HOUR OF 13-2



By Earthdog

Hour of 13 have been stirring up the doom metal pot ever since their released their début and especially when they unleashed the album "The Ritualist" onto the world. The band formed by Chad Davis and Phil Swanson has basically reached a new level with this album '333' because it is on the Earache label for one thing and there has also been a step-up in production standards. It is not that there was anything wrong with the mixing and production on earlier albums but this new one does sound bigger, clearer but also less organic to my ears. But that is debatable. As with earlier albums Chad Davis plays all the instruments while Phil Swanson continues to reign supreme as the vocalist and his charismatic voice just seems to get stronger with each recording he does.

Nothing has really changed stylistically, the band are still rooted in the sounds and styles of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General, Count Raven and straight-out old-school heavy metal as in Judas Priest. Despite the old-fashioned heavy metal influences, the band is still pure doom metal and are as infectious as ever. The songs are mostly straight-forward without being overly simple. The album starts out with 'Deny the Cross' which is classic sabbathian doom rock, nothing more, nothing less. Massive riffs and the Ozzy-esque vocals make sure this is pure traditional heavy doom metal. The production has a more modern flavor compared to earlier releases but the songs are still rooted in the ancient ways of songwriting. 'Deny the Cross' is good but without being mind-blowing. Like a lot of albums released lately, it just keeps on getting better.

The next two tracks, 'The Burning' and 'Rite of Samhain' are classic Hour of 13 material, especially the latter which has a very strong NWOBHM vibe about it. I don't know why exactly but I kept on thinking of the band Angel Witch when I first heard this track, maybe it is the similarities between Swanson and Angel Witch's frontman Kevin 'Heybourne.' 'Spiral Vacuum' and the insanely catchy 'Who's to Blame' make sure that any listener will feel compelled to nod the head uncontrollably for this albums' duration. Along with one great catchy riff after another, this album has the band taking on an even more diverse songwriting approach. Nothing is complicated but the songs are all embedded with diverse changes that keep these longish tunes interesting and effortlessly flowing along. Most of the songs here run over six minutes but with all the deviations, they all seem much shorter than what they actually are.

The album winds down with a couple more very good tracks that , while they are really just more of the same, they are also instantly memorable. Lyrically, the focus is still on the occult and while that has become a tired, tedious cliché in doom metal and heavy metal in general, it seems to suit Hour of 13 just fine and it is pretty hard to imagine Phil Swanson singing about anything else. The production still sounds like it is analog and old-school but it is bigger, cleaner and has more polish to it on this album than on the earlier albums and that I think that will be a step in the right direction to getting this band more well-known and appreciated by the metal masses. At the end of the day, there are no big surprises with '333' but there are no let-downs either. It is just another solid Hour of 13 album that from start to finish is addictive and instantly memorable. This is an album that in time could be regarded as a "classic doom metal record" but time will tell. For now, I think this is every bit as good as 'The Ritualist' but without blowing it away. Fans of old-school traditional doom metal will find this essential listening. This is due for release on May 29th...9/10.