Self Defense Family – ‘Heaven Is Earth’ Review

Posted: by Sean Gonzalez

Listen to Heaven Is Earth while you read right here! 

Self Defense Family has always had this cult like romanticism behind all of their releases. Just when people think, “how can they top that?” we find ourselves shocked yet again by something they release. 2013’s Try Me had a unique story of a former porn star embedded in the dark and emotive music. 2014’s Duets was a harmonious emotional release that expanded a bit more on the sound of the previous full length. A few other EP’s were released as part of the Island Series along with a split with Touche Amore, what doesn’t this band do? This year we have Heaven Is Earth, an origin story that was an adventure in itself just to record. 

The eight songs that appear on this album were recorded across four different legendary studios. Each studio had its own legendary producer/engineer to accompany the recording as well, including; Will Killingsworth – Dead Air Studios, God City Studios, Mark Millar at Sone Lab, and Jon Low at Miner Street Recordings. This gives tracks their own feel and natural progression that adds a more artistic aesthetic to the already beautiful album.

As the album kicks off with ‘In My Defens Self Me Defend’ which find vocalist Patrick Kindlon wandering through weaving guitars with his reflective lyrics. His ability to wire together his stream of conscious and his passionate voice. Often times he can wail away on the same few lines and build up enough repetition that grows more charged with each delivery. ‘Talia’ features a walking bass line that the band adds layers and layers of music over. Harmonicas trill between vivid guitar chords and screaming piano arpeggios. This is one of those songs that feels exhausted in how busy it sounds, but the entire band is fighting for their own space in the mix, creating an urgent feel to the song. It is felt on many songs across the album, ‘Prison Ring’ being another one that builds it’s calming panic. 

‘Ditko’ is a calming welcome to the album. It slows the pace down and leaves Kindlon at an audible speaking voice while the guitars swell and twist around him. It creates a spacey dynamic and a breathy atmosphere. All of this is immediately shattered as ‘Everybody Wants A Prize For Feeling’ bursts the ambience with it’s harsh delivery. The lyrics are biting, discovering how to keep the mind away from depression and the frantic pace of the music reflects how it might feel to find out your mind is racing. The ending progression is musically my favorite part on the album. ‘Heaven is Earth’ has a more introspective feel to it. The song drifts through calming melodies across a seven minute time span without ever losing its calming embrace. 

‘Basic Skills’ is the one point on the album I felt the drums make a reappearance. ‘Prison Ring’ had more intricate lines than the other songs where the drums merely kept up the pace as the other instruments shattered around. There is no problem with that, they just don’t stand out against the rest of the audible noise. On ‘Basic Skills’ we find snare rolls frequently filling the void between progressions. ‘Dave Sim’ closes the album with a more aggressive post-punk feel where the drums yet again are more voiced against the spacious melodies. Kindlon is at his most vulnerable, reaching ranges that give the impression his voice will break from his throat at any moment. The song holds a lot of weight as the closer, and Self Defense Family made a fine choice in their selection.

Four different engineers, eight emotional tracks and 32 minutes of time make up Heaven Is Earth. For fans of the band, this album is not a far away from their previous work. The visceral appeal on some spots offer parts to rally behind. The music is always on point, blending various moods and instruments into songs that feel as destructive as they do pessimistic. Self Defense Family have again proven that to be heavy, there does not always have to be walls of distortion and an almost unintelligible delivery.