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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).
With 2010s For Mircalla seemingly destined to be a one-off album for Briton Rites, it’s quite a surprise to see the band unleash a second full-length ten years later. Occulte Fantastique (Echoes Of Crom Records) wastes no time confirming that the group has remained faithful to their Traditional Doom Metal style. Guitarist Howie Bentley’s riffs are as beefy as ever while the prolific Phil Swanson’s vocal performance consists of the tried-and-true Satanic themes delivered in a sneer somewhere between Ozzy and Pagan Altar’s Terry Jones.Continue reading
While a self-titled album often serves as a summary of an artist’s particular style, Vestal Claret’s third full-length is unlike anything else they’ve done before. The Doom Metal that defined the occult collective’s past efforts has been completely phased out in favor of a subdued presentation that is somewhere between Folk and introspective Psych Rock. An esoteric aura still wafts with vocalist Phil Swanson (Hour of 13, Sumerlands) offering his signature mournful, nasally wail, but the vibe has more in common with Hexvessel or Sabbath Assembly than Pagan Altar.Continue reading
Low-key doom supergroup Lighting Born has formed with members hailing from notable bands such as Corrosion of Conformity Bloody Hammers, Demon Eye, The Hell No, Hour of 13 and Mega Colossus. The doom metal collective with roots in North Carolina and Maryland has signed a world-wide deal with Ripple Music, and are already working on a new album due out in late 2018. Continue reading
The considerable figure of Phil Swanson is something of a modern day doom deity: most noted for his work with Hour Of 13, his myriad other vehicles have all received gushing praise. Not least Vestal Claret who, with this third full-length, purvey what a nameless colleague has referred to as ‘happy doom’. I’ll let you tell him, Steve…
The Cult of Vestal Claret (Cruz del Sur Records) is indeed an uplifting listen despite lyrics espousing the reek of burning flesh, sacrifice and witchcraft. Buzzing riffs duel with leads from fellow ex-Earthlord axewielder Simon Tuozzoli whilst Swanson’s voice, with heavy nods to Ozzy Osbourne and Biff Byford, covers it all in a bright roar. ‘Three and Three Are Six’ is reminiscent of Thin Lizzy at the outset, dual leads keeping a ripping pace, whilst a slightly off the mark rhythm section, high in the mix to promote it, provides a steely edge. Pots sound like popping crisp bags at times during the title track, highlighting something of an issue: the production does give an eerie atmosphere but aside from that is absolutely hideous, an uneven mix plonking a lead solo so far down it’s nearly undetectable.
The brooding, acoustic-led ‘The Demon and the Deceiver’ is underpinned by rumbling bass and a delightfully grand vocal, while ‘Piece of Meat’ is a paean to satanic sacrifice; which, as you’d expect, isn’t exactly complimentary to the fairer sex but does see a return of those Lizzy-style dual leads without sounding in the least dated.
A great version of Sabbath’s ‘Who Are You?’ should really close the set but another acoustic-led rip-snorter, ‘The Stranger’, reaffirms that link with a rambunctious yet bludgeoning riff, the voice displaying its influences beautifully. It’s the seventeen-minute epic ‘Black Priest’, however, which allows the band to shine. An ominous yet melodic opening, reminiscent of any 70s metal slowie you could shake a stick at, grows through Floyd-esque keys and leads and is accompanied by frequent explosions of crunching riffs. It has the feel of old-style occult rock classics and is just as enticing.
This will grow and grow.
7.5 / 10
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