Rock is back in a big way. The return of garage rock to mainstream radio, reforming of classic bands from the seventies and eighties, and current fashion trends like the mesh hat, mid-length hair, and tight clothing all signal it. Not only has this revival hit majority youth culture but it has also seeped into the underground with a clear domino effect. This became most clear when Godbelow released their “Black Dog’s Head” debut 7” and subsequent full length “Painted Images With The Blood Of…” In the hardcore scene at least, Godbelow took the first plunge into citing classic rock music when no one else dared touch the timeless genre. Their concoction of Metallica, nineties-era Corrosion Of Conformity, and Lynyrd Skynyrd sent the message that a new path had been carved to allow the hardcore scene to breathe a creative breath of fresh air. Hailing from Buffalo, one of the most fertile hardcore scenes of the last decade, are Herod. Founded by two experienced and high-profile individuals from Buffalo’s heyday, Mike Jeffers and Jesse Benker, Herod have changed more than one could imagine since their inception in 2000 as an imitative death metal and hardcore hybrid. Their first two releases “Sinners in the Eyes of an Angry God” and “Execution Protocol” saw a band still struggling to find their sound and evidently a fanbase as well. Both outputs were essentially ignored by both the hardcore and metal scenes alike and despite a potentially rewarding tour in 2002 with the underrated Season Of Fire, two key members left the band. Then, after regenerating and recording a new track for East Coast Assault 3, their singer left as well, further depleting the original nucleus of the band. Fate could not have benefited Herod more. With the addition of Judah Nero from Plain of Ashes on vocals, Herod have finally found their direction. Nero’s soulful delivery and classic rock vocal patterns give this band more identity than many rising rock metal bands in the hardcore scene currently possess. Only Shadows Fall and the ex-Killswitch Engage singer Jesse Leach’s new band Seemless rival Herod in terms of memorable vocal performances and traditional song structures. Incorporating much more classic rock and less of the badly executed Swedish death metal that once burdened Herod’s songs, “For Whom The Gods Would Destroy” is a viable attempt to claim some stake in the increasingly competitive upper echelons of this genre. While some songs are still redolent of the Swedish wave, Herod does it tastefully this time by placing more emphasis on the song than on the riff, a move that indicates some impressive musical maturity and growth. Also notable is the improved drum sound that Mike Jeffers brings to the fold. Always a hardcore drummer in bands like Ferret’s Union and Stillborn’s Dead To The World, he has toned down his approach to the great benefit of the music. “For Whom The Gods Would Destroy” is chock full of guitar riffs that smoothly ride the fine line between moving American rock and head-banging thrash metal. Unlike most other newcomers to the rediscovered style of melodic metal, Herod do not fall back on plagiarizing In Flames or Carcass for ideas. Guitarists Bryce March and Jesse Benker are strong songwriters as the patient introductions in the classic Bay Area-inspired “Into The Sky” and “That Green Feeling” show, although no aspect of the song or most songs on this album hint at the stunningly catchy choruses which always seem to present themselves at fitting points. In addition to these landmark choruses is Herod’s crafty use of bridges, adding even more depth to the songs already intense with tasty licks and traditional drum fills. Bottom Line: Whereas in the past Herod merely toiled with certain ideas from the trendy Swedish metal movement, they have now created with “For Whom The Gods Would Destroy,” a credible slab of rock metal laden with cascading guitar arrangements, poignant vocals, and above all, well-written songs. With their new home on Lifeforce Records, they should expect to gain fans very quickly so long as their label promotes the album adequately and the band makes the effort to tour as much as humanly possible. Herod have seemingly poured their hearts into this album, which is reason enough for it to become a rock metal staple in record collections aplenty.
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