Heriot: the reborn British band who have got the metal world losing its sh*t

If you see a load of random shit appear in Vanilla from the latest issue ignore it - I'm prepping for whjile I'm away, cos I'm not taking my Future laptop.
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When Heriot released the single Cleansed Existence back in 2020, the metal world lost its shit. A disgustingly crushing new take on metallic hardcore with scorching, skin-on-fire vocals, manic solos and a sludgy breakdown, it marked the band as an exciting new hope in less than two minutes.

They followed it up with visceral singles Recreant and Dispirit last year, and when the Birmingham/ Swindon upstarts supported Svalbard on their late-2021 UK tour, social media was awash with almost as many gushing platitudes for them as for the headliners themselves. With expectations sky-high for forthcoming EP Profound Morality, introducing themselves to the world really couldn’t have gone any better. 

“[In April] we signed with Church Road Records and since then, it’s just been nuts,” says drummer Julian Gage. “People know who we are, which is really cool, but it’s been a bit over- whelming at times.”

For his bandmate, guitarist and vocalist Debbie Gough, the buzz around the band took on a new reality on the culminating night of the Svalbard tour, the first time Heriot had ever played more than three nights in a row.

“I hadn’t been to the Dome [in London] before,” she remembers, smiling. “When we loaded in, I literally thought we were in the wrong room, I didn’t realise it was such a big venue. I’ve never had it where there’s someone onstage doing your monitors. I was like, ‘What do you mean there’s a monitor guy onstage?!’ Then playing it, I thought, ‘This feels like we’re a proper band.’”

For Julian, things started to get really crazy when Lamb Of God guitarist Mark Morton tweeted his support. “It happened when I was asleep,” Julian says. “I remember waking up on a Sunday morning and my phone was going absolutely mental.” 

“Mark Morton is my favourite guitarist,” adds Debbie with a huge grin. “He’s been actively supportive, giving advice and checking in. That’s absolutely amazing.”

It feels like Heriot have sprung from nowhere but the more accurate term to describe their burgeoning upward trajectory would be ‘renaissance’. The band initially formed in 2015 although back then they were a sludgy three-piece, made up of Julian, vocalist and bassist Jake Packer and guitarist Erhan Alman. And even though they gained some traction, playing the New Blood stage at 2016’s Bloodstock festival, by the end of that year, the first iteration of the band had come to a screeching halt and they had disappeared on indefinite hiatus.

“Packer moved to Bristol and went to uni and that engulfed everything,” explains Julian. “We lost momentum. I was working a job that was killing me, working 60 hours a week. There was a point where I was going to stop playing drums completely because I couldn’t be bothered anymore.” 

Today they’re keen to disown their doomy early music, citing Heriot’s current line-up and musical output as a “new chapter”. In 2019, Deb, a long- term friend of the band, was invited to join the ranks and proved to be the spark they were missing, bringing her love of noise bands like The Chariot into the mix. Almost immediately, the band started writing new material that proved transformative, boiling down metalcore, industrial, death and doom metal into an intense, thick-as-tar claustrophobia, imbued by Deb’s free-flowing guitar style and shrieking squalls. Occasionally, flashes of melodic vocals inspire light at the end of a dark, filthy tunnel.  

“I remember when we were recording Cleansed Existence, we added those industrial bits and collectively we were like, ‘OOH MY GOD!’” laughs Deb. “Now we’re quite conscious of that industrial element, but we were never like, ‘Let’s put industrial elements in,’ we just experimented with it.” 

Despite its brute force, the eight tracks that make up new EP Profound Morality juxtapose the band’s oozing, thrashing layered sound against nuanced concepts

 “A lot of our songs are about being let down by the system,” says Debbie, who writes the lyrics with co-vocalist and bassist Packer. “For Cleansed Existence, I was really bothered about this case of child abuse a few years ago where this kid had been neglected and died an awful death. But when you break it down, if you look at the parents, the parents clearly needed help even though they were monsters. Social services had let [the kid] down, but then are they being funded enough? I’m not saying that I sympathise with people who get to a state where they’re violent. It all boils down to a system that is reactive not proactive.”

At the time of writing this, the band are about to set off on a UK tour with Rolo Tomassi and Pupil Slicer, two bands with discerning fanbases and who are equally dedicated to pushing heavy music to spontaneous, volatile new heights. Fans are in for a treat: already, Heriot have gained a reputation for heart-stopping shows, with Julian admitting he can barely walk after they come offstage. And with Profound Morality set to land as one of the most exciting releases of the year, the future looks incredibly bright for them. 

“We do feel that pressure of, ‘Oh my God, I hope everyone is going to like the rest of what’s to come,” admits Debbie. “But at the end of the day, this band is the four of us and we’re really happy with the EP, so as mates getting together to write music that’s enough for our own fulfilment.” 

Profound Morality EP will be released on April 29 via Church Road

Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.