The perfect tonic for any Sunday evening woes is the unique sound of female-fronted technical, progressive metal band Hieroglyph.
The six-piece, who hail from Newcastle and Leeds and are now based in London, have fused a style that mixes all manner of musical genres and features, from huge riffs, wild guitar solos and power choruses to mathcore, slow grooves and synth bursts. Throw it all together and it sounds fantastic.
We spoke to lead guitarist and electronics guy Sam Butterfield to get the lowdown on one of the most exciting, progressive bands we’ve heard recently.
Sam said: “I think at the core we are a tech metal band and we’re not ashamed to admit that we love ‘djenty’ stuff and the influence is clearly there. But I feel that we’re pushing the boundaries out a little bit and playing with some sounds and influences that other bands like us haven’t tried out yet. And I think that’s where the future of this band is, more experimentation and expansion.
“I want to play with more sounds and styles and try out a lot of different stuff in our music. I also want to travel and play more new places, meet people and see more of the world with the band. All the energy we put in has set us off moving, hopefully we’ll keep picking up momentum and doing more stuff.”
One thing that’s certainly true of Hieroglyph is that they defy convention. For a starter, there are six of them and they have two dedicated vocalists, with Sam joined by Valentina Reptile and Mark Howes (both vocals), Helen ‘Tyrone’ Tytherleigh (bass), Bradie Nixon (drums) and Richard Barnes (guitar).
Then there’s the Hieroglyph sound, which has to be heard to be understood. The superb Cristina Scabbia-esque vocals of the wonderfully named Valentina Reptile add a soothing calm to a backdrop of musical fusion that often borders on brutal madness but reigns in absolute genius. There’s Howe’s heavier vocals, supported by huge guitar noise, manic drum loops and blitzes of screechy guitar, which is superbly portrayed in the absolute epic 13 minute-long outro song Ouroboros (The Magician) from debut album Ouroboros (which we’ll be reviewing in all its glory later this week).
Then there’s the wonderful Starlight (The High Priestess) from the same album, on which you have to check out the insane prolonged drums throughout the chorus in contrast to the high-pitched vocals.
Sam told us: “There’s obviously a strong influence of tech bands like Periphery and Tesseract, but I cut my teeth on bands like Chimaira and Fear Factory and I had a big industrial phase where I got into synths and electronics. After that, I got into bands like Cult of Luna and Isis as well as more prog rock like Rush and King Crimson. I think there’s elements of all that stuff kind of jumbled up and rearranged in our sound.
“It took a really, really long time to piece it (debut album, Ouroboros) together. Some riffs/sections of songs are older than the EP songs. In fact, the last half of Mandragora (sixth track on the album) used to be the final song in our set when we were instrumental, albeit much more simplified. The clean motif in that song is actually pinched from my old band’s live intro track!”
This is certainly a really exciting new band, which is very different to anything else we’ve been listening to recently. So we asked Sam to tell us about how Hieroglyph came to be.
Sam said: “I’m from the North-East and the metal scene up there isn’t great, there are good bands but the reception could be better. I’d been trying to form metal bands back home for a few years and gotten nowhere, so I had the choice of biting the bullet, staying there and joining a hardcore band / giving up heavy music altogether or moving elsewhere for uni and trying my luck.
“I went to the very first tech festival during the Summer once I finished college and had a massive buzz of inspiration, so I decided to go to uni in Leeds and try my luck starting a tech band there. I met Helen and Bradie through two other guys looking to start a band, they didn’t stay for long but us three started writing and rehearsing pretty quickly. We began gigging instrumentally and picked up more members as we went on.
“I just love playing and creating music, not a day goes by where I’m not doing something musical, even in a small capacity. I remember stumbling across Slipknot on Kerrang about ten years ago and I was like ‘I’m doing that, that’s sick, I can make a load of noise and get all this teen angst out of my system.'”
A big part of the Hieroglyph appeal is their live shows, which Sam describes as: “A macroscopic demonstration of quantum superposition as six people try to occupy the exact same place. There’s six of us, stages are small, we have a lot of strings and hair flying about, it’s a trip.”
Hieroglyph’s debut album is a very impressive introduction to the band, and we’ll have more on this later in the week, but we think this is a band to keep a very close eye on in 2017.