The absence of a Wikipedia band page is generally a good sign that the particularone in question enjoys their underground status. Not many can lay claim to that these days, especially a band that has released a split with Mastodon and toured with bands such as Baroness, Black Cobra, and Mouth of the Architect. It’s hard to determine whether following the path less known is a conscious one, but what is apparent is that American Heritage do not take themselves too seriously and play music like they are really enjoying it.
American Heritage have grinded out a 20 year career playing indignant sludge metal with a punk rock and hardcore aesthetic, 3 EP’s, 3 Splits, and 3 LP’s leads them to perhaps their last album Prolapse. American Heritage have done it the hard way, from the outside it seems the four-piece have never found the writing and touring cycle easy. They just come across as slightly volatile, their 2011 release Sedentary was recorded without a bassist and recently vocalist and guitarist Adam Norden departed, clouding the band’s future all-together. Interestingly enough, Prolapse’s last 3 songs are all covers, which maybe a subliminal clue as to the reason for the departure, conceivably the band have just run their course and squeezed all of their creative juices dry. The band have indicated they will continue to play shows into 2015, so the decision to depart was not due to conflict.
Prolapse is produced by Sanford Parker, for those unaware of this modern maestro producer/engineer, who has also helped release recent albums from artists such as Indian, Rwake, Lord Mantis, and Corrections House and contributes himself in Yakuza and Minsk, this guy just does not make a mistake when it comes to choosing who he works with. The sound on Prolapse is undoubtedly Parker through and through, drenched in feedback, dripping with sludge and drowning in distortion, which are just a few descriptors at play here. Everything sounds pissed off, the vocals are very dry and delivered with almost sarcasm, and at times you feel dirty listening to it. It also has a very live feel to the recording, Sanford and the band have really tried to encapsulate the sound the band makes live. It’s quite an organic sounding release and a sense of honesty comes through in that approach.
‘Eastward Cast the Entrails’ opens the album with piercing feedback before unleashing a blast of guitar and bass fury with a lead very reminiscent of Mastodon circa Remission and Leviathan. These sounds make their presence felt throughout the length of this album. The marvelously titled ‘Anxious Bedwetter’ has a tremendous rumbling riff, layers of distortion and a punk rock vibe. That vibe really shines throughout as well, and does set them apart from the rest of the saturated sludge metal genre.
Album highlight ‘Constant and Consuming Fear of Death and Dying’ hits you in the face at the halfway mark with a slower, almost bluesy feel. There is some brilliant guitar work here and the drumming is first rate, delivering power and precision at once. It’s the catchiest track on the album and one of the highlights of the bands career. ‘Mask of Lies’ and ‘Blackbird’ fly by with equal amounts of mutilation, animosity and strength.
American Heritage have somewhat gone against the grain with their last 3 tracks; its not uncommon for a band to record a cover song or release a few as bonus tracks, however, the last three songs here are all covers. Descendents ‘Hurtin Crue’ and Black Flag’s ‘Thirsty and Miserable’ hitting you fast and furious, before Girls Against Boys ‘Bulletproof Cupid’ providing a step down in pace with an almost sexy, sleazy tone. They are all fantastic tracks played with incredible passion and energy but just a little unorthodox. Not that this not a bad thing, though, the band deserves credit for doing what they want.
Prolapse is an enjoyable listen, but it does not break any new ground, and if you were waiting for Mastodon to release another Remission and are getting impatient, then you will get plenty of enjoyment from this and more. It would be a shame to see American Heritage disband as they might still have their best work ahead of them.
1. Eastward Cast the Entrails
2. Anxious Bedwetter
4. Constant and Consuming Fear of Death and Dying
5. Mask Of Lies
7. Hürtin’ Crüe [Descendents Cover]
8. Thirsty and Miserable [Black Flag Cover]
9. Bulletproof Cupid [Girls Against Boys Cover]