ALBUM REVIEW: Hour of 13 – Black Magick Rites

A lot has changed since Hour of 13’s last album, 333, came out in 2012. The project is now a one-man affair with bandleader/multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis playing all the parts himself, including vocals with Phil Swanson long out of the picture. That nine-year gap also saw a minor genre tug ‘o’ war take place as singles and EPs were torn between the Traditional Doom of albums past and Samhain-style Deathrock, often determined by whether the 13 was retained as a number or spelled out. With this somewhat convoluted frame in mind, it’s a relief to see the former style win out on their fourth full-length, Black Magick Rites (Shadow Kingdom Records).

The musicianship on this album is as rock solid as expected, presenting the group’s Black Sabbath aspirations with a rustic touch reminiscent of Witchcraft. The guitar work remains the primary focus with the structures largely driven by mid-tempo monolithic riffs supported by a simple but hard-hitting rhythm section. The tone proudly displays those Iommi touches with a bright yet ominous sound that’s occasionally rounded out by a shimmering lead. I must admit that the vocals feel a little nondescript compared to Swanson’s storytelling theatrics; thankfully the spacy effects and distant placement in the mix give them a dreamlike quality.

But with that said, such strict adherence to Doom Metal orthodoxy leads to some rather samey songwriting. There’s not much variety at hand as the songs on Black Magick Rites pretty much stick to the same tempo with often interchangeable riffs and vocal lines, resulting in a listen that’s pleasant but lacking a certain character. The first couple songs set up a decent foundation, particularly the dark ‘Return From The Grave’ but in a neat twist, the longer songs end up being the most effective. ‘Within The Pentagram’ features the most striking hook while the closing ‘The Mystical Hall Of Dreams’ serves up the album’s most drastic changeup, going full Psych Folk during the second half.

While Black Magick Rites is a step below Hour Of 13’s previous albums, it’s still an enjoyable display of Doom. The dedication at hand is certainly commendable with tight musicianship locked into a strong style, even if it comes off as a little too workmanlike at times. There’s nothing necessarily wrong so much as it just lacks the spark of something like their 2007 debut or the best of the occultists that have since followed in their footsteps. Davis deserves props for keeping the project going considering the behind-the-scenes shuffle, but it may not be a bad idea to get another cook or two assisting him in the kitchen.

Buy the album here:

7 / 10