By Ian Kenworthy

Vowels aren’t cool. At one time you could replace them with a ‘V’ and be down with the kids, but even that’s become passé. Now you have to drop any sounds you can make with your tongue and capitalise what’s left. Now you have to be block capital, bold, HRTLSS. On some level this makes sense. There’s a finite number of band names, and no one likes to type all those extra letters, yet it feels slightly cynical, especially when combined with the music on new EP ‘Blood Moon’.

Once upon a time, HRTLSS was a metal guitarist. Now he’s a solo artist whose music mixes rock, metal and electronics with big pop choruses. He’s not advertising his real identity (not in a Sleep Token way, but still) and hiding behind a lack of consonants. While this sounds flippant, the point to all this is that it robs him of personality. That’s a real problem when his music struggles to find an identity. However, HRTLSS is a small artist, working with limited tools. What’s actually cool is that he manages to wring an impressive array of sounds from a limited palette. So although this is aiming to be like World Gone Cold or Rain City Drive, a better comparison is Erase Theory, an artist working with similar tools. In this respect, the songs here show off some interesting ideas like the vibing bass sound that opens ‘Blood Moon’ or the stuttering beats that fill out its runtime. There’s also a lot to like in the throbbing mid-section of ‘Daylight’ and the creeping synth sound that opens ‘Hive’. It’s also clear that he is a guitarist, given that the tone has more bite than the other instruments.

However, while the songs ebb and flow, you can’t escape the draining lack of vision. If all he can say about ‘Blood Moon’ is that it’s ‘about vampires’, that tells you everything; He’s feeling his way and hasn’t quite worked out what he’s creating yet. It’s a cynical mode of creative expression that’s clearest in the vocals. There’s a reasonably effective sweep to ‘Daylight’ and ‘Hive’, and the phrasing would be impressive but they’re so heavily treated that the edges are soft and blurred. In this context, that’s a real problem because it’s the only thing that can have personality.

Vowels aren’t the only thing missing here. It’s offensively bland. Bland in the way the vocals are processed. Bland in the way the faux instruments sound. Bland in the production sound. Bland in ways telegraphed by the presentation. Bland because it feels like it’s been designed to sit inoffensively in the middle of a playlist. ‘Blood Moon’ isn’t short of ideas, it’s just HRTLSS.


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