American Heritage


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Confounding all comers since 1997, Chicago's American Heritage have made a career out of challenging established songwriting conventions, and their 2004 release, Bipolar, although comprising an assortment of unrelated tracks culled from several different eras and lineups from over those years, is certainly no different. In fact, one would think it'd be all the more unpredictable for it, right? But despite boasting eternally restless and serpentine arrangements, intense instrumental workouts like "Pole to Hole," "Ass to Ass" and, err, "Phil Collins," strangely tend to blend into one another in a rather unclear fashion. Sure, each one invariably sees the band embarking on a mind-bending game of musical Twister, but with virtually identical end results: oddball shapes that seem as impossible to achieve, as they are easy to forget. Maybe this is due to the above three tracks' mutual origins in one particularly uninspired session, because ensuing instrumentals "Yzzo" and "Star of David" fare slightly better, as do all three songs enhanced by Adam Norten's guttural growls, unintelligible though they may be. These include intriguingly assembled opener "Everyone Knows They Lied to Us" (by far the album's standout moment), the mysterious "Spina Bifida," and the full-tilt-gonzo blowout of "Forget." Oh yeah, and any similarities between the latter and the work of hyperactive metalcore top dogs Mastodon are no mere coincidence, since the two bands have traced somewhat parallel evolutions, toured together, and even joined forces for a split single in 2003. For all of their daring experiments, however, American Heritage are clearly no Mastodon, and one need only observe their continued confinement to the heaviest, deepest heavy metal underground to suss that much out. Whether the recent addition of vocals to their songwriting mix constitutes a first deliberate attempt to get out of that underground remains to be seen, but, for now, Bipolar constitutes an article of decidedly selective, not widespread, consumption. [Also worth noting is the presence of four unlisted and uncharacteristically brief but pure hardcore tracks tailing off the CD.]

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 5:09
2 5:59
3 4:38
4 5:51
5 6:09
6 7:32
7 4:12
10 6:39
blue highlight denotes track pick