Four years ago, Herod dropped one of the heaviest albums I’d ever heard: Sombre Dessein. It was incomprehensibly, wildly dense. Not the fastest or noisiest, but it hit in such a way to leave a massive impression on me. I still go back to it with frightening regularity. The Switzerland-based group - now a bona fide foursome – were, and are still, inhumanly adept at producing some of the most immense music that blends post-metal, sludge, groove, and some progressive and atmospheric tendencies to round off that harder edge.
Curbing expectations was difficult - how does a band you love follow up what you consider to be one of the best albums of the last decade? Well, technically, they don’t, they shouldn’t, and in this case, they didn’t. Iconoclast is huge; in some ways bigger than Herod’s previous work, and shrunken in others. This may seem like an act of balance, equalizing to a favorable midpoint, but that’s not exactly the case. In fact, there’s something missing from Iconoclast at the end of it all.
“The Icon” is a remarkable album opener, a crescendo building up to eruptive energy where the groove is front and center. The riffs, while mostly simple, are pummeling in the truest sense. It’s apparent that guitarist and Herod brainchild Pierre Carroz has been trying to stay as sharp as ever, and while there’s always been a mark of Meshuggah influence on his work, it feels more pointed here, especially with the deep-ass chugs on “The Edifice”.
I cannot understate how good of a vocalist Mike Pilat is. His previous work with The Ocean lends itself well here where being as ferocious and unrelenting as possible plays to Herod’s sound impeccably. Funnily enough, his vocal performance isn’t the best on the album. That goes to the four choir members of Les Mystères des Voix Bulgares featured on “The Ode to…”, a lovely atmospheric track I would not expect to enjoy as much as I do. Herod took a risk with this seven-minute track, but its payoff was well worth it as it calms the action and allows for some centering before continuing on with the dick-stomper that is the following track.
“The Becoming” is the best song on the album and it’s also the heaviest. Goddamn, this song goes and doesn’t stop. The riffing on the hook is one of the most vile melodic moments I’ve heard in a while, and the war cry of “die as a Roman!” in the middle of the track really gets the blood pumping. This is a great place to single out the drums which work overtime not just to keep pace, but bolster the strength of each and every track. If the thick guitars are the Mike Tyson punch of the music, the drums are the wind-up and follow-through - integral to the execution.
The last two tracks, “The Obsolete” and “The Prophecy” do something a tad different with the Herod formula. The former has a Gojira vibe to it, more slow and methodical while retaining a deathly groove - it’s nice! The latter is the epic closer, exactly nine minutes, and enlists current The Ocean vocalist Loïc Rossetti for some neater, cleaner vocals in the beginning to counter Pilat’s shredding growls. Herod seat the groove and catchiness more in the back this time to hammer away with absolutely impervious guitars and drums. “The Prophecy” feels like a closer, like the end of an era, something the band enjoy referencing in different ways lyrically, invoked partially by the very title of this album itself.
So, what’s missing? It’s very hard to say, and the only conclusion to be drawn at the end of all is that it’s just, on the whole, not as good as previous work. “The Girl with a Balloon”, a Banksy reference, is comparatively weak, same with “The Obsolete” even though both are still solid. As good as the songs are on Iconoclast, there’s nothing that hits as hard or as well as “Reckoning” from Sombre Dessein, though I shouldn’t blame them for failing to have lightning strike the same place twice.
Bottom line: It feels very weird to be even marginally disappointed in this album, especially because I do love it genuinely. Maybe time will allow it to flourish further, but regardless Iconoclast remains an infernal, textbook example of how to make relentlessly heavy music. Herod are scholars of the art and it shows - they’re not just capable, but excellent at what they do. Any metal fan owes themselves a listen.
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i felt embarrassed reading this. "- it's nice!" "the war cry of "die as a Roman!" in the middle of the track really gets the blood pumping" "remains an infernal, textbook example" come on
I just can't for the life of me figure out who the f*ck this is for aside from the more mainstream rock festival crowd that's a little curious about metal, but doesn't like screaming that much, who also likes pop and a dab of country? To be real, this is probably one of the most off-brand albums reviewed for this site in recent times.
Four years ago, Herod dropped one of the heaviest albums I'd ever heard: Sombre Dessein. lol. Give up man
Great record, didn't realise it was the fronted by one of the five million guys who quit The Ocean because of Robin Staps' egomania
anonymous 10 days ago i felt aroused reading this poetic review. "- it's nice!" "the war cry of "die as a Roman!" in the middle of the track really gets the blood pumping" "remains an infernal, textbook example" come on my face, with your thick veiny man sausage!
Zulu pisses on this. It received a 9.