Empire State Bastard – ‘Rivers of Heresy’ [Album Review]

Review: Dan Maynard

It’s the supergroup that the world didn’t deserve, but most definitely required. Guitarist Mike Vennart is the mastermind behind the English/Scottish rock outfit Empire State Bastard. With a sound that is undeniably its own, the debut album Rivers of Heresy is more than a treat to the ears, it’s years of hard work and genius writing and that more than shines throughout the whole album.

Joined by one of the greatest Scottish vocalists of our time, Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro), the sound that Mike has produced is a perfect match to Neils eccentric raw vocals. With the addition of legendary drummer Dave Lombardo (Slayer) bringing to the table the sound that has made Lombardo the icon that he is today, Rivers of Heresy is something else, something that is truly hard to even describe.

Opening track Harvest sets the tone, no count in, no leading intro, no build up, just pure angst and relentless venting. It’s all about disoriented guitar chords and disjointed drumming. In no time vocalist Simon is in your face, distorted and raw, showcasing his unique screaming abilities. The entire song is straight through brutal, but even that isn’t close enough to some of the brutality that is to come throughout the album; perfect example being following track Blusher. Slayer-esque, just heavy as anything, deep guttural vocals and music to compliment.

I’d be hard pressed to think of a song more out there and unexpected than Tired, Aye? Simon Neil explains to Everblack Media in an interview, Tired, Aye? was originally supposed to be a full band track, but Neil took it upon himself to strip it back to just drums and vocals after a long time desire to produce a song that is more or less drum vs vocals. Vennart had zero disagreement and we’re left with one of the most unconventional and outlandish songs I’ve ever heard, and I….fucking….love it.

Rivers of Heresy continues to drive through continuously with perfect harmony, an album that you can listen to start to finish, and it works, without fault. The record is clearly a love letter to some of the biggest bands in Neil and Vennarts youth, The Melvins, Slayer (of course) and Napalm Death are clear inspirations without taking away from the originality of the music. You can’t put a tag on the album, there’s everything from doom, sludge, metal, rock and hardcore sprinkled throughout the whole album. Good luck pigeonholing this album.

There is so much new music coming out this year, we are being flooded with album after album from bands we love and new ones alike. Rivers of Heresy will stand out above the rest as something completely different. Vennart and Neil say this is just the beginning, that more music is on its way, the smiles on their faces a clear indication that this is something they needed to bring to life and to the world. And the world should consider themselves lucky, truly lucky to have something like this to blast on their speakers.