How do you define bitterness? When talking about taste, we usually use it to mean the very opposite of sweet or savory, something that we jokingly say sociopaths enjoy. When we use it in the emotional sense, we mean something that lies firmly blinding rage and spirit-crippling depression. Either way, we use both to describe something opposite of happy, glad, sweet, or generally positive. Bitterness is negativity, it’s unappealing, it’s destructive. It causes violence, it causes abuse, it causes jealous rages. It’s something that we as a species will always and always feed off of. It is also the theme of the debut full-length of Granite Falls, NC’s heavyweight hard-hitters, very appropriately named Heft.
When we think of someone being bitter, what emotions come to mind? Most people associate bitter emotions with anger, sadness, jealousy, and self-loathing.
Heft certainly agrees, and the four members each seem to do their part to embody a different aspect of the equation. We begin with the point-blank ruthless earthquake fills of drummer Andrew Harrison. Across the ten titanic tracks of this masterfully crafted journey into pure negativity, Harrison supplies each and every second with maddened, vitriolic fills and apocalyptic footwork that gradually becomes more frenzied, almost literally punching holes in the listener’s chest and skull. From the first spine-smashing smack of the snare in opener “2187” to the very last crash of the cymbals in “The Wait” Harrison refuses to let up, smashing his way through barbaric breakdowns in “Baby Steps” and “Bloodrot”. Comprising the other half of the relentless rhythm section is bassist Jonathan Martin, who shines through with a bass tone filthy enough to be the set of the newest Saw movie. Adding gristle to every wound left by Harrison’s drumming, Martin brings a truly terrifying performance to the table. Tracks life “Baby Steps” see the rest of the band pulling away to showcase Martin’s malevolence, allowing him to show off serpentine grooves and slams unholy enough to put the devil himself out of a job. Martin is a force to be reckoned with as the album progresses, as every second sees his ferocity growing, like the festering mind of a budding serial killer. This is most certainly perfectly shown in “Dog’s End”, seeing the band continuously building into a violent rage, only to be pulled back in to quiet hatred again, constantly flipping between the two to provide a sonic equal to manic depression.
While jealousy is born from rage, self-loathing is born from absolute misery.
This is painfully and precisely demonstrated by guitarist Mikey French. While Harrison and Martin are certainly menacing themselves, French is truly terrifying. From the opening seconds of the eerie, Slipknot inspired track “Pressure” through the chilling last seconds of the secret track (you’ll have to listen to the full album to hear it. it’s worth it. trust me.), French displays depressive and destructive down-tuned mayhem without compromise. Where he grooves, he is oppressive and hypnotizing, leaving the listener in a near-suicidal trance. Where he slams or bludgeons, he is unwavering, leaving anyone listening a mangled pile of bones, dying and rotted. Every last millisecond of his performance embodies horror, acting as the monster counterpart to Harrison and Martin’s serial murdering duo. He provides nothing short of the perfect portrait of a person losing sanity with every breath. And who is this hopeless schmuck, the one who snaps and claims the life of everyone he can before he inevitably takes his own? This would be vocalist Mason Hamby. Hamby is a unique beast, with a vocal approach that draws equally from Corey Taylor and Vincent Bennett. Hamby makes no attempt to hide this, either, as each second he is present is complimented by both pained and disenfranchised yelping and bellowing, only to be switched out for agonized and discordantly melodic clean vocals. Hamby is a chillingly effective frontman, emphasizing each groove and face-crushing breakdown and two-step with nothing short of gory, gristly, guttural gusto. And don’t let the prospect of clean singing turn you away from this record, either- Hamby, while absolutely having technical skill, is not at all a pretty sounding singer. Rather, when he does choose to employ clean vocals (like on songs “Baby Steps” and “Pressure”), they serve as a bridge from one side of the filthy coin to the other. His voice in all forms is filled with misery and hatred, especially shining through in songs like the aforementioned secret track and penultimate song “Shutter”.
For some of us, we may one day find solace. But the harsh truth is that bitterness is a weight we all carry and will all be forced to bare. Some of us will, however, choose to embrace it. And if this record is any indication, that day is coming soon.
Heft’s self-titled debut effort displays everything a debut should consist of. Flawless songwriting, a clear message, emotional grit, and dirty riffs galore. Heft is an immersive and unique experience, and it’s almost hard to believe something as perfectly put together as this is a debut record. I cannot wait to see what’s next for this band.
FFO: Darke Complex, Alpha Wolf, Slipknot, Cane Hill