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Formed in 1997 and for the past several years split between Chicago and Atlanta, metal smart-asses American Heritage released what seems likely to be their swan song, Prolapse, last week on French label Solar Flare Records. There was no fanfare, no release party—for all intents and purposes, they were already broken up. "After the recording of Prolapse," say the press materials for the album, "core member Adam Norden left the band, and after eighteen years of abuse and racket, this move makes it foreseeable that this will be the final album from American Heritage."
The guys in the band are a little more blunt on their Facebook page: "We're aren't really still around."
I have fond memories of American Heritage, though, and I don't want to let them go gentle into that good night. Wesley Willis used to do a song about them, which is how you know they're old-school Fireside Bowl dirtbags. In the late 90s, my avant-garbage band Lozenge shared a bill with American Heritage at that beloved dump.
When the band released their previous album, Sedentary, in March 2011, they celebrated at the Beat Kitchen. At the time, my comrade Kevin Warwick wrote, "For every melodic, intricately constructed saga, there's a blast of thrashing fury like 'Kiddie Pool of Baby Blood' or 'Fetal Attraction,' saturated with the nastiness of old-school hardcore punk a la Discharge and Poison Idea."
That cycling between burners and epics continues on Prolapse, and today's 12 O'Clock Track, "Blackbird," is clearly one of the former—though it's dominated by an eccentric high-speed 5/8 meter that makes it feel like it's running pell-mell with one leg shorter than the other.
The band recorded Prolapse in Chicago this past March with Sanford Parker, calling in assists from Che Arthur and Mike Lust. American Heritage guitarist Scott Shellhamer (who did the cover art for the latest Coffinworm album) walked through Prolapse one track at a time for Decibel magazine, and he had this to say about "Blackbird":
"Right about the time Sedentary came out, we all went down to [drummer] Mike [Duffy]'s place in Georgia to drink all of the beer, hang out on a boat, and blast fireworks off at his neighbors. Most of this song was written down there on that trip. [Bassist] Erik [Bocek] drank all of Mike's whiskey (which was a lot) in one night."
So there you have it. As Def Leppard like to say, long live rock 'n' roll.