Special Features: Remastered by James Plotkin. Bonus track is a cover of Portishead's "Mysterons".
- World to Come
- Crowns and Thrones
- The Dead Don't Lie
- Waters of Lethe
- Waking Time
- Mysterons (Bonus Track)
Release Date: June 29, 2018
Label: Hellmistress Records
When it comes to death dealin’ doom metal and steroid pumped 70s riffs, never turn your back on the Steel City of Pittsburgh, man. Spawning some of my favorite riff welders of all-time including Dream Death, Penance, Argus, Molasses Barge, Satanic Bat, Iron Crown, Vulture and many, many more past and present; there’s a tight knit community up this way that is completely its own unique entity with bands so heavy they split time itself. One of the newest bands to pick up the flag in this proud lineage are the low slung, detuned bluesy doomers in Horehound. I’ve seen the band live and I can vouch that they mean business and their debut LP is nothing but mean business. With a fat, gristly wall of twin guitars, molten rhythms and the serpentine vocal hypnosis of Shy Kennedy, these asphalt burnin’ maniacs have a sound that comes off like a gang of Hell’s Angels wrecking head on into a tractor trailer. Where Horehound really excels is their unearthly ability to channel bruised melodies that are nailed upon a cross of pulverizing grooves, demonic plodding and unexpected shifts in speed, tempo and texture.
Right from the get up n’ go lead-in track “World to Come” hooks you in with the ringing, ethereal call and response riffs of guitarists Brendan Parrish and Mike Altopiedi. Trembling, temple shaking atmospherics soon turn to church toppling, doubled-up grooves with ten tons of tone rolling down the mountain intending to crush you flat at the bottom. I’m talking some Die Healing era St. Vitus, early 90s Cathedral and the classic Maryland/Pittsburgh sound in terms of sheer density. The rhythms are equally bloody with more juice than the rarest steak you’ll ever eat. JD Dauer’s pummeling presence on the drums settles into the pocket with killer little fill-fluxes that keep you busy as David Westfall pushes the whole thing forward with oak uprooting bass licks. Juxtaposing the sound with some deep melodic lathing are Shy’s howling, emotionally harrowing vocals that soar over the slavering, devil dog doom grooves with grace. She’s got a great set of pipes and thankfully they aren’t buried in the mix. Man, this is one goddamn finely produced record with everything falling into the appropriate puzzle place and feeling natural, organic and thoughtfully constructed. Westfall drops a lumbering low-end solo lick against a backdrop of feedback which triggers the dual riffs to channel a 70s Sabbath plunge straight into the Earth’s core, burrowing deeper than most dare to go as they pass Jules Verne on the way down…ripping 6 string thunder, pulsating caverns of molten bass, haunting vocal wails and Dauer rolling across the toms/snares whenever he’s not bringing those strikes from way, way back, fuck man, I mean what more do you need?
“Sangreal” kicks in with a real barnburner of a riff and rapid fire rhythms for a thrash-y, old school metal feel with locked on guitar licks hellbent on conquering the badlands with surging inflections of the blues reeking of the fetid heaviness of the glory days of Hellhound Records’. JD really allows his arms to spread out into an array of octopus tentacles on this one with wrathful fills smashing the shit out of every single piece of his kit. The second half sees David riding the crest of fluid, walking bass lines that hold the groove but stray from following the guitarwork to the letter. There’s little doubt he’s probably studied his Jack Bruce and Geezer Butler with an A+ grade in both subjects. Parrish dips his fingers into a driving lead straight from the soul, bouncing spiritual energy off of Altopiedi’s dirty rhythm guitar grinds. If the opening cut shifted the very tectonic plates of the planet with its climax, this beast aims skyward as it comes to a close with uplifting, soaring instrumental power tethered to Kennedy’s smoldering chants. An instant favorite of mine on the live front, “Crowns and Thrones” immediately caught my ear with its thunderbolt blast of up-tempo blues doom. The studio version had me doing the hypno-sway on my bed as if I was waiting for the aliens to come down and beam me into the cosmos; the band’s raucous HEAVY rock n’ roll shooting through my spirit from hearty speakers like a sonic barrage of psychic energy was contained within each towering Babel of a riff and every single C-4 wired rhythmic explosion. Fuzzy, mouth-watering wah-leads are tastefully implemented, kicking your ass quickly and leaving you ready to smash the replay button like a strung out lunatic while the vocals reverb n’ echo inside my mind in the midnight darkness.
After the quick, economical lunges of the previous two tunes “The Dead Don’t Lie” splits Horehound’s sound open wider than the Grand Canyon. The kick drum death march tipping the track off is straight outta “Iron Man” but soon the quintet goes into a magnum opus dirge with eerie guitar signals coloring in the nebulous areas outside of the crawling damnation riffs and oozing low-end incantations. Some doom bands are content to endlessly mine the same tempos song after song but these cats consistently engage the listener by pushing the groove forcefully forward off of a cliff or changing things up with a taut bout of cathartic madness and at the 1:36 waypoint there’s a gallows bound riff shakedown that will drive home the point like a sledge to a railroad spike. Shy’s voice drips down on the instrumentation akin to pristine drops of water falling from a dungeon ceiling onto a floor weathered by time and the elements. The outro sees the entire band spiraling out of control with riffs getting faster and faster by the second as JD lands staggering blow after blow of concussive dementia to match the nail gnawing, string pluckin’. Embracing a progressive, psychedelic aura “Waters of Lethe” enters on the wave of crashing clean guitars that have a touch of Gilmour going on. Sparse, dramatic drum bursts join the action alongside dreamy, diamond-shined vocals which lyrically seem to touch on the psychedelic experience itself. The intricate delicacy of the build-up makes the tidal caress of the doom riff overload to come all the more encompassing. Roving, wandering bass lines stride in tandem with agile power chords that pile on the kingly, melodic grandeur. Expansive grooves give way to progg-y ancient constructs full of breathtaking twisting turns and a pair of engrossing leads from Parrish’s screaming axe bring this one back to its port of call.
“Myope” is a punishing, sludgy rocker with filthy, grime-splattered guitars going toe to toe with each other whilst the rhythm section creates a virtual black hole of battering antimatter doom. The onslaught is aimed at crippling and hobbling all ears that dare enter its radius with bending blues filtered through some dastardly thrashing in the vein of the first two High on Fire records. Closer “Waking Time” is the penultimate endnote. After a lengthy, slobbering bass gallop this thing lays into a riff that’s completely deranged and dangerous with dry lunged backing vocal screams dueling with Kennedy’s desperate, full-throated croons. The crusty, punk laden, midsection breakdown had me ready to start a circle pit with its slimy low-end grooves and bubbling tom drums digging into an almost slowed down version of the Swedish d-beat but again Horehound tweaks the proceedings by throwing in some brief Thin Lizzy style guitar harmonies that soon mutate into a brutish combo of ascending old school doom riffs prowling the burnt fields of Neurosis’ Through Silver in Blood…serious stuff that’ll knock your teeth into the dirt and the snot out of your eardrums.
Horehound is a band that all fans of Thee almighty riff should put on their watch list. There’s great balance to be found on their debut Self-Titled and they constantly fluctuate their songwriting tactics so that each of the album’s seven original compositions stands apart from one another. In terms of heavy ass evil doom, this band does it all and exceeds in every area of the craft. - Jay S