New Music

HEIRLOOM: eclipsing melodic metalcore stereotypes with “Romanticize”

4 mins read

In a genre often besieged by stereotypes of angsty juvenilia and sonic monotony, Heirloom — the Raleigh, North Carolina-based metalcore outfit — has orchestrated a deft swerve with their debut full-length album “Romanticize.” Released on August 25th via Judge & Jury Records, the label captained by the Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson and Three Days Grace drummer Neil Sanderson, the album serves as a conscious counter-narrative to metalcore’s oft-dismissive labels.

The prelude to this 10-tracker began as far back as late 2021 when Heirloom started cobbling together musical blueprints with the production prowess of Benson and Sanderson. The ensemble then took to West Valley Recording Studios twice: initially in May 2022, and again in March 2023, achieving a sonorous balance between raw aggression and polished melody.

Sonically, imagine the seismic riffs of Killswitch Engage’s “The End of Heartache” consorting with the haunting vocal timbres akin to the late Chester Bennington. Here is music characterized by an economy of sonic choices, where every chug, strum, and breakdown seems conscientiously plotted. The guitars, helmed by Kevin DeJong, offer a treasure trove of massive riffs, while Nikki Leferson’s drum work embellishes the compositions with a percussive ferocity.

While it’s easy to focus on the performative aspects, “Romanticize” benefits from a backstage roster that is far from pedestrian. In addition to the main production by Howard Benson and Neil Sanderson, the album boasts engineering from Mike Plotnikoff and Hatsukazu Inagaki, with Brandt Sier as the assistant engineer. Joe Rickard had the mixing helm, while Niels Nielsen served as the mastering engineer. All of these characters, in their own right, coalesce to provide a 5-star production.

Heirloom clearly harbors ambitions that venture beyond aural theatrics. The band, comprised of Nolan Smith (vocals), Austin Smith (bass), and the aforementioned DeJong and Leferson, doesn’t just want to be another name on the metalcore roster. They aim for the elusive yet valuable cross-pollination between rock and metal demographics.

In this endeavor, Heirloom isn’t solely dependent on their musicality. Their stage presence is cited as a kinetic force, bound to enthrall both rock audiences and heavy music aficionados. The band’s message, both in lyricism and live ethos, echoes a positive resonance—something not always at the forefront in metalcore, yet utterly necessary for bridging communal gaps.

For those intrigued by the labyrinthine world of “Romanticize,” we have embedded below a full track-by-track commentary from the band themselves.


The album kicks off with “WE ARE NOT THE SAME” which was also the first single to be released with Judge & Jury in 2022. The track highlights vocalist NOLAN KENNETH SMITH’s struggles with homelessness and being on and off medication for bipolar disorder.

The second track “[HYPER]VIGILANT” discusses some of the darker aspects of PTSD and how difficult it can be to move on from past traumas that try to keep you mentally paralyzed from being content with your current life.

ROMANTICIZE“, the title track and 3rd song on the album, continues the theme of wanting to move on from a past that haunts you. The lyrics define someone who may reflect on the past and miss a lot of things that used to make them happy, but in retrospect, they’re only seeing the memories and are better off where they are now.

“WANDERLUST” speaks on its namesake. The 4th track’s lyrics talk about wanting to escape places that only seem to hold you down. SMITH was raised in a small town in North Carolina with one high school. Almost everyone he graduated with still calls that town their home. The song’s lyrics are about getting away from your home and seeing what’s out there in the world, while also simultaneously trying to find where you truly belong, and how at times forgiving yourself can be harder than forgiving others.

“PASSENGER SEAT”, the 5th track, is about controlling parents, authoritative figures, or anyone else that tries to vicariously live out their unsuccessful dreams through others. The song is about breaking away from these figures and finding your own meaning in life.

The 6th track, “[HIVE]MINDREADER” is aimed directly at those who choose to speak lies and join in on gossip just because it benefits them socially, even when these people know what they’re doing is wrong. Many people like to project their own jealous insecurities at those who are taking the time and effort to better themselves.

BROADER SCOPE” is the 7th track on the record and encompasses lyrical themes related to the death of family members and friends that you didn’t get to spend as much time with as you thought you would. Whether it be grandparents, distant relatives, or even people your own age. The chorus is an honest and vulnerable declaration that speaks on thoughts that many of us have to silently carry around – the fear of death and not knowing when it’s coming for us. It briefly touches on being told about family members that passed away before you were even alive to spend time with them, as well as other family members that you might have not seen in years and wanted to spend time with in the future, only to find that they passed away suddenly before the chance was had. The consistent themes brought up are the regrets of missing out on time spent with said loved ones, as well as the lingering fear of what our own individual “legacies” will be.

IN A BLINK, the 8th track, is a narrative on a car crash that SMITH was involved in during his freshman year of college. He was t-boned on the driver’s side, spun the car 3 times, landed in a ditch, but came out physically unscathed. This track is basically “your life flashing before your eyes” and the fear of dying young and unexpectedly.

The 9th track, RUN FROM ME, touches on anger issues and digging out your own demons by the roots. There is a line in the song that says “Check on your resentment, how much you love the worst of you” – which is a statement towards the idea that a lot of the resentment and hate buried within us can be extremely difficult to change. Cutting out certain toxic behavioral patterns can take a toll on your mental health, especially when your ego has been clinging to them for years.

The 10th and final track “SUFFER ALL THE SAME” is a slow building ballad-style song, which ends in some of the heaviest music that the band has written. The lyrics are about trying your hardest to make failing friendships/relationships work, all while secretly knowing that you’re wasting time in the process. The album ends with the line “Loose change through the cracks, pondering what’s next, think of answers to questions you’ve never been asked.”


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