"The Ninth Hour"

Heed The Hidden Hand Of Heaviness

 by Solomon G

Almost unbelievably heavy and portentous from the outset, The Hounds of Hasselvander's 'The Ninth Hour' is an album crafted from the bottom up - from the inside out - for maximum impact. Unlike many ostensibly similar works of late, this is not a bunch of loose ideas cobbled together and thrown into some interchangeable sub-genre of the moment in hopes of invoking a mood.

Hasselvander is the genre. "The Ninth Hour" is the mood.

Every moment of this album is like another drop of blood applied onto the canvas of your mind with great intent, care and purpose. Around each corner is a surprise - but the kind of dream-logic surprise you always knew was coming; that you always knew was there. Waiting. Ever waiting. And by the climax of the epic first number, you'll know what for.

Riff-hounds will be more than satisfied, but the riff is not the be-all-end-all here, because Mr. Hasselvander is more than a little interested in song structure, melody and counterpoint. A learned and time-tested practitioner of the heavy arts, the man knows how to turn a song on a dime to make it spin back upon you, washing over the listener with an undertow of mids and lows so strong they'll take your breath away. Those who have enjoyed the past glories of Joe Hasselvander's work - particularly on the "Review Your Choices", "Sub-Basement" and "Hounds of Hasselvander" albums - will be stoked to hear every bit of fire and dark energy of those pieces represented here, along with a nuanced tonal variety heretofore only hinted at: presented with such a deft touch and the apparent intent to draw one into a journey of spirit and surprising emotion. And as a tremendous added bonus, Joe's good friend and partner in rhythm from the Death Row/Pentagram days, bass-guitar-heavy-hitter Marty Swaney, provides the requisite kickass bottom-end necessary to push this album right over the top.

One striking development of note that I would like to mention for this latest Hound's release is the subtle use of keyboards on several tracks throughout "The Ninth Hour". I can hear some of you thinking, 'oh, no - not that!', but I can reassure you: we're talking deep, rich '70s-style tones - and styles that remain true to the heaviness of the music without distracting the ear and weakening the strength of the melodies. To tell you the truth, it was not until subsequent spins that I really noticed the deft and subtle use of the keys; so well are they blended into the tunes and the mix.

Finally, the one cover song placed here within this body of original work should clue everyone (everyone who knows their shit, that is) into the mountainously monumental work that is Joe Hasselvander's "The Ninth Hour". I'm not gonna give it away in this review, but trust me, once you figure it out, it will come as a very pleasant and kickass surprise.

For those of you, like old Solomon G, who have been waiting for an album and artist who truly knows the real ways and means of 'heavy' culled from the strong history of post-'60 tube-driven amplification and monolithic drum styles, served upon a lush bed of carefully crafted production and presented by an artist of true wisdom and insight - not a stylistic reproduction, but the real deal - this album is for you. It's a great progression in the career of Joe Hasselvander. I, for one, look forward to many more along these lines.

And so I say to the uninitiated, herein lies the culmination of the long history of heavy. This is the true story of madness and reckoning and the long, twisting road to redemption. Those who are already well familiar with Joe Hasselvander already know the truth - oh, yes they do.