Album Review: Next Door To Heaven – “Inside” 6.5/10 (Progressive Metalcore)

Written by Ellis Heasley

Next Door To HeavenInside
Progressive metalcore from St. Petersburg, Russia
Releases March 25th, 2021
6.5/10

You’ve got to admire the ambition of Next Door To Heaven. The St. Petersburg-based four-piece describes the sound of their new EP, entitled Inside, as “a mixture of metalcore, prog metal, alternative metal, melodic metal and rapcore.” All that seems fair, although the very latter may be a bit of a stretch. Realistically, it’s probably best described as progressive metalcore, kind of in the vein of a band like Spiritbox, albeit with the notable absence of harsh vocals.

From the outset it’s hard to get away from Inside’s rather lackluster production. Music like this tends to work best with a crisp, clean and polished sound, but something about this record just feels a little off. The guitars, for example, are muffled and muddy, and don’t hit anywhere near as hard as they perhaps could. The same is true of the drums to an extent, although fortunately the snare at least tends to cut through. Daria Mazunova’s vocals on the other hand feel far better produced, which is good, but this does mean that they can feel almost separate from the music behind them. 

Of course, production is one thing, and the musical content of the songs themselves is another altogether. With this in mind, it’s important to try and move beyond the production, especially considering Next Door To Heaven are a young and up-and-coming band and reflect on the actual music itself. If you can manage this, there’s a lot more to be positive about with Inside. For example, guitarist Evgenii “Gene” Mazunov and bassist Oleg Ermakov provide their fair share of solid, technical riffs. The former also often adds atmosphere and textures in the record’s quieter moments, and even offers up some decent lead parts on tracks like “Unleash The Beasts” and “Inside.” As well as this, the band’s drummer Pavel Lokhnin feels particularly technically proficient, especially on the album closer “Flare Up.”

On top of all this sits vocalist Mazunova, who, for the most part gives a strong performance. Her vocals are invariably melodic. At times they’re delivered with real power, while at others they take on a more floating ethereal quality which would befit an alternative metal band in particular. It is worth noting that there is the occasional moment where Mazunova’s delivery doesn’t quite land – not that it sounds out of tune, as much as the words selected just don’t seem to fit the spaces they’re given. That said, English is presumably Mazunova’s second language, so again it’s not something listeners should hold too forcefully against this record.

The strongest track on Inside is almost certainly its already-mentioned closer “Flare Up.” The production feels a little better here, and the chorus is particularly soaring and memorable. It’s also this track where the supposed ‘rapcore’ elements of Next Door To Heaven’s sound comes to the fore, in the form of a few brief rapped breaks from guest Lord Nelson. Unfortunately, these moments aren’t great, with Lord Nelson’s lines of (Don’t let them get you/Let the fire create a new version of you) feeling particularly cheesy. Luckily however, they are mercifully short in an otherwise solid track.

As much as it is important to try and get past the production on Inside, ultimately this is what really lets it down. The songs within are perfectly fine, but it’s difficult to enjoy them when they don’t provide the kind of punches this music requires. If it wasn’t for this, we’d probably have a decent, if not slightly derivative, progressive metalcore offering on our hands. As we don’t, all we can hope for is that the band are able to rectify this on future releases so that the true extent of their ambitions can be properly heard and enjoyed.

6.5/10

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