The idea that stems from the ill-begotten notion that Indian rock/metal bands just can’t sound like international acts: the sound quality, the mix, everything is always to be a notch below what we hear on (insert international band’s name here)’s songs, is something that Heretic shatters with delight. The general sound itself is simply put: pleasing. Here’s a band you want think of and say: They need to make it. They deserve every accolade they get for the jewel that is Words to Epilogues.
‘Echoes from a Canvas’ is a prelude that belies the ensuing aggression in the album, but lays a clear foundation of depth in the band’s music, which you dive straight into with ‘Reprise’.
‘Reprise’ gives you a riff-based hook filled earful. The first thing that strikes you is the quality of the mixing: there’s a crisp and distinct drum sound, perfectly mixed cymbals, (don’t forget the drool-worthy snare sound), and a perfectly underplayed almost inconspicuous bass-line by Benjamin Thomas on this track. The twin guitar solo followed by a Porcupine Tree’s ‘Trains’-like acoustic transition highlights the band’s focus on the melodic element of their music. The growls keep you rooted to the aggression that the band channels.
After listening to the first track, one might lean towards turning the EQ off/setting it flat: Heretic have given a lot of attention to their portrayal of themselves on a non-live platform.
‘Choice’ is a 100kmph (200bpm?) foray into the technical realm. This track is a drummer’s delight, and Kevin Paul Prichard seems to revel in this glory. There is never any (mindless?) repetition on this track, but the hooks are succinct and played frequently enough to stay in your conscious memory long after the music has stopped, without sounding cheesy, lending breath and breadth to the song. The classical gamagas on the vocals are signature Heretic, and one will find oneself keeping an ear out for just those. They’re done beautifully, and the band plays to Akhil Unnikrishnan’s vocal skill. However, one is inclined to feel that the clean vocals carry the song well enough that the growls can, sometimes, be done without. The growls feel a little reedy at worst, and the demand on the singer due to the progressive, eclectic nature of the song makes one wonder how reproducible this music is live. The vocal ending on this track is a testament to Akhil’s prowess as a singer. Hareesh Kumar’s and Abhijit Namboodiripad’s guitars dominate the vocals sometimes on this track, but that’s a technicality that only a cynical sound engineer will complain about. At almost six minutes long, the band risks boring the listener after 5, but having said that, the guitar solo is slick, devoid of nonsensical overplaying, and the rhythmic phrasing is hits the sweet spot, which can be used to argue that it just took that long to build the song up. Fair enough.
‘Slaves and the System’ is dark, and if you’re angry (right now, or as a person), you will resonate with this track. Three tracks into the album, and Heretic makes its impression on the listener: they love being in-your-face and their music is instantly gratifying. Lovers of riff based heavy guitar work: rejoice. This music is hook-fest at worst! The vocals on this track, like the rest of the music, are wet, filthy, and glorious. One might argue that the vocals here just work, while simultaneously leading one to wonder: what would it sound like with more vocal harmony, considering that the chorus/verse structure is almost begging for it? Or, will more growls throw the music into a darker, angrier place?
‘Words to Epilogues’ is reminiscent of Periphery. Heretic does their best to keep the music fresh, which, generally speaking, is always a challenge. The band’s collective thought processes reflect a desire to always address the technical element of the music, yet never depart from the realm of easy, almost palatable listenability – even in a song that is 7 minutes long. This song is a vocal and guitar delight off the bat, but 1:30 minutes into the song, none of that seems to matter. One is inclined to think it is fitting that this is the title track, and one may like for this to be the signature song of the band, if there ever was one; but one might also be biased towards ‘Thoughts’ (video), which has the advantage of creating a visual impression, in addition to being an auditory bonanza. ‘Words to Epilogues’ requires one’s careful attention; if there ever was a labour-of-love for this band, this might just be it. The conclusion of this song is a staunch reminder of the excellent quality of the production (Keshav Dhar, Skyharbor.)
‘Alone’ is the band’s departure from the complexity and the depth of the early tracks. The layout of the songs reflects a live set-list like ensemble of tracks. Having said that, one might be disappointed with this track because of the departure from the more progressive earfuls that delighted one not five minutes ago.
‘Bleed to Heal’ follows with a welcome tone change, and the quality of the mixing only seems to improve with every track that Heretic have put on their album. This track almost cries for more vocal harmonies. ‘Thoughts’ displays a Words to Epilogues-like tone (guitar-wise and on the whole), and if one isn’t convinced of Heretic’s ability to tap into what seems like its members’ fantastic musical facilities, then replay this album from start to finish.
‘Thoughts’ sounds like a farewell that the band does not want to make – the angst rises to a crescendo, and then descends into a ‘Ring of Colours’, which reflects the sheer intellect of the band in that it can induce a sense of auditory déjà vu, and subsequently bids the listener farewell until the next time she pushes play.