Review : Hour of 13 - 333
PitchforkIt's OK if you need to laugh at Hour of 13: From their horror movie name to their most remarkable press photo, in which a pale, naked woman with her back to the camera kneels as if to worship at the altar of the band above her, the North Carolina classic doom squadron leans heavily upon the itinerant gestures of its genre. Frontman Phil Swanson's piercing wail pairs high-flying Ozzyisms with theatric harmonies and verses so pensive you'd swear he was cupping a chalice. Arranger and multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis wraps massive, squealing solos through most every space he can. It's a sound that Jack Black might conjure for his next rock'n'roll hero. Meanwhile, the title and cover of Hour of 13's latest and third album, 333, both seem custom-crafted by a marketing firm you'd never hire: "Let's cut the Number of the Beast in half, because everyone loves a good Crowley reference, etch it into a big-jawed skull lit by candlelight, and put it in the middle of three gold-embossed triangles. And don't forget the freak-show font. Those dark kids will just love it."
While their gestures and symbols are inarguably mawkish and predictable, even in a field with an unending history of such, Hour of 13's swill of lurching Saint Vitus-style doom and gymnastic New Wave of British Heavy Metal technique makes the band itself a rarity-- an act evidently reverent to its stylistic forebears but energized as if they'd invented this music themselves. "Deny the Cross" takes the lead for 333; it's a passionate, dynamic expanse, shifting between moments of head-banging rumble and psychedelic smear. On "Rite of Samhain", Davis inlays crisscrossing guitars above a basic rhythm section, a prototypical doomy chug offset by kinetic bursts cutting constantly through the track. Swanson's voice is masterful, occasionally doubling and tripling itself to foster a sense of spectacle. The duo's transitions-- whether a basic drum fill or quick and extended guitar lick-- serve these songs well, too, helping the pieces Davis and Swanson put together actually stay that way.
Indeed, Hour of 13's most audacious tracks are, at least on 333, also their best. "Lucky Bones" and "The Burning", the two multi-part tunes that break the eight-minute mark, overcome the obvious stylistic touchstones from sheer force of will, allowing the disbelief-- an American crew in 2012, making this music so well, in the South-- not to be simply suspended but almost forgotten altogether. After a compelling intro that touches at the edge of stoner metal, "The Burning" lets Swanson set up his story-- essentially, the cost of sin is damnation, and now you are burning, so whatever, mortal. The song's middle third picks up the pace to, if you will, turn up the heat on the same topic. "Divorced from salvation," Swanson sings over one of the record's best sprints, "into damnation." The shift in speed works, somehow making Swanson's warning about an embroiled eternity seem great-- the kind of stuff that, several decades ago, you might've pumped your fist to in an outsized arena. Closer "Lucky Bones" triggers back and forth between mid-tempo quake, squealing solos, and an inescapable chorus, with several short, forlorn sections lending appropriate gravity to the song's observations on burial, or being "given to the dust." Again, these sprawls work because they're so very immersive, temporarily beating back Hour of 13's revivalist stigma....full text
AngrymetalguySteel Druhm is a sucker for that classic, old school doom sound perfected by bands like Pentagram, Witchfinder General and Saint Vitus. It seems Phil Swanson feels the same way, since he spends his life cranking that kinda shit out with acts like Briton Rites, and his main unit, Hour of 13. 333 is the crappily named third release by this doom-drenched two-man project, and along with Chad Davis, Phil has outdone himself with some truly inspired, retro-doom tuneage. If you’ve heard the prior Hour of 13 material, you know exactly what to expect and 333 is right in line. For those who haven’t, this is doom ripped from the year 1979 or 1980 at the latest. There’s big, distorted riffing, slightly crazed, wailing vocals that would make Ozzy proud, and a heavy, low-end rumble to keep it all anchored. It comes closest to the work of Witchfinder General (especially Phil’s vocals) but there are plenty of references to Pentagram, Saint Vitus and naturally, the mighty Sabbath. However, they also incorporate loads of classy NWOBHM flavor and there’s more than a little vintage Mercyful Fate referenced in the riffage. That all adds up to one tasty package of sonic fun. It seems Mr. Swanson has this whole style of music down cold.
333 is a fairly short, seven song affair, and the songs are appropriately long-winded and cover gloomy topics. However, this is way more of an upbeat and rocking style of doom. Lead track “Deny the Cross” starts as a traditional doom ditty with a somber mood, but slowly builds up into a more aggressive, rocked out style. The big winner comes with “The Burning,” which is pretty much worth the price of the album all by its lonesome. It’s long, but just loaded with razor-sharp NWOBHM riffs alongside some nifty doom leads. It’s like amped up Witchfinder General with plenty of the aforementioned Mercyful Fate style, and it’s a lot of fun from start to finish. Other winning moments include the catchy vocal hooks of “Rites of Samhain,” the incessant, urgent riffing of “Who’s to Blame” and the seriously infectious, ballsy doom/rock on “Lucky Bones.” All seven song are of high quality and all have memorable riffs and vocal hooks....full text
ThesodashopThe Ritualist was my no. 19 album of last year, and even though the release date of this fucker seems to be in dispute, I’m still psyched.
I don’t understand the move, but then again, I’m not a marketing expert, either. Too many brain cells. Also I have a soul.
ANYhoo– here’s a wee review for you, the lover of occult-based Sabbathian traditional doom metal.
And believe me, that exactly what 333 is. No muss, no fuss, no evolution, but no softening. At all.
Track one, “Deny The Cross,” is exemplified by a haunting, minor/diminished acoustic verse, which quickly becomes the type of riff that would be wicked fun to play, and is also fun to hear (though not as much), with a Venom-like chorus of doom and apocalypse….
“The Burning,” track two, also touches on the minor acoustic riff, but less so than the previous track, as the track pedal-tones/ chuggs its was into catchy occult-doom-itude….
Track 3, “Rite of Samhain,” hits with a militaristic riff, one not unlike Maiden’s “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” and Sab’s “Children of the Grave”– not better, per se, than either, but obviously their son, and obviously just as badass….
“Spiral Vacuum” sounds like a heavier version of the “exposition” tracks off of King Diamond’s Abigail, like “Black Horsemen” of “The 7th Day of July 1777″...full text
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