Review: Lair ‘The Hidden Shiv’

‘You’re going to love Lair said Bryan of Doomsday Profit as I was on my way to see them open for REZN a couple of years back. The truth in the statement wasn’t fully realized until the final notes of Lair rang out that evening and I was blown away by a killer performance.

Since that night, Lair has been on my radar for new music while I soaked up the prior releases as much as possible. Then out of nowhere, it was announced they are releasing The Hidden Shiv on January 1st, 2024. This revelation came two days prior and let me tell you, it was a great way to start 2024!

Lair 'The Hidden Shiv' Artwork
Lair ‘The Hidden Shiv’ Artwork

While I’m used to Lair‘s music being unhurried, the opener, Taken Apart, seems to switch things up a bit with a quicker pace. The weighty track sets the mood for the album as it’s a grand start, but the recognizable Lair isn’t far behind. A Human Trench, Pt. 1 bring back those slow tempos I’ve grown to appreciate. The patient drums carry the long heavy riffs as the low-end vibrations rattle your bones. A feeling remembered from experiencing the band live.

But this style of doom can become, dare I say, boring over the course of a forty-five-minute album but Lair cures that with Saltlicker as blast beats punch you hard in the face and wake you from the doom somber. Delving into the realm of black metal, Andrew Griffen truly shines on this album as he’s able to maintain precise-paced drumbeats or giving it everything he has like on Saltlicker. The track will leave you breathless, as I imagine Griffen to be.

Something’s At The Door is a perfectly placed soothing track on the album giving a break from the relentless opening. Guitarist Anne Marie Dumain takes the forefront utilizing the EQD Afterneath (or I assume it to be) for a cavernous instrumental. My only complaint is at just under five minutes, it’s not long enough as it reminds me of Amenra playing in the church and the echoing reverb carrying the slow clean notes to infinity is something I never tire of.

The crushing (To Step Into) A Noose Of One’s Own comes cascading to set up the gargantuan four tracks that close this album. Read Urban‘s vocals are as dark and booming as his bass riffs. I always find it hard to hear the bass clearly, but each instrument has its own space on this track (and album) and it is clearly heard. In heavy music that can sometimes get a little muddy, so well done to Bob Quirk and Mammoth Sound Mastering for the quality of this recording.

The patient drums carry the long heavy riffs as the low-end vibrations rattle your bones….

Devastation ensues with the title track, The Hidden Shiv, the particularly low opening note hits hard and the repeating riff at the beginning has stuck in my head over the last few weeks, occasionally resurfacing in my mind at random times. When that happens, it can be frustrating because it’s usually a terrible song, but I welcome Lair becoming an earworm.

Black Well At Midday may have my favorite riff in the album. The distortion tone is just right to my ears and the vocals are especially dark accompanied by the angry punctuation of the drums. The track crawls along with notes that are getting dangerously close to Sunn O))) level sustain. The opening riff returns towards the end and as the band crashes in, Griffin hits that ride which has a similar profoundness to Pallbearer’s Given To The Grave.

A Human Trench Pt. 2 concludes this album with pure desolation. Continuing where A Human Trench Pt. 1 left off, this paced track is slow and haunting. The sheer force of the music portrayed makes me think they may have had more songs to record but there wasn’t anything left of the studio after playing this explosive number. An epic conclusion.

Having the mindset of PR this past year and pushing albums for a few months, seeing Lair release their album with just two days notice made me nervous. However, I shouldn’t have been as the music held within is worthy of a release that is indeed memorable without the three months of teasing typically required these days. Well done Lair. Bryan was right.

Label: Independent
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