HerodOn a trip to Sweden, staying in an isolated studio apartment, guitarist Pierre Caroz looked around the cold and desolate climate that surrounded him and began to construct music to match. What emerged was a primitive, oppressively dark cacophony (a little like Kongh have been assaulting us with), all spiced up with a little of Meshuggah’s polyrhythmic, deathly outpourings.

Caroz describes this Swiss quartet’s music as “progressive sludge” but dig deeper and you’ll find it laced with hardcore overtones and doomy atmospheres. The 10-minute opener that “The Fall” represents is Herod in a nutshell. The insistent, nagging patterns of Fabien Vodoz’s kicks and crashes pitch up against the crushing, down-tuned and distorted guitars. You need some kind of Neanderthal on vocal to get over the top all that noise and David Glassey delivers with a guttural roar full of vitriol and monosyllabic brutality. Such is the impassioned nature of it, you’d believe him if he claimed it offered him absolute catharsis.

Moving on from here, standout songs include the morbid story of the notorious child rapist, murderer, kidnapper and cannibal that was “Albert Fish” (told from his persepective), the enormous repeating vocal hook of “Betraying Satan” with its punishing groove (deep enough to hide a truck in) and the utter joy that is “No Forgiveness For Vultures”. This latter track is very much a tone piece. This unique creation of theirs marries invasive doom with melancholic Eastern European narration and instrumentals, and is topped off with edgy, tripped-out pedals and effects. Oh, and do listen out for Glassey giving his best impression of Eddie Vedder on steroids during the punchy “We Are The Failure”.

“Inner Peace” is the focal release point for all their mathy, death and core elements and, as such, there is an awful lot of neck-snapping and pitting that should accompany any live show that contains it. Sadly, “Northern Lights” feels a little lost beside it and the instrumental two-part breaks of “Sad Hill”, whilst providing breathing holes, are a little unnecessary considering the naturally built-in pauses within the main tracks. Still, its impressive blasting climax is actually something to treasure.

At 54 minutes this album can’t be accused of lacking in content even if the flow of the thing isn’t as smooth as it should be. One thing is for sure; Caroz definitely created a monster when he sat twiddling his thumbs in that Swedish apartment – the icy blast of winter can be felt tearing its way right through the heart of Herod. They Were None is an inventive, sprawling and freakishly powerful debut album that demands (and is worthy of) your immediate attention.

(9/10 John Skibeat)