint of a flare, something that indicates moving ahead won’t be full of danger and disappointment at every turn. That’s also a theme of “Distant Fires,” the new record from Heiress that pushes you mentally and physically to try to find that glimmer. If you’re tired of hearing about pandemics and political trash fires, worry not. The band—vocalist John Pettibone, guitarist Wes Reed, bassist Mat Houot, drummer Justin Martinez—obviously lives in the same world as the rest of us and have been just as impacted, but the title and direction takes on a more personal edge. It’s striving for guidance to keep oneself walking upright, trying to survive and thrive in a world that doesn’t seem to want that to happen. That’s applied to their atmospheric doom and sludge that feels both brutal and spacious, giving you room to soothe any lingering burns.

“All Ends” delivers punishment right off the bat, plowing with gritty howls and guitars carving into the earth, with the atmosphere also thickening. The vocals turn to shrieks, the playing slowly crushes, and the leads go from moody to trudging, ending everything in a pile of ash. “Collides” is a quick one that blows through you before you know what hit you, with the track’s guts just bristling. The vocals are harsh and the assault is direct, ending in a howl of echo. “Once Was” buckles into that rich ISIS-style terrain, but in their own way and with their unique personality. The gaze drips heavily, the sounds swell, and spacious destruction is dished out generously, capturing your mind. “One was as thick as blood,” Pettibone howls as the guitars soar, wounds open, and the life forces drain into something new. “Beyond Devotions” is grisly and massive, leaving welts on your flesh before opening a doorway to the mystical. The playing dizzies as the tempo picks up, grime thickens, and the fury melts chains, sending you into a flurry of shots. Things wrench anew, the guitar work crushes, and the final moments blast out.

“Quiet Tension” is anything but gentle as beastly howls explode, the riffs snarl, and the low end bludgeons, opening up your guts. Guitars scorch before a brief calm brings some soothing waters, but that’s short lived as the playing slashes, and everything burns to the ground. “Straying Eye” is lumbering heavy as the growls set the pace emotionally, and the guitar work gains humidity that makes your body wilt. The bands rumbles in place, melodies spread, and the sludge thickens, roaring with power as it fades out. “Unsettler” is cement thick with growls retching, and the playing keeps chipping away at bone. The guitars light up as the heat becomes insurmountable, with Pettibone wailing, “Where I stand, where we began,” as the ending breathes fire. “Surviving You” closes the album, bringing rustling noises and meaty riffs, with Pettibone turning in some of his most ferocious work. The melodies turn dour and darker as Pettibone blasts, “Sometimes you see right through me,” followed by guitars that rip into sinew. The track goes from massive to merciful and back, finally sending its remaining charges as Pettibone howls, “Rejection, staring back at me,” and the pain slithers down the drain.

Heiress’ might is on full display on “Distant Fires,” a record that is a huge, relentless storm hanging over your head, refusing to let you give up on your search. Trying to find signs of hope off in the distance has become a fool’s game of late, and surviving despite all of that has devolved into a game. This music pays off that hopelessness and despair as we cling to whatever we have left, hoping one day that beacon will show itself, and our tense chest muscles finally can relax.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Heiressy

To buy the album, go here: https://heiress.bandcamp.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.satanikroyaltyrecords.com/

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