Black Magick Rites, that’s set to be released through Shadow Kingdom Records, is the latest long-player by Hickory, North Carolina-based band Hour Of 13. It’s both a retro trip through the wonderland of Black Sabbath, grunge and doom metal, all the while creating an original and emotive blend of their own within these rough parameters.
I was unfamiliar with this band, but being a fan of supernatural horror I was immediately intrigued that their name was taken from the film The City of the Dead, a 1960 Christopher Lee vehicle about a witch coven. Indeed, the atmosphere of these seven tracks, ranging from just under five, to over eight minutes, across forty-four minutes is often evocative of, and could easily be included in the soundtrack of, a horror film of dark and sinister subject matter.
I listened the first time knowing nothing of the band and was then surprised to learn that Chad Davis plays everything here as well as handling all vocals. This music sounds like a band is performing it. Davis seems equally proficient at both guitars and bass, perhaps the drums being the only area that lacks a lot of diversity. I found the bass playing particularly excellent, serving as both a solid anchor and offering plenty of riffs along the way in counterpoint to the guitar parts.
While it would be safe to place the band in the doom metal category, these tracks use that basic sound as a launching point into several other genres to create a unique mélange of heaviness and emotion. While quite melodic, heaviness is never abandoned and there are several changes in tempo or meter that caught me off guard.
His Majesty Of The Wood is an excellent opener that immediately brings to mind Black Sabbath or the Sword. Davis’ vocals harken back to the likes of Ozzy or Dio, with a hint of grunge as well. This is followed by Return From The Grave, being fairly similar in structure and setting up a base sound for the album.
Black Magick Rites is a lean and thoroughly satisfying album for fans of doom, grunge and experimental metal…
But then the third track, House Of Death immediately moves into a new, looser structure, reminiscent of a long, slow burn track from Soundgarden or Sleep. There are recurring patterns within this sprawling atmospheric number, but the verse/chorus rock arrangement of the earlier tracks gives way to an unhurried sense of exploration. Here, and on other tracks, there’s a sense of the progressive rock artist who creates their own rules within familiar structures, where the song itself, and its creator, decide what is best.
The title track is next and returns to a shorter and tighter hard rock structure while still maintaining the heavy and distorted elements of the album’s overall groove. Within The Pentagram is the longest track, clocking in at 8:03 and there are no wasted moments – it doesn’t feel long at all. The open and nearly formless nature is even more prevalent here, giving one a sense of being transported on a sonic odyssey rather than a ‘rock song’. There is a bridge about halfway through with great interplay of guitar and bass, and once again it’s a wonder these are both played by the same musician.
Harvest Night returns to a song-like construction, reminiscent of another occult band, Green Lung. Its riffs are brighter, less distorted and doom-ish (one imagines it’s the perfect single), showing the possibilities of a more melodic accessible tune remaining heavy and true to nature of album.
The Mystical Hall Of Dreams is nearly as long as Within The Pentagram and the perfect closer to this well-balanced album that accomplishes much in its relatively short run time. Doom returns as a slow heavy riff is repeated for nearly a minute before the vocals enter and is repeated again with little variation during the first verse. Then, the song takes flight into a complex journey through unexpected tempo changes and riffs that bring this satisfying trip to an end.
Black Magick Rites is a lean and thoroughly satisfying album for fans of doom, grunge and experimental metal. The overall atmosphere of the occult, of the shadows that linger in the dark, things unseen, is not of the cheap, forced variety – where a band clearly just decided ‘hey, it would be cool to sing about occult stuff’ – but here it feels like an organic component from on artist that has an understanding and true affinity towards this subject matter.
Scribed by: George Wilhite