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Heel: Alaskan Band Keeps Things Nice and Filthy on Latest Record

Photo: Jake Franklin

"What began in 2015 as a short-lived aggressive music experiment between friends grew into a longer-term one," Heel vocalist Andrew Simms tells No Echo. We begin this piece with this particular quote because it speaks so beautifully about the power of underground music, even in Alaska, a place most people who read the site probably don't bring up when they're talking shop.

Andrew continues to give us the Heel formation details: "Cody (guitarist) and I have been the constants. Four years and as many drummers later, we chained Le (drummer) up in a basement and buckled down to finish and record the full length. Le really saved the band as we’d experienced a difficult time with finding a capable, reliable drummer. His initially temporary inclusion for the purpose of realizing the songs and recording instilled a lasting appeal through mutual desire to grind and write (see: plenty of beer). Our second bassist moved to Portland so we’ve carried on in our current rendition as a 3-piece.

"A common appreciation for metallic hardcore, grindcore, death, and black metal has always drawn us together."

The album in question is Foreign Tongues, a brutal affair which was released last summer and features glorious cover art by Give Up:

Andrew mentioned the various styles of music that drew them together, but how would he describe the Heel sound? "It’s an amalgamation of the aforementioned genres. Constant evolution stemming from new influences and ideas. Whereas originally our sonic palette drew more from D-beat, it now incorporates more of a blasting, grinding pace. Pure audio terror and aural violence. Really, if it sounds mean we’re liable to incorporate it. Hostility is key. We want to make the audience feel dirty and used up.

"As for influences there’s quite the swath: Insect Warfare, Trap Them, early Pig Destroyer and Converge, Discordance Axis, Integrity, Rot In Hell, and even Blacklisted or Self Defense Family. We each have our pool and at times they spill over more than others. Some newer outfits I’ve (Andrew) enjoyed have been Gulch, Human Garbage, Minus, and Criminal Instinct." 

Photo: Jake Franklin

No Echo can't finish our conversation with Andrew without asking about Alaska. How does he feel about the music scene there and Heel's place in it? "Alaska certainly is a special one. We’re a bit of a black sheep, but we’ve been received pretty well. Some shows we were surprised by and others annoyed. A fair amount of the music up here is life-affirming bullshit we don’t tend to align with. There isn’t a whole lot of aggressive music, so the bills tend to be mixed (not always a bad thing).

"We make an attempt to play with as many different bands as possible and not have the same ones on shows time and time again, which means that we limit our live performances to every few months and focus more on writing, recording, and releasing physical. Too many Alaskan projects, particularly with regards to aggressive music, fail to record, thus we intend to do our part in curbing that. We view live outings predominantly as a means of sourcing funds to further fuel such aspirations.

"Altruism is not a tenet of ours, though we’ve thrown a handful of shows from which proceeds went to the homeless shelter and a shelter for mistreated dogs. Live we really aim to get on, play our set straight through, no bullshit, and get off. A 20-minute set of nonstop intensity ought to beat you up like 45 minutes would. There are some talented bands up here with good friends (Rubezhal, Shaped Charge, Aural Imago, Heretic Foundation, Decepticide et al), but by and large we don’t necessarily share a kinship per se with most, particularly sonically.

Photo: Jake Franklin

Andrew wants to shout out one more thing before this closes out: "The label/collective operated up here by the name of Lycaean Triune would be the closest thing to kinship we experience. Two of us also perform in a black metal project called Yaldabaoth recently released on that platform. Outside of Alaska, I’ve always been keen on how Rot In Hell (UK) presents themselves particularly with regards to not just their output but their always phenomenal packaging. It’s DIY but consistently professional, engaging, and inspirational."

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Tagged: heal

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