American Heritage in 2012
  • Chris Eichenseer
  • American Heritage in 2012

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.

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.