REVIEW: Healer – Healer (EP/2013)


Artist: Healer

Album: Healer (EP)


The world around us is in a constant flux—a persistent state of creation and destruction. This is the concept of equilibrium in a nutshell—the same baffling topic from your high school chemistry class, only as it applies to the real world around us. And never before has there been such prominent evidence of the steady-state interaction between system and surroundings than Healer, a Hull-based hardcore act combining influences of noise, sludge, doom and grind to create a dynamic listening experience. Healer’s breakout self-titled EP is one which is the very definition of equilibrium, as it uses dissonant, chaotic soundscapes to construct marvelous cathedrals of organized, beautiful sound which entrances the listener even as it scrubs like sandpaper against their ears.

Healer’s instrumentation is a frenzied, bipolar attack on the listener from the very beginning of the EP to its last fading seconds. Opening with frantic, pummeling percussion and lacerating, thrashy riffs, “No Shelter” is very much true to its name—it offers no solace or peace for the listener. From start to finish, the dynamic established by thrashing, violent strumming and catchy, engaging riffs is fluid and engaging. Furthermore, the drumming is incessantly pulverizing, never slowing down or giving the listener a chance to catch their breath. However, this changes with moments like those of the introduction to “House of Snakes,” or one of many subtle interludes to “Raising Rats,” both of which are much gloomier and more ambient tracks. This isn’t to say that the tracks are peaceful, however—as they use a sludgy, kiloton-weight atmosphere to weigh down on the listener’s shoulders, breaking their back and smothering them with grimy, sludgy musicianship which is thicker than tar and heavier than concrete. As if those elements alone weren’t enough to completely stifle the listener, “Raising Rats” toggles especially well between moments of unfathomable grime to segments of volatile speed and rambunctious, punishing aggression—led largely by the bipolar battery of the drums and rampaging, rumbling bass.

Where the instrumental attacks found on Healer are varied and multifaceted, the vocals keep a steady, constant siege on the listener’s sanity. With a slightly-less-than-intelligible sloppy scream which fades back and forth into (and out of) a visceral, venomous yell, Healer’s vocals are the icing on the cake of madness which defines the EP—the very sound of a man losing the war against sanity. As the instrumentation gets darker and darker—“Raising Rats” and “House of Snakes,” I’m looking at you—the vocals get more and more desperate, with more half-spoken interludes and lost syllables tossed into the mix. However, on the faster, more aggressive tracks and moments—especially those on “Crossblind,” the vocals keep a steadier candor, and stay more readily fixed in one style. On this track and “No Shelter” in particular, the vocals dominate alongside the vigorous instrumentation, and hold their own. However, in the more ambient and doom-influenced tracks, the screams and shouts take a backseat to the pervasive, spine-shrinking atmosphere which dominates the listener’s attention.

As one would expect with this frantic combination of aggressive styles and progressive atmospheres, Healer aren’t able to keep it up for long. This self-titled release is a brief one, but in such a short time, it creates an immersive effect which allows the listener to lose track of time—and their mind. Whether it’s the hooky, catchy nature of “No Shelter” or the sheer crushing heaviness of “Raising Rats,” each track has a particular effect on the listener which is hard to put into words. It’s as if each song is a different creature with different types of claws—but make no mistake, each beast’s nails are just as sharp, and each talon is just as drastically hooked as to grab and hold the listener’s attention for as long as it deems fit. In this manner, Healer’s debut release picks, pecks, scratches and claws at the listener’s sanity, using incessant dissonance to wear them down to the bone—to take until there’s nothing left. Only when the listener is completely berated by the sludgy steamroller of “House of Snakes” and “Raising Rats” can they be rebuilt by the rapid, rampaging violence of “Crossblind.” This is Healer’s unique take on equilibrium.

Healer are a young and talented group of musicians who can truly create a hard-hitting and immersive atmosphere out of what seems like very little. When the only flaw with a debut EP is that it’s a little short and a little shallow, in the end, you have to be doing something right—and Healer are doing more than just something right. Rather, they provide dynamic, heavy instrumentation which ranges from lightning-fast to a molasses-in-January-esque crawl. All the while, the vocals peck and claw at the listener’s sanity, making them wonder what is worse: the decay of their cognitive function, or it’s steady regeneration.



For Fans Of: HeavyHeavyLowLow, Loma Prieta, Pollution People

By: Connor Welsh