With all the doom metal also-rans that are lining up to bore the casual listener these days, you’d think that someone would have a crack at recapturing the spirit of Hellhound Records. Bar Pallbearer, who do a half decent Revelation impression, there really is no-one. Granted, the sound and attitude of The Obsessed is pretty much unique, and to imitate them would be as risible as it would be futile (Year Zero’s attempt was honourable enough, mind…), but it does depress me that bands are falling over each other to ape the likes of Electric Wizard and Eyehategod whilst ignoring the pivotal bands signed to that ill-fated German label, especially when veterans like Brenner and company are still producing albums as excellent as “Inner Harbor”.
Oddly enough, this album marks something of a departure for Baltimore’s finest – whereas the band’s previous offering “For The Sake Of No One” was a refinement of the trademark, mournful plod that is unmistakably Revelation, this album is far more progressive and varied, whilst remaining unmistakably the work of Brenner, Branagan and Hall. In a sense, this shift in sound was probably inevitable, the reason being twofold: first, there’s only so far you can progress in the context of one sound/format; and second, Brenner has been expanding the reach of his musical adventures in the context of his other (excellent) band “Against Nature” for years, and therefore the metamorphosis should hardly come as a surprise – listening back to their 2009 effort “For The Sake Of No One”, the process had actually already started there… That said, I daresay this album will not appeal to purists who crave “that sound”, which made the likes of “Release” and “Salvation’s Answer” so peerless. Personally, I am usually delighted when a band decides to do something new, not least because it gives the impression that they are having fun with what they do, and that’s always been an element of everything Branagan puts his hand to.
And so, the opener/title track is actually more of a Seventies-rock bowel churner, the soundtrack to riding a motorbike along a motorway (see also Wino’s “Tombstone Highway!”). From the outset, there is a lot more groove in the record than I’d usually expect of Revelation, and being able to dance to rock music is a GOOD thing in my book! Brenner’s typically poignant lyrics and unique, soulful voice permeate the song beautifully: “Trying so hard/to ignore them/and send someone in my stead”. No frivolous talk of wizards, bongs or magic carpets here, a breath of fresh air with its emotional simplicity.
The next track, “Terribilita” is even more delightful, continuing the Seventies biker-rock groove in the style of Billy Gibbons, with a fantastic stop/start element that will get your head banging, before diving headfirst into Rush territory, with keyboards and complex melodies! “Rebecca At The Well” confirms the band’s intention to remind us that progressive elements have always been a part of this band’s genius, with a structure intricate but never showy or in excess of need, a testament to the brilliant songwriting chops at play. It’s back to the pounding downer rock for “Eve Separated” and “Jones Falls”, the latter containing my favourite solo of the album around the five minute mark, it sounds like it belongs on a Cactus album or something! KILLER!
For those who yearn for more traditional Revelation fare, the final track “An Allegory Of Want” is probably the song that fits the bill best, albeit somewhat tenuously! And such great lyrics too: “Craving sleep/for words too steep/to turn the night’s love to spite”. It’s a sprawling and beautiful end to an album of breathtaking scope and depth, that improves with every listen and has the kind of hidden delights that only the most talented musicians can portray in musical form. The continuation of a humble legacy that is as unsung as it is important – stellar! And (as with all Bland Hand releases) available for “name your price” download, a practice Brenner has been employing for years before the likes of Bandcamp were even thought of! Unquestionably a 2012 highlight!
Scribed by: Saúl Do Caixão