Look out, Silent Planet: there’s a new kid on the block named Heliocentric, and they aren’t messing around.
What was, for all practical purposes, the senior project of Jared Smith (the one-man band who is Heliocentric), Ishmael is an eleven-track album that bears a stunning resemblance to the overall sound you might expect to hear from the likes of Silent Planet. As a study of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), this album covers a lot of ground, pulls from a lot of resources, and never shies away from the rhetoric that is often found in the conversations between these three faiths.
From an instrumentation aspect, this album is nothing short of immaculate. The production of the entire album is spot on, from the precision fretwork on the guitars to the absolute pummeling the drums receive, there’s not a thing out of place across the entire album. Even the vocals are a standout within this genre. There’s a passing resemblance (as with the music itself) to Garrett Russel of Silent Planet– but there is such a clarity to the delivery of the lyrics, and Jared’s clean vocals are quite unique.
It is difficult to nail down moments that really stand out, only because the whole album is very well-written. Opening track “Moriah” is a fascinating song from a lyrical perspective. Looking at the story of Abraham’s sons, Isaac and Ishmael, it asks the question: “But which brother? I can’t decide. One pompous and arrogant, the other withered, bastardized.” The fact that Smith’s lyrics don’t always paint Christians in the prettiest of colors actually helps give credibility to this album as a study of these three faiths. It seems that the lead was followed by Scripture’s reporting of events and characteristics that are often less than flattering.
“Never Again” is a thoroughly guitar driven piece that sees some of the most intricate fretwork on the album: it’s frenetic without being unstructured. “Writhe” is an unabashed look at the frequent mistreatment of Palestinians at the hands of Israel. It is not a comfortable song by any means, but again, the willingness to look at the interplay of these faiths– the good and bad– is central to this entire album.
The theme that ties the entirety of Ishmael together is that of sacrifice– it is a theme mentioned in nearly every song. But the track that takes this theme and flips it on its head is “Antithesis.” This is explained very well by Jared on Heliocentric’s YouTube Channel, but essentially, where sacrifice is understood as accepting responsibility for one’s shortcomings, the antithesis of that would be rejecting responsibility by putting the blame on a scapegoat of sorts. The caution in this song is that, when we refuse to accept responsibility for our wrongdoing by blaming some “other,” our Savior in those moments is not God. It is a challenging concept that harkens listeners to hold to personal responsibility while showing a mastery of metal instrumentation. This track is a power house on the album– the cohesion in the writing is palpable, and it’s really just a track that can carry you away as it works to warn you of the danger of always having a scapegoat to cast blame onto.
Heliocentric has planted themselves firmly on the map of the metal scene with Ishmael. With a very active YouTube channel, Facebook, and Instagram– this is a project worth following. With the lyrical intelligence and musical prowess that is found within this album, it is a safe bet to say that Heliocentric is going to be around for a while and gain a massive following.
Similar Artists: Silent Planet, Windvent, Fit For a King, For All Eternity