A band that inks a contract with a major independent record label usually does so as a direct result of its hard work and reputation. The hardcore-punk proponents in the local band Heartless possess these traits, but the band's path to signing with heavyweight punk-and-metal label Southern Lord Records was initiated by a band from Cleveland.
Heartless initially heard from label-owner Greg Anderson last winter; he was looking to obtain a copy of the band's EP after hearing Heartless shared members with Cleveland D-beat punk band Masakari, which had just put out its Southern Lord debut. The band obliged and sent Anderson a copy, but didn't hear much afterward.
"A couple months later we were looking for someone to put out our full-length," explains guitarist Rick Mauck. "We sent [Greg] a random email asking him if he would be interested and he said, ‘Yes.'"
The band's first full-length album, Hell Is Other People, was officially released Nov. 8. The album is a hazardous and frantic 21-minute mix of dark hardcore and powerviolence that leaves the listener without a second to breathe. (While there are 13 tracks, it's short for a full-length; most of the songs are brief.) The band's evolution is evident when taking a long look at its self-titled EP next to the new record. While the short blasts of energy and rage are still there, the sound has developed into its own monster.
The new album's running time may not reflect the massive amount of work that band members put into the record, but they are satisfied with the end result.
Producer Matt Very "was very open-minded," says vocalist Cory Smith. "He did a lot of research after we told him our influences." The abrasiveness of Heartless' sound may have been a challenge for Very, who's worked with the more melodic Code Orange Kids and Wifebeater in the past. Mauck says the band is "very happy with the way it turned out," but adds, "There's always room for improvement."
Southern Lord is renowned for its impressive stable of black-metal and drone acts. "I feel like Greg is a little out of his comfort zone with putting out this record," says Smith. But Heartless isn't quite out of place next to heavyweight labelmates Nails, Xibalba and Dead in the Dirt. That roster includes "a ton of extremely talented musicians, so it's definitely flattering" to be among them, Smith says.
Heartless has some big plans in store to promote Hell Is Other People, including a full U.S. tour with Maryland hardcore band Full of Hell this winter.
However, Smith says, the band finds the most solace right here in Pittsburgh.
"We have a good thing going here [and] tons of good bands. For us, our contentment with everything in a label is in the stuff we've long since established here."
HEARTLESS CD RELEASE with FULL OF HELL, OLD ACCUSERS, CONFIDENCE MEN, HOUNDS OF HATE. 7 p.m. Sun., Nov. 27. Mr. Roboto Project, 5106 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $5-6. www.therobotoproject.org