When we last heard Hearken, it was on the Brutal Christmas release on Sounds of the Dead Records. Overall, I wasn't all that impressed with what I heard. The band wasn't bad, but just not all that exciting. They basically sounded like every other run-of-the-mill death metal band out there. Now with the release of the band's first full length, Nuclear Negligence, this Pasadena, Texas band has started to grab my attention.
Hearken's website states that the band is on a metal mission and that they are ministers spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where sometimes bands will sacrifice quality for ministry, Hearken has begun to climb mountain of quality while not losing any of their zeal for the Lord. This positive aspect should open many more doors for the band to take the message of Christ to those who need it most. This album may not be on the same level as bands like Pantokrator or Sacrificium who released killer albums earlier this year, but Hearken is making a statement that they are a band to be reckoned with.
Musically, the band is fairly straight-forward death metal, but they have a good, powerful and very full sound. Although this is a complete band with vocalist/guitarist, bassist, and drummer, some of the drums sound like they may be programmed or triggered or something to that effect. I'm not really sure why though, cause the times the band does this, it does nothing to help the song in any way. B.J. Southard does a pretty good job on vocals. He mixes in the mega deep growls with not so deep growls, and almost a growl/scream mix at times that adds a little variety. The intro to "Declaration" even utilizes some spoken vocals before going to a scream, back to spoken vocals, to a light growl, and ending with that growl/scream I talked about along with some whispered growls. Talk about mixing it up!
The intensity level throughout the album is very high. Especially on the marathon cut "Who Will Remain". Clocking in at 8 minutes and 20 seconds, this is a brutally intense song that is easily the highlight of the album. Never a boring moment on this track. I especially love around the 4:30 mark where they go back and forth between the swirling guitars and the mega-brutal crunch. This is repeat button material.
The band even does live song called "Submission". The production level is pretty much the same as the rest of the album, so even though it's in the middle of the disc it doesn't break the feel the band had already established.
Production is probably the main problem I have with this disc though. While it's not half as bad as some I've heard lately it still lacks compared to the better bands in the genre. I would really love to hear this band with a huge budget. I think they got good enough chops to become a force among extreme metal bands.
Being from Oklahoma it's hard for me to recommend anything from Texas, but in this case I'll have to make an exception. Check out the band's site at: http://hearken.tripod.com (Review by Matt)