Distant – Heritage Review

As far as the reviewing and the heavy music game is concerned, 2023 has been a slow start out of the blocks for yours truly. Already with a backlog of neglected albums to catch-up on from January, it is finally time to tackle my first review of 2023, from familiar deathcore band, Distant. Hailing from the Netherlands, previous experiences with Distant have been mixed to say the least. Their self-described downtempo deathcore has potential, however, up to this point Distant has been unable to truly capture interest across an album’s worth of material. Although I am not deathcore’s biggest fan, nor am I an auto detractor, as the divisive subgenre can hit the spot if the execution and writing is on point – see other such modern deathcore heavyweights, Fit for an Autopsy, Mental Cruelty and Shadow of Intent. Reservations asides, Distant is doing something right, jumping ship from Unique Leader to land on the roster of blockbuster label, Century Media. Can it be third time luck for the Dutch bruisers, or another missed opportunity?

Distant play bombastic, groove-centric deathcore, big on chunky riffs, waves of synth-laden atmosphere, truckloads of bruising breakdowns, and over-the-top, if fairly varied vocals, consisting of all manner of deeper growls and guttural explosions, spiced with higher pitched, blackened variations. Overall, Distant hasn’t greatly tweaked their established style, still preferring to crush and bludgeon through predominantly slow-to-mid-paced pummels of fat, stuttering riffs, and zero subtlety. The whole package is big and shiny, featuring distinctive modern deathcore production tropes, complete with massive, sleek tones, processed vocals, and typically smashed master. While Distant stick to their guns, Heritage finds the atmospheric elements more neatly integrated and less gimmicky. The songwriting also feels less clunky and there is extra pep to the tunes and slightly less reliance on those slower, monotonous tempos.

“Acid Rain” opens Heritage’s account, combining their enjoyment of futuristic atmosphere and electronic dabbling through a pleasant enough, if drawn out introductory piece. “Born of Blood” gives a truer indication of what Distant are all about: groovy atmospheric deathcore, coupled with djenty-esque riffing and testosterone-charged vocals. It’s a solid enough track, if a touch monotonous. “Exofilth” fares better, executing a booming wall-of-sound, featuring solid riffs, neatly integrated synths, and a tidy solo cutting through the otherwise brutish, breakdown-heavy attack. The song showcases Distant’s stronger qualities. When Distant experiment more adventurously with tempo and vocal variations, the songs tend to create greater appeal. “Argent Justice” features the album’s more intriguing and frustrating elements all at once. At a shade over seven minutes, bookended by a couple of minutes worth of moody soundscapes adding unnecessary fat, the song’s guts include cool moments, a multi-faceted vocal approach, and weighty stabs of aggro deathcore and chunked-out groove. However, the extra padding is not required, contributing to the nagging bloat present across the album.

Although Distant stay true to their downtempo, groove-based licks, Heritage livens the band’s sound into more diverse territory musically. The writing may not always hit the mark, however, it’s pleasing to hear Distant exploring higher energy tempos and brutal death inclinations, detonated on tracks like the crushingly heavy “A Sentence to Suffer.Elsewhere, the massive weight and grindy, aggressive bursts on “Human Scum” demonstrate Distant’s more pleasing development. Heritage certainly shows signs of improvement over their previous material; however, it can’t quite paper over the cracks in the band’s repertoire. Again, Distant’s formula, while more varied than previous offerings, tends to bleed together across the album’s too-long 47-minute timeframe. Despite the layered atmospheric flair and stronger tempo variations, Heritage feels bloated and it becomes an attention-waning slog across the duration. This kind of slower-paced beatdown of obnoxiously beefy deathcore is best served in more concise doses, as it becomes a little predictable and one-note, despite the wider songwriting scope applied compared to previous offerings.

Heritage is an improvement over Distant’s previous material, and for those enamored with the band’s groove and synth-heavy deathcore sound, there is solid material to provide base-level entertainment and a handful of gym-worthy tuneage. Unfortunately, drawbacks, such as the smashed mastering, repetitious formula, and significant bloat, takes the gloss off the album’s more effective moments, resulting in an intermittently punishing but ultimately bloated and uneven deathcore assault.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: distantofficial.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/distantofficial
Releases Worldwide: February 10th, 2023

« »