Heifer: The Judas Belt

The Judas Belt is smart, sour, and bruising Australian metal poised to break out to a worldwide audience


The Judas Belt

Label: Bonza
Australia release date: 2006-07-17
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: Available as import

The problem the Australian music scene is having of late is that it's being severely misrepresented to the world; with Wolfmother, Jet, and the Vines -- perfectly respectable acts, but also unwilling to push the envelope in any way -- one could be forgiven for thinking that Oz-rock is stuck sucking inspiration from decades gone by. This retro style seems to have proven so popular overseas, in fact, that better, more experimental bands like Karnivool, the Dissociatives, and the Butterfly Effect are largely being ignored. Luckily, however, Australian metal is rightfully starting to gain a foothold in markets abroad, spearheaded by Parkway Drive, Tourettes, and the recently split I Killed the Prom Queen.

Heifer are another contender to add to the growing list. Self-penning their sound as "shavings of metal" (and "high energy"), the band hail from Sydney, and their debut album The Judas Belt, coming off the back of several locally-released EPs, is ten tracks of raw, bludgeoning musique comprised of a very much do-it-yourself attitude. The unit pay tribute in full to prominent modern influences -- Slipknot, Tool, and Helmet, primarily – but add a crunch visibly their own, playing menacing, raw-as-hell riffs only slightly undermined by the bone-dry production... the drums tend to click and rattle thinly instead of crash per se. Giving voice to their madness is the versatile Rob Smith, who pulls out a snarl snotty enough to match the enraged immediacy of by-the-numbers hard rock with ease, yet at the same time chill it with a bitter aftertaste.

To show you they're serious, The Judas Belt starts with a screech and a tight building opening minute into its title track, an ode to a firecracker going off, and doesn't let up from there. It's loud, distorted music played through a very small amp, as evidenced by "Burning Time", where waves of feedback course through the speakers into a throttling mosh groove, or the hypnotic vocal effect of "Drowning in Lies" while licks spiral out underneath, or the lockstep half-thrash of "I Just Wanna Kill You", charmingly written from the viewpoint of a dog gone wild: "Whenever I feel down / Whenever I feel blue / I just remind myself / How much I wanna kill you!" Smith whispers, so disdainfully that the track's steely drum rolls don't even matter.

"Take It All" mixes it up with subdued, almost reflective, Alice in Chains harmonies, while the slamming "Sick of Your Shit" is in possession of a tricky time signature incorporated smartly into its growling, no-frills riff, which progresses like a rollercoaster into a staccato breakdown, and then a closing segment in which it doesn't so much fade out as get choked for breath and suffocated. The re-emerging crowd chant of "Sick! Sick! Sick of your shit! Sick of you!", comes off the most authentic profanity-laden hook of the year. "Sit on the Fence" attacks censorship, right on cue, and with genuine anger to boot. The song is a direct stab at false values in their home country, sung in alternately exasperated and angry measures by Rob Smith.

Let's sing about love

Let's dance around the office

Let's talk about TV reality,

Don't mention the war

Or the blood for oil

Don't sing about the flag

Oh it's ok, it's not ours anyway

And then there's the sing-songy chorus which evens both sides out...

So you just sit on the fence

I think the fence is breaking.

There are parts of The Judas Belt which are probably lacking a little in production, and there's no doubt the lyrics are sometimes weaker than they could be, but that just makes Heifer seem all the more like a band straight out of the garage with a statement they need to make. The album comes with a complimentary DVD that's as grassroots as the CD itself. This is an all-too-formidable beginning for the quintet and gives Aussie rock back its good name and, well, a point. It's just waiting to punch a hole in your skull, so when you listen to it, try it loud.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.