ALBUM REVIEW: Heart Of A Coward – ‘This place only brings death’

Artwork for Heart Of A Coward’s ‘This place only brings death’

Remember when Heart Of A Coward were, like, the hyped band in British metal? It seems forever ago now, even though every time something new from them is in the pipeline, there’s a niggling little notion that says maybe they might pick that back up at some point. Alas, they haven’t, and it takes better judgement to know they probably never will. They’re basically a generation of metal removed from that now, not to mention releasing album after album of music that’s generally been good, but has never reaped truly significant rewards. Like many in their stead, they’ve found consistent favour in tech-metal circles instead, which has greatly diminished crossover opportunities in favour of remaining resolute in that scene, and not having to change to accommodate much else.

In a way, it’s kind of the same phenomenon that Bury Tomorrow have embodied for the longest time—a band who clearly know their way around metalcore and prove incredibly adept in the moment, but the longterm staying power just isn’t there. And so, when This place brings only death finds Heart Of A Coward making a two-footed jump into regular, more straightforward metalcore, they’ve clearly got expediting their appeal in mind. On the same career trajectory that worked like gangbusters for Architects, you could never blame anyone else for anticipating similar results. Doubly so for Heart Of A Coward, for whom the long game simply hasn’t worked to its greatest capacity, and sneaking back into the wider conversation seems to be exactly what they want.

But it’s also not foolproof. At a time when even Architects themselves are having trouble with keeping pace with their own ambitions (and subsequently making what might be their most polarised release to date in last year’s the classic symptoms of a broken spirit), the uphill climb for Heart Of A Coward is encroaching levels of verticality that they mightn’t be able to deal with. For them, ambition has never been as flagrant, and the execution of it has never even been in the same vicinity as what is effectively the standard that needs to be hit. And therefore, when This place only brings death is only okay, you begin considering how worthwhile a pivot like this really is. Are Heart Of A Coward really making their own stratospheric launch, or do they just believe they are? Most signs point to the latter.

The point is, though, it isn’t bad; on mere experience alone, Heart Of A Coward will turn in something that’s at the very least competent. So while there’s the occasional iffy bit of drum mixing (like on Captor where it sounds notably flat), This place only brings death assimilates into this form of metalcore with little bother. It’s ultimately the transferable skills that Heart Of A Coward have which get them there—a knack for working under cold, bleak production and finding the pockets of power within it. Passenger is the clearest example, in a detour towards faster, more openly brutal metalcore, but songs like Devour me and Hex can tap into their greater scale and industrial garnish for similar results.

And yes, all of that points to an approach that’s cribbing from Architects hard, even down to the timbre of Kaan Tasan’s voice that can sound uncannily like Sam Carter in spots. It’s kind of unavoidable, honestly, when the onus is placed so heavily on reaching similar heights. Heart Of A Coward are looking to soar; they’ve overloaded this album with their biggest hooks and most accessible—yet still metal-friendly—creative choices to date. So obviously, there’s a fair bit of crossover with those who took this sound to its apex, of which Heart Of A Coward dive into in ways that are both to their credit, and to their detriment. The former is probably the easiest to qualify, with how there’s still a burly figure cut that’s analogous to their hardened tech-metal exterior that’s carried over. In terms of raw feel, This place only brings death bears exactly what it needs to, to convey its own apocalyptic size and content.

But if you’re looking past that, to what makes an album like this carry something more long-lasting, you might struggle to find it. As well as they pull off the fundamentals, there’s precious little that defines Heart Of A Coward exclusively. At least in their more tech-metal-leaning days, they had the benefit of being settled and established in that lane; here, they’re crossing over to somewhere much more widely populated, while bringing nothing to stand out fully. Even just from the fact that This place only brings death is typically free of definitive hard-hitting moments with the propensity to last, it’s a lateral move at best and a mild step down at worst. And with writing lodged in very stock templates of being trapped in a hostile world, and facing the clinical, unfeeling darkness that a sound like this has forever been supposed to replicate, the endpoint writes itself, at the end of the day.

For those actively looking for something new in this area, This place only brings death will likely suffice, though the definition of ‘new’ is what matters most. In this case, it’s really only applicable to mean ‘something that’s come out recently’, because there’s not an idea here that won’t have heard before, that’s for sure. Heart Of A Coward have proficiency in pulling it off, at least, though it’s a bit up in the air for how much that counts, when albums from Architects and a whole slew of others still hold up, and feel quite a bit fresher than this does. Though it’s not like that’s a new occurrence for Heart Of A Coward, as either B-team or benchwarmer in a scene that’s moving and advancing without them. It’s a shame, but playing this safely really only propagates that.

For fans of: Architects, Northlane, ERRA

‘This place only brings death’ by Heart Of A Coward is released on 22nd September on Arising Empire.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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