HEART OF A COWARD singer Kaan Tasan has one straightforward piece of advice that he’d want to give his younger self; learn the piano. “When you think about what the piano gives you, it’s a very good foundational instrument. You have to learn about chords, intonation, music theory and the piano just seems to cover everything. If you can play piano, you’re more likely to understand how other instruments work.”
For anyone who spent their ninth birthday failing to play The Itsy Bitsy Spider to the required standard of a disapproving woman wearing horned rim glasses, this might sound bizarre, but he’s serious. After all, if you dream of being a rock star and playing in stadiums full of adoring fans, you do have to know how to actually play music. So, while a lot of budding musicians might have preferred to be at home watching cartoons, having piano lessons is a good way to get to grips with the basics. It certainly teaches more than learning the bloody recorder.
Kaan is no stranger to music theory. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and had played in several bands prior to joining HEART OF A COWARD back in 2019. Initially, it was tough. Previous singer Jamie Graham was beloved by the fans and some folks were none too pleased to see someone else on the mic. This time round though, Kaan seems relaxed and quietly confident. At the time of our chat, his second album with the band is mere days from release and there’s a big difference this time; he played a fundamental role in creating it.
“Hindsight is 20/20. I’d have loved to get more touring under my belt and play more of the old stuff before we recorded The Disconnect, but we played six shows and then went straight into the studio. I was just doing what I’d been doing my whole career and I loved that album and what we achieved. But looking back there was no time to settle and it was almost like I was being shoe-horned into the old HEART OF A COWARD sound. Now, I think we’ve all agreed there needs to be change because we’re not the same band. We’re moving forward and no one wants to repeat an album.”
By the time this article goes to print, This Place Only Brings Death will be readily accessible on your favourite streaming platform and it’ll be obvious that he’s established his presence in the band. It was written with Kaan’s vocals in mind and the five musicians involved have had time to learn from one another. The songs are more streamlined and while there are still progressive elements in there, it leans more towards metalcore. They worked closely with producer George Lever (who’s collaborated with SLEEP TOKEN and MONUMENTS among others), and Kaan describes him as an extra “creative brain” who helped to strip the songs down to their fundamental components. This Place Only Brings Death is focused and precise, the fat has been trimmed off.
That said, there’s plenty of little flourishes in there of the classic HEART OF A COWARD creativity. For example, Hex has a brief but eyebrow-raising introduction that was put together by playing guitar riffs into a synth, manipulating them and then playing more guitar over the top. There’s also Decay, a song he describes as “a beautifully dark bit of poetry” that started life as a Haiku, and a half dozen other little offbeat moments scattered throughout the track list. This Place Only Brings Death is looking directly at the pit, but it’s not afraid to play with the formula.
As Kaan tells it, the writing and recording process was therapeutic too. This Place Only Brings Death isn’t just heavier than The Disconnect, it’s darker. Some of these lyrics wander into very bleak territory, but nevertheless, it’s a vibrant and energetic album. Recent single Surrender To Failure for example is a barnstorming mosh anthem, but the subject matter is so bleak that it’d make KATATONIA pause.
“It was a really tough time over the last three years. When it came to writing the songs I couldn’t write about flowers and daisies because that’s not what I experienced,” he says. “I always write about life and unfortunately, it wasn’t a great time. I don’t think many of us enjoyed the pandemic so writing this was a very cathartic.”
So, even if Kaan isn’t quite as proficient at the piano as he’d like to be, This Place Only Brings Death demonstrates the band’s musicianship and creativity beautifully. It’s easy to enjoy as a big blast of aggression, but it’s also a record you can sit down and listen to, making notes on each song as you go. HEART OF A COWARD had only just started their second era when the coronavirus pandemic up ended the world, but they’ve begun a subtle evolution and are ready to embrace it. This isn’t the same band that recorded the first three albums, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As their laidback vocalist puts it:
“Maybe in a year’s time, I’ll look back and think ‘yeah, that wasn’t a good idea’, but I feel like we’ve driven ourselves to create something newer and fresher this time. Nothing is off the table and it’s pushed us.”
This Place Brings Only Death is out now via Arising Empire.
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