Gone are the days when describing music as challenging meant impenetrable, elitist, pretentious noise, less accessible than Kim Jong-un’s private stash and ripe with the stench of self-worth. Thankfully, these days it’s more likely to mean bold, open to interpretation and unbound by mainstream trend, with a refusal to anchor to any one style or genre. Enter Swiss behemoth Herod, and their “challenging” second album, Sombre Dessein.
In the four years since guitarist Pierre Carroz founded the band, Herod have shared stages with Gojira, Crowbar, Carcass, Napalm Death and The Ocean (from whom the band has pinched singer Mike Pilat), and it’s nothing if not a telling list. Gojira in particular loom large over the likes of Reckoning and Mourning Grounds, while epic closer and album standout There Will Be Gods shares more than just a singer with perennial square pegs in the round hole, The Ocean. Marrying oppressive sludge riffs with progressive tendencies, sprawling atmospherics and a healthy dose of heavy, Sombre Dessein places the listener directly in the eye of the storm, forced to bear witness to every second of both its destructive power and its calm beauty, making for a beguiling and impressive beast.
In time, it won’t be surprising to hear Herod mentioned in the same hushed breaths as peers such as Cult of Luna or Pelican, so much so that we’re calling it now: Roadburn headliners 2022. Someone get Paddy Power on the phone.
Sombre Dessein is out 15 February via Pelagic Records