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Album Review: HEART OF A COWARD The Disconnect

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In the music industry, few things cause as much controversy as band line-up changes – especially when vocalists are involved. This is completely understandable, given that fans associate certain songs and albums with emotionally charged life events, and the uncertainty manifested by changes of all kinds naturally provokes discomfort, anxiety, and resistance. After Heart Of A Coward parted ways with frontman Jamie Graham a little over two years ago and set out to find a worthy successor, their journey has been challenging to say the least.

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There’s no denying Jamie Graham’s status as a formidable frontman. Having already established himself as a powerhouse vocalist through his work with extreme metallers Sylosis, Graham spent his tenure in Heart Of A Coward acting as a steamroller while his bandmates backed him up with a long line of technical groove riffs. Brutal, melodic, and equally catchy, Heart Of A Coward’s output remains impressive even four years after their last Jamie-fronted record, namely 2015’s Deliverance – and their all-consuming live presence won them a legion of die-hard and hard-to-please fans.

Then, in March 2017, everything changed as Heart Of A Coward announced that Jamie would be leaving in order to prioritise his work and family, while the rest of the band began searching for his replacement. After considering some 200 potential candidates, Heart Of A Coward’s attention and approval settled on Kaan Tasan, himself widely respected within the UK’s tech-metal scene as part of the Ritalin-riddled No Consequence. Although Kaan and Heart Of A Coward had crossed paths many times before, and Jamie Graham himself had set events in motion by telling Tasan to stake a claim to Graham’s soon-to-be-vacated throne, HOAC’s fanbase needed time to adjust to their favourite band’s boldest move to date.

As soon as “Collapse” – Kaan Tasan’s debut performance – hit the internet, the thunderstorm started. Some described Heart Of A Coward as “Linkin Park on steroids”, which is actually a reasonable statement given the vocal similarities between Tasan and Chester Bennington, not to mention the harmonic structures and chord progressions employed during chorus sections throughout The Disconnect. Others were less witty, choosing to go for the throat and declare that HOAC were effectively over.

By sticking to their guns, Kaan and Heart Of A Coward eventually proved the haters wrong. Within six months, “Collapse” had amassed over a million streams, while HOAC sold out their comeback tour and watched with satisfaction as negative comments were repeatedly retracted in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Live reports have consistently vindicated Heart Of A Coward’s decision, and at this point the tide has officially turned.

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At the time of writing, The Disconnect hasn’t even been made publicly available yet. Heart Of A Coward have achieved an early victory on the back of a relative handful of live shows and additional single “Drown In Ruin”, and once The Disconnect sees the light of day, their status as one of Britain’s most punishing acts will remain intact. In fact, given the quality and maturity of the songwriting showcased throughout this album – the result of a process in which Kaan Tasan was directly involved – Heart Of A Coward might see their audience expand further than ever before.

Before anyone gets carried away with the aforementioned Linkin Park comparison, rest assured that it relates to the heady days of Hybrid Theory and Meteora, not Linkin Park’s later efforts. This isn’t radio rock. It’s metal, there will be riffs, and Heart Of A Coward won’t be turning their backs on the scene that made them who they are.

Like Chester Bennington, Kaan Tasan’s biggest strength is his vulnerability. While Jamie Graham exuded a sense of defiantly ironclad self-assurance, Tasan turns himself inside out, exposing raw nerves through naturally higher vocals fuelled by pure rage and indignance. Whether getting personal (“Parasite”) or political (“Collapse”, “Culture of Lies”, “Senseless”), Tasan performs like his life depends on it – an approach that requires its own kind of confidence, and deserves as much respect as any other.

If you turn to metal for cathartic reasons, you can’t afford to sleep on The Disconnect. Wake up, and get ready.

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SCORE: 9/10

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