North Carolina, like much of the south east of the US, is a state troubled by hurricanes, and fundamentalist Christians. Hour of 13, a grizzled doom crew from the charmingly named town of Hickory, NC stand legs akimbo, firmly against both religion and the endless march of metal towards formulaic, mechanistic blandness.
However, as their second album for Earache (the last being 2010’s rerelease of ‘The Ritualist’, showing a bit of a departure for the label) demonstrates, their penchant for pretty unevolved mid-paced doom may leave some unmoved, but true lovers of tone and heathen Ozzyisms smiling contentedly. There are flashes of divergence from the true path of clodhopping drums, chugging, but inoffensive, treble-averse fuzz guitar, and none-more doom high pitched vocals, such as on track four ‘Spiral Vacuum’ (just how doom is that title?), with its bleak, queasy Killing Joke riffing, and similarly disconsolate vocals, a bit like a jauntier Yob. However these detours are few and far between, and really not important. Something like track five, ‘Who’s to Blame’ is more representative, really almost too Sabbath for words, though this isn’t really a criticism.
It’s a hard album to criticise, everything’s done really well, with a lot of heart, and the singer, Phil Swanson, has a pleasant catch in his voice, which leaves his yelps sounding more emotive and affecting. And it’s a step up from say The Obsessed’s more predictable efforts, all in all a very fine rock album. Stand-out tracks are hard to identify, although number two, The Burning, pretty much has everything you need in a doom tune, perfectly placed riffing, and a subtle grandiosity amid a sense of creeping dread below the surface.
However it can all kind of drift past you if you’re not careful, the warm tones are just so warm, it feels like snuggling up by the fire with a hot toddy, enjoying the slightly self-indulgent wallow in viral confusion that is the only joy of a ‘manflu’ attack. As such it’s almost as far from something like the Dillinger Escape Plan, also called metal, in the furthest stretch of that term at the other pole. When in reality that has more in common with jazz, (and this more in common with being sedated) than your straight up ‘metal.’
Anyway I digress, any fans of unreconstructed doom should pick this up, because I can’t fault it, for what it is – earnest heavy rock, solid, well played, trimmed of excess flab, flagrant use of octave harmonies on the axes. However what it is, although laudable in so many ways, is not going to turn your head around, no matter how high you turn up the volume. They probably care very little about turning heads however, and will be very happy fashioning variations on this well-worn musical theme for the foreseeable future. Doom might have become almost hip recently (though it’s probably been surpassed by djent-step or something by now), particularly with Black Sabbath’s recent triumph at the Download circus, but Hour of 13 really aren’t likely to be bothered.
Scribed by: James Parker