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Herscher : Herscher

Herscher's unusual, lead-guitar-less, line-up gives this debut full-length an interesting slant.

Kicking off this debut full length in suitably comfortable (and, dare I say it, all too 'familiar') sludgy surroundings with a bass heavy opening riff, it is merely a matter of approximately thirty seconds into the first track before suspicions are aroused as to whether French purveyors of droney doom Herscher are what they might appear to be. First to raise the antenna of inquiry are the vocals which veer from an almost spoken industrial precision to some standard gunts and shouts while at times bordering on a kind of twisted, monotone, ecclesiatical style of chanting. Secondly, the instrumentation, or rather the mix it produced certainly warranted further investigation. Herscher, it appears, are a three piece, sparsely comprised of bass, drums and keyboards. Sans guitar in other words. Cool.

Some years back, walking into a venue to the wonderful stirrings of UK duo Ghold, I must have spent a good thirty seconds trying to find out where the guitarist was hiding before realising, rather sheepishly, that there wasn't one and wondering how it was they got to sound the way they did. Herscher pull off the same trick superbly well, but there's this added ritualistic noise/drone which, along with the vocals, really give Herscher their own sound. Initially I made the comparison with Space Witch, whose excellent debut LP is well worth a look if this kind of thing floats your boat.

Musically then, yes it's sludgey, (and for those of you still reading) it's spacey, a tiny bit proggy, and fairly doomy, although Herscher will definitely have wider appeal than just the Doom community. Possibly because there are no guitars, there is a lightness about it, and also real definition in the production. If you tune in particularly to the drums you can almost feel as though you're in the room with them. The bass has a life and sound all of its own and the keys and electronics are layered and audible, as opposed to an unintelligible mass of interference and white noise.

Towards the end of the album Herscher wheel out what, to me, are their defining moments. At a combined nine minutes in length the tracks 'Pétron' and album closer 'Bandana' are about as good a lesson in modern space rock as you're going to get. They saved the best for last no question, my only gripe is that they didn't stretch them out a bit longer!

One thing Herscher do avoid, and avoid well, is the problem any band or artist faces when including electronics in an otherwise instrumental arena, namely the 'curse of the knob twiddler'. Rather than let said knob twiddler run riot while the world looks on in horror as he sits there thinking "this sounds SO cool", the keys, noises and effects are carefully blended into the songs and around the riffs, helping to create an oddly dark atmosphere. Personally I found myself captured and drawn into each different soundscape and at times the music become a catalyst as well as a rather nifty soundtrack for some fruitful daydreaming.

'Herscher' probably won't be to everyones tastes, there's no romance on offer here, no obvious trad stylings and neither is it nihilistic, or overtly angry. But what there is, is a chance to zone out, tune in and drift around in Herscher's own perculiar world of droning, trance-like space sludgery. Careful though, you might get stuck.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Old Lands
2. Apocatastase
3. Electric Path
4. Skull's River
5. Pétron
6. Bandana

Duration : Approx. 42 minutes

Visit the Herscher bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-06-06 by Matt Halsey
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