DAILY RECORD: Heart-Set Self-Destruct

by | Oct 20, 2015 | MUSIC

Heart-Set Self-Destruct – Monster EP (Soundmine Musicworks)

The new EP by Heart Set Self Destruct is an excellent example of the fact that sometimes, two great tastes really don’t taste great together. On these five songs, this Chicago quartet attempts to mix a darkly melodic post-metal sensibility with the heartfelt minor-key melodies of modern emo. Despite the fact that isolated moments of this EP conjure forth positive associations–such as the opening minute of “Collapse,” which is reminiscent of early Tool, or a brief, almost Quicksand-ish chugging guitar riff on the verses of “Useless”–most of it sounds like the same crap that has polluted the airwaves of no-longer-alternative “new rock” stations constantly in the decade or so since Nickelback got popular. I don’t know if it’s best termed as “active rock” or “post-nu-metal” or what, but the fact is that there’s already a huge glut of groups that sound just like this clogging up the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 200, which makes me wonder how a relatively new group like Heart-Set Self-Destruct justifies throwing its hat into the same crowded ring. If Breaking Benjamin weren’t able to become properly famous playing this style of music, what makes them think that they’ll fare any better over half a decade down the line?


Heart-Set Self-Destruct – Monster EP (Soundmine Musicworks)

The new EP by Heart Set Self Destruct is an excellent example of the fact that sometimes, two great tastes really don’t taste great together. On these five songs, this Chicago quartet attempts to mix a darkly melodic post-metal sensibility with the heartfelt minor-key melodies of modern emo. Despite the fact that isolated moments of this EP conjure forth positive associations–such as the opening minute of “Collapse,” which is reminiscent of early Tool, or a brief, almost Quicksand-ish chugging guitar riff on the verses of “Useless”–most of it sounds like the same crap that has polluted the airwaves of no-longer-alternative “new rock” stations constantly in the decade or so since Nickelback got popular. I don’t know if it’s best termed as “active rock” or “post-nu-metal” or what, but the fact is that there’s already a huge glut of groups that sound just like this clogging up the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 200, which makes me wonder how a relatively new group like Heart-Set Self-Destruct justifies throwing its hat into the same crowded ring. If Breaking Benjamin weren’t able to become properly famous playing this style of music, what makes them think that they’ll fare any better over half a decade down the line?

Really, though, it doesn’t matter. It’s not my place to tell bands what kinds of records to make–only to tell you, the consumer, whether or not you should buy them. And there are plenty of good reasons not to buy this one. For one thing, you’ve heard it all before, way too many times. These sorts of pleading ballads are all over the radio, and chances are you already change the station when they come on. Speaking of balladry, tempo is a real problem on this EP–none of these songs ever manage to reach even a decent medium pace. “Useless” and “Rain” avoid the out-and-out plod of the other three tracks found here, but only barely. This is a sluggish EP, and Heart-Set Self-Destruct use so little distortion on their guitars that any hope of making up for the dragging tempos with an increased heaviness quotient is soon lost. For an EP with a title that conjures up images of bloodthirsty, roaring horrors, Monster packs depressingly little musical punch.

Instead, the keyboards tracked into the background of all of the whiningly soaring choruses here tell the entire story–this is a record designed for maudlin moments in the darkened teenage bedrooms of suburbia. And by “teenage,” I probably really mean “preteen,” since Heart-Set Self-Destruct are much closer to an ignorant 12 year old’s idea of what is cool and alternative than they are to anything even remotely unusual. This is a band designed for junior high schoolers going through a phase; in three years, most of the copies of this CD that exist will probably be located at the backs of closets, buried beneath t-shirts purchased at Hot Topic advertising bands the owner would be mortified to admit that they’d ever listened to. There’s no future in this sort of music. You’re already familiar with all of the bands who play this style well enough (probably more accurate to say “persistently enough”) to develop a long-running fan base; your Nickelbacks, your Stainds, your Chevelles. All a new band like this one can hope for is one-hit wonder status, maybe third billing on a tour headlined by some better-known example of the well-worn style they’re attempting (in vain) to rejuvenate. In fact, you can catch Heart-Set Self-Destruct on tour this summer with Saliva and Filter. Go figure.

If you still hold out hope for the possibility of a band mixing darkly melodic post-metal and the heartfelt emotional melodies of modern emo into an enjoyable new sound, my advice would be to check out recent work by Sweden’s Katatonia, or the excellent (and massively underrated) Italian group Klimt 1918. But Heart-Set Self-Destruct are going to have to do a lot more with their current sound, perhaps even overhaul it entirely, before they’ll distinguish themselves from the mediocre pack in any meaningful way. I wish them the best of luck, but I hope you’ll understand if my hopes for their future aren’t too high.

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.




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